Two Fats with Benefits: Linoleic Oil and Walnuts
It’s time to get over our fear of fats. Some fats like linoleic acid and the fats found in nuts like walnuts have significant health benefits. You do need to know which fats offer a health payoff and you do need to recognize that when consuming fats daily, portion control is necessary.
Linoleic-rich oil has health benefits
A new study suggests that a diet rich in a specific fat found in grapeseed and soybean oil can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. The researchers at Ohio State University found that both men and women who have higher levels of linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated fat, seem to have less heart-threatening fat, more lean body mass and less body inflammation. The linoleic acid levels also seem to support lower levels of insulin resistance, a precursor to prediabetes and diabetes.
Sources of linoleic acid
In recent years, vegetable oils have been manipulated to contain lower levels of linoleic acid. So it’s important to read labels so you can include some linoleic-containing oils in your pantry. In addition to grapeseed and soybean oil, peanut, cotton, rice bran and corn oils all have significant amounts of linoleic acid. These oils should be used some of the time, while you continue to use predominantly monounsaturated oils like olive oil and some nut oils.
Walnuts Can Help with Weight Loss and Cholesterol
Another recent study also showcases why including certain fats in your diet can support weight loss and additionally help to lower cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats like those in walnuts and olive oil may have a positive influence on weight loss, similar to the impact of a lower fat, higher carbohydrate diet. Eating a diet that includes these foods can also have a positive impact on heart health.
In this study, 245 overweight and obese women between the ages of 22 and 72 were enrolled in a one year lifestyle modification program. The subjects were divided into three groups: Those fed a low fat high carbohydrate diet, those fed a low carb, higher fat diet and those fed a higher fat, low carb diet that specifically included walnuts. They were all on calorie restriction, and the group eating the walnuts consumed 1.5 ounces of the nuts daily.
Those consuming the walnuts experienced similar weight loss compared to the other groups, but, the walnut group also showed the best improvement of their lipid levels, especially those diagnosed with insulin resistance. The lipid changes included a decrease in LDL (bad cholesterol) and an increase in HDL (good cholesterol).
It’s important to note that the low carb/high fat diet group mostly consumed monounsaturated fats, while the group that consumed walnuts also received benefits from the polyunsaturated fats found in those nuts. Walnuts are the only nut that contains primarily polyunsaturated fat, and specifically, a significant amount of ALA or alpha-linoleic acid, the plant-based version of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies suggest that replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats and whole grains is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
The limitations of the study should be noted. This was a small study based on the number of individuals in each of the three subgroups. Though all three groups lost weight, which suggests that all participants adhered to a reduced calorie diet, there were no detailed logs with specific dietary intake (calories and food choices).
Linoleic acid and walnuts can be part of a healthy, balanced diet. Consider cooking with these oils and consuming a portion of walnuts daily.