Walnuts: healthy or unhealthy?

WalnĂŒsse: Gesund oder ungesund?

Walnuts are a superfood. But why is that? About 90 nutrients, including magnesium, zinc, copper, iron and potassium, contribute to this title.

In this article you will learn what you really need to know about walnuts and why they are healthy. Furthermore, under what circumstances a walnut can be poisonous and what to look out for when taking it on a daily basis. As well as about the positive or negative effect of certain diseases.

the essentials in brief

  • Did you know that walnuts are the fruit of the walnut tree and are surrounded by a green shell that turns brown as it ripens?
  • Did you know that unripe walnuts are poisonous? The immaturity can be recognized by the still green outer shell that surrounds the nut. The tannic acid it contains can lead to diarrhea and gastrointestinal problems. However, the green nut is used for a walnut liqueur.
  • Did you know that fungus-infested walnuts are poisonous? If the nuts show dark brown to black spots, poisonous fungi can be the reason for this. Thus, these walnuts should be separated from the healthy ones and not consumed. These toxins are unhealthy and can lead to nerve spasms. (1)

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Are walnuts healthy or unhealthy? what you should know

Walnuts are a popular superfood, but do they really do what many promise? This section answers important questions about walnuts.

How many walnuts a day are healthy?

When eating walnuts, it is very important to ensure that they do not show any signs of toxins and are unsalted. Otherwise negative effects will occur. 25 g daily is recommended to have a preventive effect. (2)

Ingredients, including lecithin, vitamin C , A, B1, B2, B3, B5, E, zinc , minerals such as magnesium , phosphate, sulfur, calcium and iron and secondary plant substances have a positive effect on our body. Lecithins are important for the brain, zinc for the liver and hair and the secondary plant substances have an antioxidant effect. (3)

Can walnuts cause side effects?

As with most foods, the dose makes the poison. Nuts should definitely be on the menu. Due to the high nutritional value and the valuable ingredients, they are crucial for reducing the risk of various diseases.

However, when consuming them, it is primarily natural nuts that should be used, i.e. without salt, chocolate or other additives. In addition, the toxins of the nut affected by the fungus can have a negative effect on the body. As a result, the daily recommended amount should not necessarily be exceeded.

The said phytic acid, which is contained in foods such as nuts, inhibits the absorption of minerals. Due to the small amount in nuts, however, this is harmless. If you want to be on the safe side, you can soak the nuts in water, which can reduce this acidity. (4.5)

Do walnuts help you lose weight?

Walnuts are fattening, this is a well-known misconception. In contrast, an American study found that walnuts help with weight loss despite their high fat content. The nutritional values ​​are listed below.

nutritional values Crowd
100 grams of walnuts 674 calories
protein 14.4g
Fat 62.5g
carbohydrates 10.6g
fiber 6.1g
Water 4.4g

This US study found that walnuts cause an increased feeling of satiety. The reason for this are the ingredients that become active in the brain areas responsible for satiety. Furthermore, the degree of satiety can influence the choice of food, which means that healthier foods are more likely to be used with increased walnut consumption. (6.7)

Are walnuts healthy for skin, hair and nails?

In addition to health, the visual image is also an important factor in our society. In order to be able to guarantee the health of skin, hair and nails, a healthy diet is of great importance in addition to sleep, relaxation, sufficient water intake, exercise and fresh air. The nutrients provitamin A, vitamin B2, silicon, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, selenium, biotin and zinc make a particularly positive contribution.

Thus, walnuts with their ingredients can serve as a nutrient supplier and thus have a positive effect on skin, hair and nails. (8th)

Are walnuts good for heart disease?

For the 13th Nutrition Report of the German Society for Nutrition, research was conducted that the consumption of nuts could probably reduce the risk of heart disease. The fiber, polyphenols and fatty acid composition it contains could be responsible for this.

Despite the high fat content, they provide many mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, calcium, B vitamins magnesium and iron. They are also very high-calorie foods with a high energy density. To prevent coronary heart disease, the DGE recommends consuming 25 g per day. (2)

In the Netherland Cohort Study (1986 - 1996) 3202 men and women aged 55 to 69 years were observed whose eating habits were precisely clarified. On average, men consumed 8.1 g of nuts and women 4.4 g of nuts daily.

