5 reasons to try walnuts for American Heart Health Month

When it comes to heart health, it might surprise you that eating a calorie-dense, high-fat snack is a good choice for cardiovascular health. But it’s true. Here are a few reasons you should consider reaching for a small handful of walnuts.

• Walnuts are the only nuts that contain significant amounts of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Your body uses this type of fat for energy, and to a limited degree, it can convert ALA into EPA and DHA — the essential omega-3s you get from certain fatty fish.

• Researchers at Yale University recently found that participants in a study who ate two ounces of walnuts every day for six months had significant reductions in LDL (bad) cholesterol.

• In addition to lowering cholesterol, studies show that walnuts may also help decrease blood pressure.

• Walnuts contain powerful antioxidants and polyphenols that may help prevent cancer as well as memory loss and cognitive decline.

• A 1/4 cup serving of walnuts also gives you 2 grams of fiber, a nutrient that can help lower cholesterol and help you feel full. Americans eating a 2,000-calorie diet should aim for 28 grams of fiber daily.

Plus, they’re delicious! In baked goods, on cereals, mixed into breading for fish or chicken, pureed into dips or spreads –there’s no shortage of ways to use walnuts! But because they’re high in calories, it’s important to adjust your diet accordingly. For reference, a 1/4-cup serving has about 190 calories.

You can also get similar benefits from using walnut oil (which has about 120 calories in 1 tablespoon). However, because walnut oil can taste bitter if heated, it’s best to use it as a dipping oil for bread or to lightly dress salads and vegetables.

Try the recipe below to add walnuts to your diet!

Basil-Spinach Pesto with Walnuts

Recipe courtesy of Hy-Vee.com

Makes 16 servings

Pesto is a flavorful combination of fresh basil, nuts, garlic, and Parmesan. Use it to add a taste of Italy to sandwiches, pizzas, sauces, pastas, and even eggs. 


1/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped

1 cup packed basil leaves (about 2 oz)

1 cup packed spinach leaves (about 2 oz)

1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

1 tsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp kosher sea salt

pinch red pepper flakes, optional

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil


• Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

• Place walnuts on an ungreased baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes; remove and set aside to cool.

• In a food processor, combine basil, spinach, walnuts, Parmesan, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes, if desired. Cover and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add oil and process until thoroughly combined.

• Store in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to one month. Thaw frozen pesto in refrigerator overnight.

Nutrition facts per serving: 110 calories, 11g fat, 2g saturated fat, 5mg cholesterol, 115mg sodium, 1g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 0g sugar, 2g protein

The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

Rachelle Deutz is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Marshall.