By Dr. Nicole Sundene
2020 has truly been NUTS therefore I have taken on the important task as a Naturopathic Doctor to officially declare walnut the OFFICIAL NUT OF 2020!
Why walnuts do you ask?
Walnuts are extremely healing and calming for our brains and nervous systems and should therefore be everyone's #1 GO TO SNACK to munch on while trying to stay calm in the Pandemic. You can calmly snack on your walnuts and enjoy watching my Facebook video of "Squirrels Eating Walnuts." Watch how FAST the squirrels are able to rotate the walnuts around in their tiny little hands....must be all of those powerful Omega 3's in their walnuts!
Who doesn't need some brain soothing Omega-3's at this point in the Pandemic to calm their over-stressed and frazzled nervous system?
Researchers have concluded from multiple human and animal studies that walnuts are preventive for Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Stroke, and Depression. Walnuts are also shown to be preventive of Cardiovascular Disease and Type 2 Diabetes [1,2,3].
Walnuts are effective in multiple health conditions because they are anti-inflammatory. This is extremely important right now in the Pandemic with overweight patients dying at higher rates due to increased inflammatory molecules produced by their fat cells.
Walnuts have multiple anti-inflammatory benefits necessary to reduce CRP, nitrous oxide, cytokines and PGE-2 which triggers the evil inflammatory cascade of Prostaglandins in the COX-2 pathway that are increased in obesity. Due to these excess Prostaglandins made from fat cells the more overweight someone is---> the more fat cells they have making PGE-2 and inflammatory molecules and thus the higher baseline levels of inflammation laying the foundation for increased risk during the Pandemic. When your body is inflamed you are at risk at any point for chronic disease.
Inflammation and weight gain are an ironic vicious loop patients get stuck in as:
MORE FAT causes --->MORE PGE-2 which then causes ---> MORE INFLAMMATION which further --->INCREASES PGE-2 levels----> which increase ESTROGEN which causes BLOATING, FATIGUE, MOODINESS, SWELLING AND MORE WEIGHT GAIN---> increasing our FAT CELLS---> MORE PGE-2--> RINSE & REPEAT
We then have a vicious cycle of further weight gain which causes --->more fat cells to create more PGE-2 which then---> Turns Lipolysis OFF.
PGE-2 is the MASTER SWITCH that ----> TURNS LIPOLYSIS OFF!
When the body is "on fire" with inflammation it is not burning fat it is busy burning inflammation. When you cannot properly burn fat for fuel you are constantly fatigued and looking for caffeine to boost your energy. You can scroll down my blog to read the story of when I suffered from this vicious cycle and read about my "PGE-2 Diet" designed to balance hormones and break women out of constant pain and weight gain.
While Almonds and Cashews have been the "Rockstar Nuts of Christmas Past" in many popular health fads they are not nearly as powerful as walnuts when it comes to improving inflammation and brain health due to their Omega-3's.
I am appointing Walnut as the OFFICIAL NUT OF 2020 for the following Biochemical Reasons:
I love how walnuts look like little tiny brains while also helping our big brains with their HUGE Omega-3 content! In Naturopathic Medicine we refer to this as the "Doctrine of Signatures" when the plant looks like the body part it is useful for. Nothing could be more true with walnuts! Researchers have actually concurred with the "Doctrine of Signatures" and found walnuts beneficial for preventing cognitive decline in both Alzheimers and Parkinsons disease.
Walnuts are my favorite nut because they are one of the only significant vegetarian sources of Omega 3's aside from chia seeds and algae. Omega-3 Fatty acids are needed to make the fatty conductive layer around our nerves known as the Myelin Sheath. Without a healthy Myelin Sheath our brains and nervous systems do not work efficiently and are about as effective at transmitting signals as a frayed electrical cord.
If you have Neuropathy, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinsons, Alzheimers or any other degenerative disorder of the nervous system you should think about making walnuts your new favorite snack. Of course check with me or your Naturopathic Doctor if you take any medications when using Functional Foods like walnuts that are delicious to eat and also healing to your body.
