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Fighting diabetes with walnuts

Eating a handful of walnuts twice a week can reduce the risk of developing type 2 Diabetes.
Walnuts provide essential fatty acids. iStockphoto.com
Walnuts provide essential fatty acids. iStockphoto.com

Walnuts are already known for their rich nutrition and health-giving properties, providing essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals for heart and brain health. However, recent research undertaken at Harvard University by professor of medicine Frank B Hu and published in The Journal of Nutrition suggests that eating walnuts may have even more health benefits than previously identified.

The study looked exclusively at women, with a sample size of 138,000 over a period of 10 years, and found that those women who ate at least eight ounces of walnuts per month – the equivalent of a handful of walnuts twice a week – had a 24 per cent reduction in their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, even when researchers accounted for other control factors such as walnut eaters being more likely to exercise and include more seafood in their diet compared to those who didn’t eat walnuts.

This is one of the first studies linking walnuts directly with diabetes and it seems that this nut may have some unique benefits. Even though this research focused on women, it is highly likely the same effect would be seen in men who ate walnuts.

The study did not specify the precise mechanism through which this effect manifested, but it is thought that walnuts’ high level of essential fatty acids and minerals help to balance blood sugar, reduce inflammation, encourage a healthy body weight and protect against heart disease. These all have either a direct or indirect effect on the risk for type 2 diabetes.

The most exciting fact of this study is the significance of a 24 per cent reduction in risk by eating only two handfuls of walnuts a week. This is something easy to incorporate into your diet, which means potentially many women, and indeed men, could benefit very easily.

The best type of walnuts to choose are raw and unsalted, to maximise their nutritional value without the downside of excess sodium. Soaking all nuts, including walnuts, is a great way to improve their digestibility if you find them harsh on your stomach. Adding an extra handful of walnuts to cereal is an easy way to incorporate them into your diet. They can also go into smoothies and are excellent when blended with bananas, organic yogurt, oats, rice and almond milk.

Laura Holland is a well-being consultant and nutritional therapist. For more information, go to http://www.beutifulyou.co.uk/

Updated: September 16, 2014 04:00 AM

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