Walnuts and Diabetes: What's the Connection?
Want to cut your chances of getting type 2 diabetes? Munch on some walnuts. Eating them reduces the risk of the chronic disorder in women, according to new research reported in The New York Times. The research, published in The Journal of Nutrition, focused on dietary and health data on 138,000 women who were participating in a large, ongoing study of women's health. Researchers followed them for a decade, collecting information on walnut consumption.
The results? Women who ate eight ounces or more of walnuts per month had a 24 percent reduction in their risk for developing type 2 diabetes. That's after the scientists controlled for factors such as that the walnut eaters tended to exercise more and eat more seafood than the women who didn't eat walnuts.
Nutritional Benefits of Walnuts
"There's been a lot of research on nuts in general in relation to cardiovascular health," Harvard University professor of medicine Frank B. Hu, MD, senior study author, said, according to The New York Times. "This is the first on walnuts and diabetes. Walnuts may have some unique benefits."
Eating eight ounces of walnuts per month is an achievable goal-it equates to eating a 1-ounce portion, about a handful of nuts, twice a week, says Georgia Giannopoulos, RD, CDN, CNSC, of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill-Cornell Medical Center in New York City. Or if you want to calculate a 1-ounce serving by the numbers, figure that it amounts to about 7 whole walnuts or 14 walnut halves, she says.
Walnuts have a lot going for them nutrition-wise, says Giannopoulos. "They are high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids," she explains. "They contain protein and fiber so they keep you feeling full longer." If you are watching your sodium intake, buy unsalted walnuts, Giannopoulos advises. Roasted varieties can add more than 200 mg of sodium per serving.
5 Ways to Savor Walnuts
While a 7-walnut serving might seem skimpy, there are many ways to maximize the flavor and crunch without racking up a lot of extra calories.
- Stir into quinoa or a rice pilaf to give these dishes a lift
- Make your own trail mix using walnuts, dried fruit, other nuts, and maybe even a little dark chocolate. (Yes, it's delicious and good for you. No, you can't eat unlimited quantities.)
- Chop walnuts and layer them in a fruit and yogurt parfait, or put a few into the hollowed-out core of an apple (along with a little brown sugar and cinnamon.) Bake until the apple is soft and top with a little fat-free or low-fat Greek yogurt.
- If you bake bread, muffins, or brownies, stir in some walnuts for a nutrition boost.
- To control calories, pre-portion walnuts into small baggies and keep them at your desk at work. "You'll always have a healthy snack on hand," Giannopoulos says.
Pan, An et al. "Walnut Consumption Is Associated with Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Women." April 2013. The Journal of Nutrition.http://jn.nutrition.org/content/143/4/512.abstract
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