– Dr. Jagmeet Madan, Eminent Nutritionist, Professor and Principal, Sir VithaldasThackersey College of Home Science, SNDTWU, Mumbai, and National President – Indian Dietetic Association
The shift in purchasing power and technology may have made our lives easier and faster – but has it made our lives better? Well, not 100%, if you ask me. In fact, we’re left with over-exploited resources, tighter schedules, and little to no physical activity. A result of which is a variety of lifestyle diseases. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the only cause of lifestyle diseases. Their causes could lie in your family history or your genes too, which you have no control over. Either way, you need to figure out a solution to cure it, a good point to start with would be proper nutrition.
Dr. Jagmeet Madan
On World Health Day 2022, I’ve listed down four of the most common lifestyle and metabolic diseases that are endemic to India and that one food group “Nuts and Oilseeds” especially walnuts that is documented to help in preventing as well as managing them. Multiple research studies have proven that walnuts are a powerhouse of nutrition and may help promote overall health. A handful (28g) of walnuts, for instance, contain 2.5g of essential plant-based omega-3, 4g protein, and 2g fiber.
Walnuts can increase the risk of obesity is a widely believed myth. Walnuts contain good fats – polyunsaturated and monounsaturated – that are essential for a healthy diet. The presence of dietary fiber, plant-based omega-3, and essential nutrients, walnuts may help suppress hunger and make you feel full and satisfied for a longer period. These amazing appetite-control powers further play a role in how much you eat and facilitate weight management.
According to the ICMR State-Level Disease Burden Report, from 1990 to 2016, the prevalence of heart disease has increased by over 50% in the country1 across all age groups. This disease contributes to nearly 18% of total deaths in the country. Almost three decades of research shows that incorporating walnuts into your daily diet may decrease your risk of heart disease. The polyunsaturated fats, also known as good fats, and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) in these nutritious nuts may improve cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure.2,3
Walnuts in a bowl
According to the International Diabetes Federation, as of 2020, 77 million people in India were suffering from this lifestyle disease, and the numbers are expected to grow with every passing year. Research has shown that the right type of fats, like those found in walnuts, may prove beneficial in diabetes management and may help prevent type 2 diabetes.4 Crunchy and delightful walnuts have a low glycemic index and hence, don’t raise blood glucose levels. Excess weight is one of the causes of type 2 diabetes. Since walnuts facilitate weight management, these may help control this lifestyle disease as well.5
Mental health is the foundation of our well-being, but there’s still a stigma associated with it. WHO estimates that our country’s burden of mental health problems is 2443 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) per 10000 population. And it’s a sign enough to take steps towards improving the situation. Walnuts play a supporting role in the brain’s overall well-being. An epidemiological study published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging associates walnuts with improved memory, concentration, and information processing.6 Meanwhile, another study published in Nutrients states consuming walnuts may be associated with lower depression symptoms in adults.7
Incorporating nutritious food items like walnuts into your diet may reduce your risk for several diseases. So, this World Health Day, pledge to include a handful of these crunchy delights into your everyday meals.
(2) FDA approved claim: Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet, and not resulting in increased caloric intake, may reduce the risk of coronary heart diseas. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, March 2004. One ounce of walnuts provides 18g of total fat, 2.5g of monounsaturated fat, 13g of polyunsaturated fat, including 2.5g of alpha-linolenic acid, the plant-based omega-3.
(3) Kris-Etherton P. Walnuts decrease risk of cardiovascular disease: a summary of efficacy and biologic mechanisms. J Nutr. 2014; 10: 39:2S-8S.
(4) World Health Organization. (2002). Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases: Report of the joint WHO/FAO expert consultation. Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/trs916/summary/en/
(5) World Health Organization. (n.d.) Diabetes. www.who.int/health-topics/diabetes#tab=tab_2
(6) Arab L, Ang A. A cross-sectional study of the association between walnut consumption and cognitive function among adult US populations represented in NHANES. J Nutr Health Aging. 2015;19(3):284–290. doi:10.1007/s12603-014-0569-2
(7) Arab L, Guo R, Elashoff D. Lower Depression Scores among Walnut Consumers in NHANES. Nutrients. 2019;11(2):275. doi:10.3390/nu11020275