Although diabetes is often mistaken for an incurable and unmanageable disease, the majority of type-2 (adult onset) diabetes cases are both preventable and reversible. Certainly, eating a diet rich in a variety of vegetables, fruits, lean protein, beans, legumes and whole grains helps to reduce your risk for type-2 diabetes, as well as restricting foods containing processed, sugary and trans fatty ingredients. But new studies are showing that by simply adding more walnuts to your diet, you could actually reduce your risk for diabetes by over 20 percent.
In the United States, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death, with about 12 percent of women are currently affected by diabetes. What’s even more alarming is that gestational diabetes develops in 18 percent of all pregnancies, and diabetes increases the risk for miscarriages and birth defects.
Fats have long been demonized as contributors to diabetes, but recent research suggests that total fat intake isn’t the problem; rather, it is the type of fat that is consumed. More specifically, trans fats and saturated fats are related to a higher risk of diabetes, while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are associated with a lower risk.
Walnuts are particularly high in polyunsaturated fatty acids; they are also low in sugar and carbohydrates, and are high in fiber, protein, omega-3s and antioxidants. The nutritional profile of walnuts prompted researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health to study the effects of consuming walnuts with the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. For the investigation, researchers followed 79,893 women aged 35-52 and 58,063 women aged 52-77 for ten years. It is important to note that none of these women had diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer at the start of the study.
The researchers found an inverse relationship between the consumption of walnuts and the risk for diabetes. Essentially, a higher consumption of walnuts was associated with a lower risk for developing type-2 diabetes. More specifically, the women who consumed two or more servings of walnuts per week as part of a healthy diabetic diet experienced a 15 to 21 percent lower risk for type-2 diabetes. Although the study was conducted on women, the high polyunsaturated fat content and overall nutrient profile of walnuts should make them equally beneficial for the prevention of diabetes in men.
Including Walnuts in your Diabetic Diet
Like all things, more does not necessarily mean better — walnuts are high in healthy fats, but even healthy fats can contribute to weight gain when consumed in excess. One serving of walnuts (about seven walnuts) can equal to about 28 grams. In general, including walnuts in your diabetic diet should be limited to one serving per day.
Not a walnut fan? Worry not, because Toronto researchers found that other nuts (including almonds, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts, cashews and macadamias) can also reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes. For optimal results, consume only unsalted nuts as part of your diabetic diet plan, since sodium increases blood pressure which in turn increases the risk for diabetes. Also consume nuts raw, because heat exposure degrades the nutrients in nuts and ruins the beneficial effects of the healthy fats.