All-cause mortality can be reduced with regular walnut consumption.

In addition, the Dutch death dates of the Office for Genealogy and Statistics were used. This showed that nut consumption reduced all-cause mortality. Depending on the daily nut consumption, this was influenced differently. With a consumption of 0.1 to 4.9 g of nuts per day, the risk is 12 percent lower compared to abstainers, with 5 to 9.9 g by 26 percent and with more than 10 g by 23 percent.

Heart monitor next to medicine box

Walnuts may reduce heart disease (Image source: Steve Buissinne/Pixabay).

People who consume walnuts daily are less likely to suffer from cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. This also applies to diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases. (9)

Are walnuts good for the gut?

An American study has shown that regular walnut consumption has a positive effect on the intestinal flora. Tests were carried out on mice and it was found that the intestinal flora in the lower large intestine differed significantly.

Regular walnut consumption improves the intestinal flora.

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With regular walnut consumption, an increased number of lactobacilli were found, which could therefore have a prebiotic effect. In addition, greater diversity in the gut should contribute to better general health, less inflammatory processes and easier weight loss. This in turn reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

It was also found in mice that regular consumption of walnuts can reduce tumor growth, including colon cancer. (10.11)

Are walnuts healthy for children?

Despite the health benefits, children should not be given nuts until they are at least 5 years old. A major reason here is the risk of swallowing, which can lead to inflammation of the lung tissue and even death by suffocation. Oilseeds and finely chopped or ground nuts do not pose a great risk.

While on the one hand the recommended age is 5 years, on the other hand the age is 10 years. The reason given here is that 95% of all foreign bodies are found in the bronchial tubes of children. 99% of these are nuts. Nuts should be eaten under supervision. The risk of allergies also poses a risk. (12)

Are Walnuts Healthy for Dogs?

Walnuts do not provide any valuable nutritional value for a dog and should therefore only be fed with care. In addition, they pose a great risk due to their possible fungal attack. Both unripe and fresh walnuts, as well as the shell, can be affected. The poison is called Roquefortin C. For this reason, only ripe walnuts that have not been stored for too long should be fed.

Dog gets food

Dogs should avoid nuts (Image source: Sipa/Pixabay).

A mild poisoning manifests itself in dogs with movement disorders such as stumbling or falling or an increased sensitivity to touch. If the degree of intoxication is severe, tremors, vomiting or epilepsy-like convulsions may also occur. In the worst case, death can occur. If you have these symptoms, you should see your veterinarian as soon as possible. (13.14)

Are walnuts healthy for the brain?

60% of the brain is made up of fat. In order to form good brain cells, the right fats are needed in the womb. Walnuts contain bioactive substances that reach the brain. These include ingredients such as vitamin E, copper, melatonin and alpha-linolenic acid. The polyphenols also serve as radical scavengers and thus protect the body from oxidative stress.

It is also worth knowing that dementia or Parkinson's disease can be slowed down. So far, however, this has only been observed in mice. (15.16)

Are walnuts healthy during pregnancy?

A balanced and healthy diet is very important during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The child must be provided with the necessary nutrients in order to be able to develop well. For example, important fatty acids, which are also found in walnuts, are responsible for the formation of the brain. In addition, regular consumption of walnuts can slow down, if not prevent, gestational diabetes.

A Spanish study found that three servings of nuts per week boosted brain development in the unborn child. Nutritional questionnaires were completed by 2,200 pregnant women in the first and last trimester. Furthermore, the children were tested for their neuropsychological development at the age of 18 months. It was found that children whose mothers consumed the most nuts in the first trimester, around 30 g per week, performed better in terms of cognitive performance as well as attention and working memory.

The following nuts were considered in this study: walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds and pine nuts. It is believed that the fatty acids omega 3 and 6 and folic acid present in nuts have a positive effect on brain development. (17.18)

What alternatives are there to walnuts?

In order to add variety to the diet plan, you can also vary between the following nuts or use dietary supplements.

  • hazelnuts
  • almonds
  • peanuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • dietary supplements

The different alternatives are described in more detail below.


