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If you're feeling stressed out or you know that you're in for a bad day, you might want to eat a handful of walnuts to relieve the pressure. According to one study by researchers at Penn State University, a diet rich in walnuts and walnut oil may prepare the body to deal better with stress.
The researchers wanted to examine how walnuts and walnut oil, which contain polyunsaturated fats, influence blood pressure at rest and under stress. That's because people who have an exaggerated biological response to stress are at higher risk of heart disease. According to the researchers, they wanted to find out if omega 3-fatty acids from plant sources would blunt cardiovascular responses to stress.
In the study 22 healthy adults with elevated LDL cholesterol followed three different diets for six weeks each. The participants were subjected to stress either by giving a speech or immersing a foot in cold water. The results, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, showed that when participants were following a diet that included walnuts and walnut oil, their blood pressure and stress responses were lower.
The "average" American diet does not include any nuts on a daily basis and the diet found to be effective to reduce the stress reaction included about 9 whole walnuts as an average serving. That may be all it takes for you to feel the calming effects.
A quarter cup of walnuts provides over 90% of the recommended daily value of omega-3 fats. Previous studies had already shown that omega-3 fatty acids like the alpha linolenic acid found in walnuts and flax seeds, can reduce LDL (the so-called bad) cholesterol, and may also reduce inflammation.
Walnuts are rich in healthy fats, dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and phytosterols, and have long been associated with heart health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows walnut providers to make the health claim that "eating 1.5 ounces per day of walnuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease."
Besides its beneficial effects on blood pressure and inflammation, walnuts have also been shown to be an excellent source of antioxidants, help to prevent gallstones, improve sleep by boosting melatonin, protect bone health and prevent weight gain.
Now this study points out that walnuts and walnut oil reduce blood pressure during stressful periods. And since we can't completely avoid all the stresses in our lives, it's good to know that such a simple and convenient snack could help us deal with the pressure.