Omega-3 Fatty acids are extremely necessary for proper nerve conduction. Without sufficient Omega-3's our nervous system cannot run optimally. Whenever MD's ask me how they can practice more integrated medicine I tell them "Just put everyone on Omega-3 fish oil, watch them improve...and then of course happily take all the credit when they are better!"
Omega-3's are truly THAT powerful and therefore an important part of my "PGE-2 Diet" program to balance female hormones, reduce pain and chronic inflammation. When our cells and hormones are not made from good fats and instead made from arachidonic acid we have more pain, inflammation and chronic disease.
When researching walnuts I was able to find multiple studies that they are good for reducing inflammation, assisting with weight loss and satiety, decrease risk for diabetes and improve function in our brains and cardiovascular systems. Omega-3's also help reduce PGE-2 aka inflammation which is very important to keep your body in an anti-inflammatory state during the Pandemic. You can take my word for it and eat 1/4 cup of walnuts a day for brain health while happily watching my new Facebook video on "Squirrels eating walnuts," OR you can read all my science and research below on walnuts. Be sure to follow my Facebook page to receive my latest videos, recipes and herbal crafts!
History of Walnuts
Walnuts are the seeds mostly found in genus Juglans that have numerous health benefits. The most commonly consumed walnut is the English Walnut which is scientifically known as Juglans regia and also called Persian Walnut. The hull of Black Walnut or Juglans Nigra is commonly used in herbal medicine as an anti-parasitic.
Biochemistry of Walnuts
Walnuts are rich with certain phytochemicals, including fatty acids (such as alpha-linolenic acid), Ellagitannins, Proanthocyanidins, phenolic compounds (such as syringic acid and naphthoquinone juglone), flavanols, and dihydrochalcones. Walnuts also contain alpha tocopherols (vitamin E), phytosterols, non-sodium minerals, and melatonin [1, 2].
In historical herbal medicine, walnuts were used as an aphrodisiac agent by Romans to improve their sexual performance. The high Omega-3 content is likely helping with vascular elasticity. The tree of Walnut is considered a symbol of wisdom, knowledge, and intelligence. Native Americans considered walnut as a symbol of focus, attention, clarity, and high energy source for new projects .
Anti-inflammatory Activity of Walnuts
Walnuts shows an anti-inflammatory response by inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory mediators such as nitric oxide and inflammatory cytokines. Walnuts also prevent the risk of chronic inflammatory diseases of the heart and joints by lowering C-reactive protein (CRP) that is linked to many inflammatory conditions. A medical study reported that walnuts support nerve health by decreasing the risk of neuroinflammation .
Walnuts possess a potential antioxidant activity that relieves oxidative stress and prevents cellular damage. It has been reported that it increases antioxidant activity in the brain that improves dementia, increases cognitive performance, and decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson's. Walnuts improve the symptoms of depression, stroke, and type 2 diabetes [2, 3, 6].
Walnuts are a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids that are known to decrease cholesterol. Omega-3 Fatty Acids decreases the level of bad low-density lipoproteins and increases good cholesterol aka "HDL". Thus, Omega-3's prevent atherosclerosis and improve heart function.
Walnuts supports gut health and metabolic processes by nourishing the gut microbiota [2, 6]. Improving our microbiome improves not just digestion but also immune function.
Anti-Aging and Reproduction
Walnuts are anti-aging and support longevity and delay aging by protecting and nourishing the heart, brain, and gastrointestinal tract. Walnuts boost reproductive health by improving the motility, vitality, and morphology of sperm [3, 5, 8, 11].
Weight Loss, Diabetes & Cancer
Walnuts may help to control body mass index by controlling hunger and appetite. This effect can also help to maintain blood sugar levels and improve symptoms of diabetes. Some studies have also reported that regular use of walnuts prevents the risk of certain cancers, including colorectal, prostate, and breast cancer [7, 8, 9].
