walnuts, nuts help the heart, eating walnuts, heart-healthy

Could eating walnuts lower your cholesterol? A few decades ago, people were warned to avoid walnuts as well as other types of tree nuts because of their high fat content. Experts expected this to lead to uncontrolled weight gain and increased cardiovascular risk.

Extra Walnuts Lower Your Cholesterol:

A recent analysis of 26 different clinical trials considered the impact of eating extra walnuts (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online June 21, 2018). The studies included 1059 volunteers who followed a control diet or a walnut-enriched diet. The researchers found that those eating walnuts had lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. They also had lower triglyceride levels compared with the individuals in the control groups.

Comparing walnut-enriched diets with typical American or western diets with lots of processed foods offered the biggest contrast. Cholesterol was 12 points lower, while LDL cholesterol was 8 points lower.

Did Eating Walnuts Lead to Weight Gain?

In addition, people eating the walnut-enriched diet did not gain weight compared to those on the control diets. Neither their systolic nor diastolic blood pressure rose in response to the additional walnuts in their diets.

While the scientists do not endorse eating walnuts for better health, that is the direction their data point. People with under-active thyroid glands may want to be cautious about eating extra walnuts, however. Decades ago, walnuts were identified as having a negative effect on the thyroid gland (Endocrinology, March 1970). It is not clear, however, that up-to-date methods of studying food and thyroid interactions would confirm this.

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  1. alan
    dallas, TX

    The only nut I avoid are peanuts & pistachios, both of which I really like. My MCP hates me because I won’t take statins. I feel great.

  2. Gerri

    Black walnuts, English walnuts, or both?

  3. Michelle
    Marquette, Michigan

    I started eating walnuts and other nuts on a regular basis years ago (hazelnuts, brazil nuts, almonds, etc.). My HDL rose into the 60’s and LDL, total cholesterol were stable, as I never had high levels anyway. Cholesterol is a myth anyway.

  4. WK

    I have read that if you are prone to kidney stones to stay away from all nuts.

  5. Mark

    I eat walnuts for the same reason. Just wondered if there is any research about the quantity per day.


  6. Lyn

    A cautionary note to those who have SEID, formerly known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). Research has shown that any food containing Argenine can make patients feel badly if they ingest too many nuts containing large amounts of Argenine, as they are known to increase the Human Herpes Virus. Walnuts and Almonds contain large amounts of Argenine, and so if one is going to begin a regimen of adding nuts to the diet, SEID patients should challenge themselves by taking note about how they feel prior to eating nuts, and determine if there’s a negative issue after ingesting nuts for a week or so. Research is on-going regarding nuts and the Human Herpes Virus, and so this is simply a cautionary measure, as there is no definitive answer.

  7. Michael

    I’m allergic to some nuts, including walnuts, but not others. Which are most beneficial?

    And, what about Tom’s comment? Nuts are clearly heart-healthy (some more than others?), but is cholesterol still the thing we need to measure?

    • Terry Graedon

      You can enjoy the ones you tolerate, in moderation. Cholesterol may not be the prime element, but it is still considered important.

  8. Crystal

    I think I first saw eating walnuts as part of a healthy diet on the Dr. Oz Show several years ago, It may have been when he was appearing as a guest on Oprah. I’d never heard NOT to eat them and had the opposite opinion, I always thought they were healthy to eat and were like avocados, filled with healthy fat. So good news for me, I’m not changing my nut eating habit any time soon. I always wonder about these studies. One decade something is bad…the next decade a new study shows the same thing to be either not bad…..or good. I still remember when eating eggs wasn’t considered a healthy choice. Makes eating healthy challenging. I go with: most things are OK in moderation.

  9. thai

    I eat walnuts several mornings a week on my steel cut oats, alternated with pecan halves about 3:1. I also put raw almonds on green salads in the evenings a couple times a week. A 30 year mostly vegetarian who does eat wild caught fish, eggs from pasture raised hens only, and some organic dairy, my lipid profile, especially the LDL, triglycerides, and ratio are excellent for someone in their seventh decade. My weight is also where it should be. I also eat lots of avocados, some tofu, soy milk, olive oil, fruit, vegetables, beans, and indulge in one slice of true sourdough bread regularly.

  10. Tom

    Why are we still talking about lowering cholesterol? The whole linkage to heart disease has been thoroughly debunked.

    • Sally

      We’re going to be hearing about cholesterol forever because statins are a huge money-maker for big pharm. Correlation is not cause, and saying high cholesterol leads to heart attacks because AFTER a heart attack your cholesterol is high is just plain bad science. Walnuts are a great source of omega 3s for vegetarians. Everything in moderation!

  11. Emilio T
    Salem, OR

    Both my mother and her mother (my grandmother) ate a diet rich in walnuts, such as walnut bread, walnut-rich cakes, sprinkled ground walnuts over pasta, etc. They both lived a long time and were healthy until very late in their lives. I try to follow their example, looking for more walnuts in food.

    Unfortunately, it is hard to find walnuts in food. For example, dessert makers often sprinkle their cakes with fake walnuts (a mixture of bread crumbs and who knows what) that look like ground walnuts but are not.

    Doughnut makers sprinkle donuts with peanuts, but never with healthier walnuts. So, I keep a supply of both whole and ground walnuts, so I can easily add it to food (including to granola for breakfast).

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