Friday, 20 February 2015

African Walnut

 Have you had some walnuts today?
    Written by  Sade Oguntola

Walnuts are the healthiest nut because of their high level of antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and phytosterols that may all reduce the risk of many diseases. Experts say that taking a walnut a day won’t keep the doctor away but a handful of walnuts will certainly make a difference, reports Sade Oguntola.

Walnut is a popular nut that is packed with nutrients that are of great health and medicinal benefits. The walnut kernel consists of two bumpy lobes that look like abstract butterflies. The lobes are off white in colour and covered by a thin, light brown skin. They are particularly attached to each other while the kernel is enclosed in round or oblong shells that are brown or black in colour and they are hard.
Called Asala or Awusa in Yoruba; Ukpa in Ibo; and Okhue or Okwe in Bini, this widely consumed fruit in the rainy season before meals is a panacea to several diseases.

Moreover, researchers in the British Journal of Nutrition ascertained that walnuts are a far better healthy snack than biscuits, French fries or potato chips as well as other nuts like almonds and peanut. Unfortunately, people don’t eat a lot of them.

A walnut a day won’t keep the doctor away but a handful of walnuts will certainly make a difference considering its many healthy benefits to the body. But what makes walnuts more beneficial?

Protects from cancer
Eating snack-sized quantities of walnuts could slow the growth of many cancers, including that of the breast and prostate.

In a study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrition and Cancer, researchers found that mice that got part of their calories by eating walnuts had slower stomach cancer growth. The cancer in the walnut-fed group took twice as long to double in size as cancer in the control group.

The study made the mice ate a diet in which 18.5 per cent of the daily calories - the equivalent of two servings for humans - came from walnuts.

Walnuts have at least three components that could account for their cancer-slowing effect. They are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to slow cancer growth. They also include antioxidants and components called phytosterols, both of which have shown cancer-slowing effects in other studies.

Improve sperm health
There is increasing evidence to show that a man’s diet can affect the number and quality of sperm produced by his testicles.  Eating around two handfuls of walnuts a day improves sperm health in young men.

According to the study in the journal Biology of Reproduction, sperm shape, movement and vitality improved in men who added walnuts to their diet over 12 weeks. The fatty acids found in these nuts are thought to have helped to boost sperm count and development.

Protect from effects of radiation
Tincture of black walnut may be effective against radiation exposure. Some unpublished trials showed that the patients who had been “painted” with black walnut or iodine tinctures were just as protected against radiation exposure as the patients who took potassium iodide.

Researchers in a study published in International Journal of Applied Research in Natural Products attribute walnut’s ability to protect against radiation exposure to its chelating ability and high content of antioxidants.

In the study, which involved the water extracts of walnuts, the researchers said walnut water extract could also be used in the treatment of iron-overload disorders such as thalassemia due to its high chelating ability in vitro at low doses.

Chelation therapy is the administration of chelating agents to remove heavy metals from the body. It is also used in the treatment of all forms of toxic metal poisoning.

Good for heart
Eating walnuts at the end of a meal might help to reduce the damage that fatty food can do to the arteries. The nuts are rich in compounds such as omega 3 essential fatty acids that reduce hardening of the arteries, prevent erratic heart rhythms and keep them flexible.

Studies on the dietary value of walnut show that increasing the dietary intake of walnuts has favourable effects on high cholesterol levels and other cardiovascular risk factors.

In addition to their heart protective monounsaturated fats, walnuts’ concentration of omega-3 essential fatty acids is also responsible for the favourable effects its consumption produces on cardiovascular risk factors.

Walnuts also contain relatively high levels of L-arginine, an essential amino acid that is converted into nitric oxide, a chemical that helps to keep the inner walls of blood vessels smooth and allows blood vessels to relax.

Since individuals with hypertension find it difficult to maintain normal nitric oxide levels which may also lead to other significant health issues such as diabetes and heart problems, walnuts can serve as a great addition to their diets.

However, new data in the 2013 edition of Journal of Nutrition say that the heart health benefits of walnuts may be linked to different parts of the nuts acting on different physiological functions.

Helps ensure good sleep
Taking a handful of walnuts before bed time is good because it is a source of bio-available melatonin - a hormone produced by the pineal gland, which is involved in inducing and regulating sleep and it’s also a powerful antioxidant in bio - available form, making the perfect evening meal for a natural good night sleep.

Treat fibroids
According to the Medicinal Plants of Nigeria- South West Nigeria Volume 1 compiled and published by Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA), Victoria Island, Lagos, walnut seeds are used in the treatment of fibroid.

Boost immune system
Consumption of walnut would help to boost stronger immune system and prevent anaemia. According to a dietician with the Garki Hospital, Abuja, Ms Yemisi Olowookere, walnut contains iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, copper, manganese, all components which help with stronger immune system and prevent anaemia.

According to her, walnuts are one of the richest sources of vitamin B6 also known as pyridoxine, which is involved in proper brain function, as well as red blood cell production.

Prolong life
Findings of a study published in the journal, BMC Medicine suggests that nuts – and walnuts in particular – may be even more beneficial than we thought. Researchers in Spain found that a diet rich in nuts significantly reduces the risk of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease.

In a study of more 7,200 men and women in Spain between 55 and 80 years of age, researchers found that participants who ate more than three servings of nuts a week had a 55 per cent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 40 per cent reduced risk of death from cancer, when compared to people who did not eat nuts.

Ensures sharper brains
Walnuts are often referred to as ‘brain food’. That is because they are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which plays a major role in the optimum functioning of the brain cells, making you smarter.

Over the course of the five year study, the nut eaters also had a 39 per cent lower risk of dying from all causes. The mortality risk was even lower, about 45 per cent, for people who ate walnuts.

Source: Tribune
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