People tend to differ on almost every stance. However, most of us can agree on one thing – nuts are great and there are very few people who don’t like to see them on the plate. Well, not unless they are suffering from some sort of allergy but that’s whole another topic for you.
Another awesome thing about the nuts is that almost all varieties are very diet-friendly so no matter what kind of nutritional plan you are undergoing you don’t have to be afraid these popular treats will be “off the table.”
But, how do things stand when it comes to the Paleolithic diet that is growing an increasing of followers around the globe with each passing day. Although not very restrictive (not to the extent of the keto diet for example), this program does ask for a couple of compromises and small sacrifices.
So, can you eat walnuts on paleo, and if so are there some things you should pay special attention to? Let’s try to find out.
Paleolithic Diets For Absolute Beginners
Like in some previous articles (for instance, when we talked about white rice) we will first make a short overview of the paleo diet, see what walnuts are made from, and try to see how the two fit with each other.
So, for all of you who are still researching the paleo diet what’s the fuss all about?
Well, the very name “paleo diet” refers to the Paleolithic age. As you can guess, this program tries to recreate the nutrition of our foraging ancestors and bring us back to those happy, happy times of hunting and gathering.
But, why would we do that, you might ask? Life was awful back then.
That may be the truth, but the nutrition was everything but. And it was much better accustomed to the needs of the human body than it is today. You see, the human species began its journey approximately 3 million years ago. All those millions of years and up until the Agricultural evolution (approximately 12,000 BCE) our bodies evolved to use the food that can be obtained in nature.
In comparison, the time period since we settled was far too short for our bodies to rewire. Also, the Agricultural revolution gave humans access to food that is easy to grow and mass produce (the booming human population required so) but took away a lot of the nutritional quality our ancestors were so accustomed to. When they had the freedom to choose humans never chose grains over fresh salmon.
So, the Paleolithic diet tries to address both these problems and provide human bodies with the quality foods they originally evolved around. These foods are:
- Fish (especially the varieties rich in Omega-3 fatty acids)
- Eggs (the cocktail of protein and healthy fats)
- Veggies and fruits
- Natural spices
- Healthy fats and oils
On the other hand, you have the lower quality foods the paleo diet recommends you stay away from as far as possible:
- Processed food
- Most dairy products
- Legumes like beans and edamame
- Rice and grains like wheat
- Artificial sweeteners
- Vegetable oils
- Trans fats
We have to point out that sacrificing so many popular staples is not the result of some misguided sense of loyalty or who knows what. As we mentioned earlier, the food our foraging ancestors consumed featured much better quality than the one we settled for.
As a result, different independent studies agree that the paleo diet also offers some pretty awesome health benefits like weight loss promotion, better regulation of blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and faster metabolism. And, just look at these beautiful waist circumference numbers:
Not bad huh?
Do You Wanna Get Nuts? Let’s Get Nuts!
Now, it’s time to take a look at the other side of this coin. So, where do walnuts stand in the grand hierarchy of paleo-friendly foods? Let us start by breaking down some walnuts for you.
As the name suggests, walnuts are a type of nuts native to the region stretching all the way from the Balkans to China. After the plant ripening when the shell is removed, the brown brain-like-looking seed (or the meat if you prefer) is used as a garnish or a snack.
Now, that we covered the background let’s take a look at all the healthy nutrients that can be found under this small brown shell. One cup of walnuts (approximately 30 grams) roughly contains:
Aside from that, walnuts are also a pretty rich source of manganese, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and iron.
Walnut Health Benefits
The things we can see above are truly awesome to be quite honest. Especially when we put them against some lower quality and much less diverse foods like bread.
Caloric, healthy, and well-balanced? Yes, walnuts are true small power-bombs so it is really no wonder they have a rock-star status in the nutritionists’ circles. Here, we are quickly going to quickly go through some of the most important health and nutrition benefits associated with this popular stone fruit.
Improving Hearth Health
Numerous studies suggest that regular consumption of walnuts reduces the risk of developing some cardiovascular diseases, lowers LDL (bad cholesterol), reduces inflammation, and improves blood vessel functions. All these perks are the pillar of a quality lifestyle and good heart health.
Helping In Cancer Prevention
Speaking in the broadest of terms, cancer represents a group of different diseases caused by abnormal cell growth. The chance of this development can be lowered with regular exercise, abandonment of unhealthy lifestyle habits (smoking, drinking, etc.), and by eating healthy foods. As you can guess, being very rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts more than make the list of these foods.
Improving Brain Health
The final word on this may yet be absent, but several studies conducted in recent years suggest that walnuts have very positive effects in fighting off depression, memory loss, and age-related decline in brain function. Another research also noted walnut-caused improvements in comprehension.
Promoting Healthy Gut
If your gut is rich in health-promoting bacteria and other beneficial microbes you are more likely to develop a better gut and overall health. Well, the recent research has effectively confirmed that regular consumption of walnuts (the research was conducted over the period of eight weeks) increases the development of the healthy bacteria we have just mentioned and thus creates a positive effect on gut health.
Supporting Weight Control
Although they are very calorie-dense, the amount of energy absorbed from them is 21% lower than the one you would expect to get based on the list of nutrients. That is actually pretty awesome and gives walnuts some much-needed volume and creates a sense of fullness after eating. One study confirmed that the addition of 1.75 ounces (48 grams) drastically decreases the appetite in the hours after.
So, as we can see walnuts are pretty awesome all-around. But, we have already seen some foods that offer pretty cool benefits but don’t exactly jell with the paleo nutrition program. Let us then circle back to the very beginning and answer the main question – can you eat walnuts on paleo?
How Well Walnuts Fit The Paleolithic Nutrition Program
The simplest answer to this question would be – yes.
As we mentioned when talking about the paleo diet this dietary program is based entirely around the foods our ancestors consumed before they settled down and started growing grains and rice. Walnuts were easily available, and they represented one of the main Paleolithic treats.
But, the paleo diet is so much more than pandering to old customs just for the sake of it. The food that could be hunted or gathered wasn’t preferred only because it was readily available but because it also featured better quality than the ones that could be easily domesticated or mass-produced.
The foraging lifestyle was hard and demanded peak body performance as well as high intelligence and the ability to store an incredible amount of info in the brain. How our ancestors were able to do that? It’s simple – by eating a lot of protein, incredibly beneficial Omega-3 acids, nutrient-dense sources of carbs and other healthy food sources.
Walnuts check all these important boxes and create a welcome sense of fullness that discourages the consumption of other gratifying but not overly healthy hunger-killers. So, if you want to start your exciting Paleolithic journey, feel free to add walnuts to your regular nutrition regimen. If you are still on the fence about this whole idea, adding a couple of nuts to your regular diet won’t do you any harm.
Walnuts are incredibly healthy and beneficial food that packs a killer combination of all important nutrients and beneficial vitamins and minerals. What’s most important for this article is that all nuts, walnuts included are incredibly-friendly so if you are planning to start this new popular diet, you will have a pretty good nutrient source that will make some restrictions much more bearable. But, even if you are unsure about the idea of going full Paleolithic, we hope that everything we said above convinced you to add this garnish to your diet.