Walnut Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Walnuts, annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Walnuts can be a nutritious snack and a hearty, delicious addition to a wide variety of recipes, from baked goods to savory dishes. Walnuts are an excellent source of polyunsaturated fat—a healthy fat that can boost heart health and provide other benefits. There are different varieties of walnuts, but English walnuts are the most common.

Walnut Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one ounce (28g) or about seven whole English walnuts or 14 halves.

  • Calories: 183
  • Fat: 18g
  • Sodium: 0.6mg
  • Carbohydrates: 3.8g
  • Fiber: 1.9g
  • Sugars: 0.7g
  • Protein: 4.3g

Carbs

A single serving of walnuts only contains about 3.8 grams of carbohydrate. A very small amount of that is starch (0.017g) and a small amount is naturally occurring sugar (0.7g). Most of the carbohydrate in walnuts comes from healthy fiber (1.9g).

The estimated glycemic index of walnuts is 15, making them a low-glycemic food The glycemic load of a single serving of walnuts is estimated to be 1. Glycemic load takes portion size into account when predicting a food's impact on blood sugar.

Fats

Most of the calories in walnuts come from fat. You'll consume 18 grams of fat when you eat a single serving of the nuts. Most of the fat is polyunsaturated fat (13.4g) but some is monounsaturated fat (2.5g) and a very small amount is saturated fat (1.7g).

Polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats are considered healthy fats. They generally come from plant sources like nuts, seeds, and avocado. Research has consistently shown that replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats helps to decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Protein

In addition to providing fiber and healthy fat, walnuts also provide a healthy boost of protein. A single serving provides over 4 grams.

Vitamins and Minerals

Walnuts are an excellent source of manganese and copper, providing half your daily needs. They are also a good source of magnesium and phosphorus. The nuts also supply smaller amounts of iron, calcium, zinc, potassium, and selenium.

Vitamins in walnuts include vitamin B6, folate, and thiamin.

Health Benefits

Consuming walnuts as part of a nutritious diet can provide a variety of benefits.

Improves Heart Health

According to published studies, nut consumption has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

One study found that consuming a calorie-controlled, walnut-enriched diet helped improve LDL cholesterol levels and systolic blood pressure as compared to a reduced-calorie diet alone. And other research has shown that consuming tree nuts (including walnuts) is associated with decreased cardiovascular risk factors, lower BMI, lower waist circumference, higher HDL (good) cholesterol, and a lower likelihood of obesity.

Health experts generally point to the heart-healthy benefits of polyunsaturated fats when suggesting walnuts as part of a heart-healthy diet.

Walnuts also contain plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, can be synthesized from ALA. Research has shown that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and may even benefit those with type 2 diabetes, especially those with elevated triglycerides.

Aids Healthy Weight Management and Weight Loss

Nut consumption, in general, has been associated with better weight management and lower body fat. Several studies partially funded by the California Walnut Commission have even shown that walnuts specifically can help you to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

Independent studies have also demonstrated that nut intake is associated with lower body weight measures and a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome and obesity. Still, the authors of one research review suggested that more studies are needed to gain a greater understanding and determine the health benefits of specific nuts.

Walnuts are a good source of protein and fiber, making them a smart food for weight loss. Fiber and protein can help to keep you full. Fiber-rich foods can also help provide the body with a steady stream of glucose, preventing major blood sugar spikes. Studies have shown that consuming foods with fiber can help those who are overweight or obese reach and maintain a healthier weight.

The key to adding healthy fats like nuts to your diet is to manage your portion appropriately. A small serving of nuts, although low in carbohydrates, can be high in calories. Overeating any food (even healthy food) can cause weight gain.

Improves Brain Health

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that walnut consumption may provide beneficial effects in preserving brain health as we age. Study authors write that the prevention of many neurodegenerative diseases could be achieved earlier in life by consuming a healthy diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals.

Walnuts are known to contain the highest total phenolic and flavonoid contents of commonly consumed nuts and have the highest antioxidant content. Study authors concluded that eating a walnut-rich diet (along with other antioxidant foods) is one of the easiest ways to reduce the risk for age-related cognitive decline.

Reduces Risk of Prostate Cancer

One published study mentions research indicating that consumption of 75 grams per day of walnuts improved biomarkers of prostate and vascular status in men at risk for prostate cancer. Study authors noted that the food's high tocopherol content was likely a contributing factor for this benefit.

