Eating a handful of walnuts daily may lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD), says a study.
The study, published in Journal of the American Heart Association, examined the effects of replacing some of the saturated fats in participants' diets with walnuts.
It found that when participants ate whole walnuts daily in combination with lower overall amounts of saturated fat, they had lower central blood pressure.
For the study, the researchers recruited 45 participants with overweight or obesity between the 30-65 age group.
Before the study began, participants were placed on a "run-in" diet for two weeks.
"When participants ate whole walnuts, they saw greater benefits than when they consumed a diet with a similar fatty acid profile as walnuts without eating the nut itself," said Penny Kris-Etherton, Professor of Nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania.
The research was one of the first to try to uncover which parts of the walnuts help support heart health".
During the study, participants were randomly assigned to one of three study diets, all of which included less saturated fat than the "run-in" diet.
All three diets substituted walnuts or vegetable oils for five percent of the saturated fat content of the "run-in" diet and all participants followed each diet for six weeks, with a break between diet periods.
The researchers found that while all treatment diets had a positive effect on cardiovascular outcomes, the diet with whole walnuts provided the greatest benefits, including lower central diastolic blood pressure (a normal diastolic blood pressure is 80).
"Instead of reaching for fatty red meat or full-fat dairy products for a snack, consider having some skim milk and walnuts," said Kris-Etherton.