Always check with your Naturopathic Doctor, but consuming walnuts at typical dietary levels should not generally interfere with your medications. It is advised not to take Walnut concomitantly with oral drugs because anything with high fiber can decrease medication absorption and effectiveness. Walnuts otherwise do not have any severe interaction with medications. Walnuts do not have side effects at regular doses, but may cause diarrhea at higher than recommended doses. Walnuts are not recommended for individuals with known hypersensitivity to nuts . In my experience using omega-3 fatty acids with patients as a Naturopathic Doctor I do see that we generally need to reduce medications as we implement new Herbal Medicines and Functional Foods such as walnuts.
There you have everything you need to know about walnuts in a nutshell!
Eat your walnuts and try to stay calm!
If you need further support with your mood or hormones please call me to set up an appointment.
I would be happy to help! Holistic mental health and hormones are my favorite subject!
Dr. Nicole Sundene
1. de Souza, R., Schincaglia, R. M., Pimentel, G. D., & Mota, J. F. (2017). Nuts and Human Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 9(12), 1311. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9121311
2. Sánchez-González, C., Ciudad, C. J., Noé, V., & Izquierdo-Pulido, M. (2017). Health benefits of walnut polyphenols: An exploration beyond their lipid profile. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 57(16), 3373–3383. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2015.1126218
3. Chauhan, A., & Chauhan, V. (2020). Beneficial Effects of Walnuts on Cognition and Brain Health. Nutrients, 12(2), 550. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12020550
Ros, E., Izquierdo-Pulido, M., & Sala-Vila, A. (2018). Beneficial effects of walnut consumption on human health: role of micronutrients. Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care, 21(6), 498–504. https://doi.org/10.1097/MCO.0000000000000508
4. Poulose, S. M., Miller, M. G., & Shukitt-Hale, B. (2014). Role of walnuts in maintaining brain health with age. The Journal of nutrition, 144(4 Suppl), 561S–566S. https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.113.184838
. Berryman, C. E., Grieger, J. A., West, S. G., Chen, C. Y., Blumberg, J. B., Rothblat, G. H., Sankaranarayanan, S., & Kris-Etherton, P. M. (2013). Acute consumption of walnuts and walnut components differentially affect postprandial lipemia, endothelial function, oxidative stress, and cholesterol efflux in humans with mild hypercholesterolemia. The Journal of nutrition, 143(6), 788–794. https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.112.170993
6. Bitok, E., Rajaram, S., Jaceldo-Siegl, K., Oda, K., Sala-Vila, A., Serra-Mir, M., Ros, E., & Sabaté, J. (2018). Effects of Long-Term Walnut Supplementation on Body Weight in Free-Living Elderly: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients, 10(9), 1317. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10091317
7. Bamberger, C., Rossmeier, A., Lechner, K., Wu, L., Waldmann, E., Fischer, S., Stark, R. G., Altenhofer, J., Henze, K., & Parhofer, K. G. (2018). A Walnut-Enriched Diet Affects Gut Microbiome in Healthy Caucasian Subjects: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Nutrients, 10(2), 244. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10020244
8. Pan, A., Sun, Q., Manson, J. E., Willett, W. C., & Hu, F. B. (2013). Walnut consumption is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes in women. The Journal of nutrition, 143(4), 512–518. https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.112.172171
9. Juranović Cindrić, I., Zeiner, M., & Hlebec, D. (2018). Mineral Composition of Elements in Walnuts and Walnut Oils. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(12), 2674. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15122674
Dr. Nicole Sundene
Is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor in Scottsdale, AZ with over 20 years of experience serving patients in health care. She worked in Traditional Family Medicine from 1999-2007 and since 2007 has worked as a Naturopathic Doctor. As a result of her diverse experience she practices an integrated style of medicine using herbs and supplements before prescribing medications. She is considered a leading expert in the Naturopathic field of Women's Health and how it pertains to Gynecology, Mental Health and Endocrinology. She enjoys the challenge involved in solving complex chronic disease and hormonal health problems with the least amount of prescription medications necessary.