Another study showed the potential for reduced prostate risk when men consumed 35 grams of walnuts per day. While some other animal studies have researched the link between prostate cancer and walnut consumption, strong evidence in humans is lacking.

Reduces Inflammation

Other studies have suggested dietary components in walnuts may counter inflammation and therefore the risk for certain cancers. However, those study authors also note that human clinical evidence directly assessing walnuts and cancer risk as a primary outcome is limited.

Allergies

Tree nut allergies are not uncommon. Walnuts, almonds, and cashews are examples of tree nuts. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), symptoms of tree nut allergy may include abdominal pain, cramps, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty swallowing, nasal congestion or a runny nose, and itching of the mouth, throat, eyes, or skin.

People with a tree nut allergy may also experience serious events such as shortness of breath or anaphylaxis when consuming tree nuts. Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening reaction that impairs breathing and can send your body into shock.

If you have an allergy to another tree nut or even to peanuts (which are technically a legume), you should avoid walnuts. Talk to your healthcare provider to get personalized advice before consuming walnuts.

Varieties

While English walnuts are the most common type of walnut, Persian walnuts and black walnuts are also varieties that may be available in some areas.

English walnuts are commonly grown in the United States, China, Iran, and Turkey. California walnut growers produce 99% of the English walnuts consumed in the U.S. and according to some reports, there are over 37 varieties of English walnuts available from growers in that area. However, each has the same distinctive brown oval shell and light brown kernel.

Walnuts can be purchased unshelled or in the shell. Unshelled walnuts are perfect for cooking or for adding small amounts to salads, yogurt, or recipes. If you like to eat walnuts, unshelled walnuts might be best. Cracking open the shell and removing the nut can help you to be mindful of the amount that you are eating.

Lastly, you'll find both roasted and raw walnuts at your local grocer. Walnuts are also commonly included in nut mixes. The roasting process itself does not change the nutritional profile of a nut. But, in general, roasted nuts are likely to contain more fat and calories than raw nuts because they are usually roasted with oil. Other added ingredients (like salt or honey) will also change the nutritional profile.

When It’s Best

Walnuts generally don't have a season, although walnut tree harvesting usually occurs between September and early November. But since walnuts travel well and have a long shelf life, you can find them year-round in most markets.

When choosing walnuts, make sure you choose an unsalted version. Too much sodium can increase blood pressure and cause bloating. Walnuts should smell mildly nutty and taste sweet. If they smell like paint thinner, they have gone rancid and should be discarded.

Storage and Food Safety

For maximum shelf life, store your walnuts in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer, depending on when you plan on using them. Keeping walnuts cold can prevent them from going rancid. Walnuts that are stored in the refrigerator should be kept away from foods with strong odors, such as, onions, garlic, or fish, as walnuts can absorb the flavors of other foods.

If you plan on grinding your walnuts to use as walnut meal, wait until you are ready to use it in your recipe to maintain the best flavor. 

How to Prepare

Walnuts are a very versatile food. Eat them as a snack as is (about 1/4 of a cup) or pair them with a serving of fruit (reduce the portion to half to compensate for calories). They can be used as a replacement for breadcrumbs or as an addition to salads, side dishes, and oatmeal. Or try substituting walnuts in smoothies or meal replacements for flaxseed, hemp, chia, or nut butters. 

Here are some great ways to add walnuts to your meal plan. 

  • Use walnuts as a protein topper: Eating lean protein can get very bland and boring. It's important to add flavor, but equally important to avoid large amounts of salt and fat in cooking. Instead of cooking with heavy sauces, frying, and using breadcrumbs to flavor your protein, use walnuts for added crunch, flavor, and healthy fats. Top chicken, turkey, lean beef, pork, or fish with a walnut coating. Purchase walnuts that are chopped or already ground, or grind them yourself. 
  • Skip crackers, bread, and rice: Crackers, bread, and rice are often used as filler foods. The problem is that refined carbohydrates such as white crackers, white bread, and white rice can spike blood sugars, and perhaps even lead to more cravings. The next time you are having soup for lunch or stir fry for dinner, reduce carbohydrate intake and boost fiber intake by adding a handful of walnuts instead. 

Recipes

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