You’d never suspect it to look at them, but walnuts are one of the most important sources of plant chemicals known as polyphenols which studies have linked to reducing the risk of diseases as diverse as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
Another study confirmed that walnuts rank above all other nuts, including almonds, pecans and peanuts, in their abundance of antioxidants including polyphenols. In fact, they have twice as many of these disease-fighting chemicals as any other nut, according to the research, which was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.
And their brain-like shape is, ironically, a clue to something else they do. Researchers at the David Geffen Medical School at the University of California at Los Angeles, in a study published in the Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging, found that those who eat 10.3 grams of walnuts daily—that’s just six to seven walnut halves—did better than people who didn’t eat walnuts on tests measuring memory, concentration and information processing speed.
And if that’s not enough, walnuts are a good source of linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid linked to heart health, and they have an unusually high amount of vitamin E, according to a study published in 2009 in the journal Acta Horticulturae, which also found that walnut consumption contributed to weight loss, lower cholesterol and blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes.
Sold on walnuts? On the Nutrisystem program, walnuts count as a PowerFuel. A serving is two tablespoons of walnut halves.
Ready to jump on the walnut wagon? Try these four delicious walnut recipes:
1. Banana Nut Overnight Oatmeal >
This flex breakfast could make even Monday mornings seem great. Pack all the ingredients into a mason jar the night before—dry oats, almond milk, sugar—free maple syrup, vanilla extract, crushed walnuts and banana. Refrigerate overnight, and you’re good to go the next morning. A serving counts as one and a half SmartCarbs, one PowerFuel and one Extra.
2. Stuffed Acorn Squash >
Ever dream of a veggie as good as dessert? You got it! Imagine an acorn squash baked until it’s creamy and stuffed with quinoa, pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries, and crushed walnuts, spiced with coriander. You can eat it as a Flex Meal or serve it as a side. Count it as one SmartCarb and one PowerFuel
3. Air Fryer Baked Apple >
Like apple pie, but guilt free, this recipe turns an apple or pear into a delicious dessert filled with raisins and walnuts, and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. You could even eat it for breakfast! This recipe counts as a half of a SmartCarb, a half of a PowerFuel, and one extra. (You’ll need an air fryer, which helps cook your food to a crispy texture with circulating air so you never have to fry again.)
4. Maple Fig Energy Bites >
This is your perfect snack-to-go, and it’s so simple to make. Simply combine one package of Nutrisystem Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal, a quarter cup dried figs, a quarter cup of wlanuts with a quarter cup of water in a food processor and roll into balls. That’s it!