Healthy Fat: Walnuts

Healthy Fat: Walnuts
Healthy Fat: Walnuts

As I’ve come to learn over the past few days, olive oil doesn’t completely live up to its health-promoting superstar reputation. That said, I haven’t given up on getting my healthy fats from plant-based sources — and there’s definitely no shortage of those!


  • Avocados

  • Sesame seeds and tahini

  • Pumpkin, flax and sunflower seeds

  • Almonds and almond butter

  • Pistachio and macadamia nuts

But if we’re really fixated on superstar status? The obvious choice to replace olive oil, based on a host of comparative studies, is walnuts. Not walnut oil, but straight-from-the-shell walnuts!

In several head-to-head competitions with walnuts, olive oil simply didn’t measure up. Dr. Greger compares their effects on our arteries in this NutritionFacts video:

“Immediate positive effect on our arteries… Higher fat olive oil? No reaction. And walnuts? Good reaction.”

Move the playing field to inflammation, and the results remain the same:

“Eat a salami-and-cheese sandwich with some olive oil, and artery function plummets like a third. But, replace that olive oil with the same amount of plant fat in the form of whole walnuts, and you don’t just blunt the effect of the salami-and-cheese, but reverse it — ending up actually better than you started out.

Battling high LDL cholesterol? Olive oil helps a bit, but nothing like a plant-based diet with walnuts:

Adding walnuts to a low-fat diet and not only does LDL go down, but the size distribution of the LDL shifts to a little more benign… And … on a plant-based diet with lots of fiber and nuts, you can get a massive 30% drop in LDL… [including] the small, dense, most dangerous LDL. Note: this does not happen with extra-virgin olive oil.

Even if you’ve never had a seat on the olive-oil bandwagon, just one weekly serving of walnuts can make a huge difference in your heart’s health:

“Not eating walnuts may double our risk of dying from heart disease (compared to at least one serving a week) — perhaps because nuts appear to improve endothelial function, allowing our arteries to better relax normally.”

That’s an up to 50-percent drop in your risk of dying from America’s #1 killer, just from eating an ounce of walnuts each week.

My conclusion? Nuts are the healthiest of fats, and whole, crunchy walnuts are one of the healthiest of nuts!

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