How many interesting and flavorful ways can you find to add walnuts to your diet? can think of quite a few: add them to cold or hot cereals, top your salad with them, sprinkle them over pancakes, include them in muffin batter, saute them with your chicken … and we’re only just getting started! Nuts are a healthy snack and a healthy addition to your meals. Today we found new information that makes walnuts a top pick when deciding on your nuts of choice.

A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition conducted by the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Derby, CT shows that walnuts may protect against heart disease. The study explored the health effects of daily walnut consumption by adults at risk for developing diabetes or heart disease.

These results backed up previous findings by the same team which found a significant improvement in blood vessel function among people with diabetes who consumed two ounces of walnuts daily for eight weeks. The researchers note that walnuts contain many healthy nutrients, including omega-3 fat. They are a satisfying snack, enabling us to feel full and stay full, thus helping us avoid other, less nutritious foods.

Participants in this new study were all overweight with an average age of 57 years. They all had at least one of a few different health conditions including high blood pressure, high blood glucose, high triglycerides or low HDL cholesterol. Each of these conditions can increase the risk for diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Diabetes, in turn, can raise the risk for cardiovascular disease.

All participants were asked to continue their usual eating patterns for one eight-week interval. This was considered the control phase of the study. For the next eight weeks, participants again continued their regular diets, except for this phase they were instructed to consume two ounces of walnuts each day. They were also instructed to adjust for the extra calories from the walnuts – removing an equal number of calories from their regular diet so that their calorie intake would be consistent with the control phase.

Researchers found that after the second eight-week phase of the study, participants’ blood vessel function improved significantly in comparison to the control phase. Body weight and waist circumference remained consistent. In addition, participants experienced a reduction in systolic blood pressure – although that reduction was not statistically significant. The study results provide evidence that walnuts can play a role in protecting against heart disease in at-risk individuals.

How can you add two ounces of walnuts to your daily diet? has a few more ideas for you … use them in pesto sauce instead of pine nuts, sprinkle them on asparagus, add them to chicken salad, or brown rice or quinoa, sprinkle them on ice cream for a treat. We’re sure you can come up with even more great uses for walnuts and hope that you do. Two ounces a day for better heart health is certainly an easy adjustment to make … and a great way to add some flavor and crunch to our meals!