The local hazelnuts are often found in the popular trail mix as nerve food. It mainly contains the ingredients lecithin and choline. It also contains many omega 9 fatty acids, which are good for the nerve cells.


Strictly speaking, the almond is not a nut, but a stone fruit. Nevertheless, they have nutty properties, such as a high calcium, magnesium and potassium content. They are also rich in choline, which promotes memory and minimizes the storage of fat in the liver.

Bitter almonds should be avoided, however, as they form toxic hydrocyanic acid during digestion. A disadvantage of this stone fruit is its origin. It is grown on plantations in a very water-intensive manner and mostly imported from California.


Peanuts are related to peas and beans, but grow underground. Compared to other nuts, they contain few omega 3 fatty acids, but they are rich in proteins and magnesium. The red peel, which contains antioxidant substances, can also be consumed. These nuts usually come from the tropics or subtropics.

Macadamia nuts

Due to the production, this nut is the most expensive. Nevertheless, it is particularly healthy because of the favorable fatty acid composition. The high proportion of omega 9 fatty acids is responsible for this. This nut is grown worldwide, but its origin is Australia. (19)

dietary supplements

In order to be supplied with sufficient nutrients, dietary supplements can also be used. However, it is recommended to consume these substances through a balanced and healthy diet.

Pregnant women or women who want to have children often also take dietary supplements with folic acid, for example, so that becoming pregnant and the development of the unborn child function properly.


Despite some negative factors, walnuts should definitely be integrated into the diet plan. The reason for this is the valuable ingredients and their health-promoting effects. On the one hand, this food can help with obesity, as well as slowing down dementia or Parkinson's disease, reducing heart disease and they also have a positive effect on nails, hair, skin and the intestinal flora.

In addition, the food is of particular importance for pregnant women, since the ingredients have a positive influence on the development of their child. However, nuts are not recommended for young children. One of the reasons for this is the risk of choking. In addition, walnuts should not be fed to dogs. Various alternatives are possible to replace walnuts. Other types of nuts or dietary supplements are ways to consume the ingredients in a different way.


  1. Plantopedia, Walnut tree: are the tree or unripe walnuts poisonous? Source
  2. German Society for Nutrition, 13th Nutrition Report, Protecting the Heart with Nuts and Almonds, 2017 Source
  3. rtv healthy & vital editorial / KH, walnuts: How healthy are they really?, 2019 Source
  4. Judge Nico, How Many Nuts Are Healthy?, 2013 Source
  5. Lebensmittelforum.de, Should you soak nuts before eating because of the phytic acid?, 2018 Source
  6. Federal Center for Nutrition, The Importance of Nuts in the Diet, 2020 Source
  7. Farr et al., Walnut consumption increases activation of the insula to highly desirable food cues: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over fMRI study, 2019, 10.1111/dom.13060 Source
  8. Food Association Germany, Healthy and beautiful skin, hair and nails: These nutrients are important, 2018 Source
  9. Piet A van den Brandt, Leo J Schouten, Relationship of tree nut, peanut and peanut butter intake with total and cause-specific mortality: a cohort study and meta-analysis, International Journal of Epidemiology, 2015, 10.1093/ije/dyv039 Source
  10. Byerley et al., Changes in the gut microbial communities following addition of walnuts to the diet, The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 2017, 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2017.07.001 Source
  11. Nakanishi et al., Effects of Walnut Consumption on Colon Carcinogenesis and Microbial Community Structure, 2016, 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-16-0026 Source
  12. Wiebke, Is it true that children are only allowed to eat nuts from the age of 5?, 2010 Source
  13. Uzunalic, Can my dog ​​eat walnuts? Source
  14. Konitzer, Nuts for dogs, AGILA, 2019 Source
  15. Derntl, Brainfood-Selected food for our brain, 2019 Source
  16. Jopp et al., fit with bold, 2010, 10.1007/s12054-010-0042-3 Source
  17. GĂ€tjen, Vegan in pregnancy and lactation, 2019, 10.1007/s00129-019-04499-w Source
  18. ISGlobal, Maternal nut consumption during pregnancy linked to improvements in neurodevelopment in children, 2019 Source
  19. PLANATURA Magazine: Healthy Nuts Source
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