When I was growing up in Kentucky, my grandparents had a grove of walnut trees. So… I ate a lot of walnuts. My grandmother cooked with them, baked with them, and we ate them by the handful for snacks. She always said they were good for you. How right she was.
Eating walnuts could reduce your risk of breast cancer.
One study found that extracts of walnuts stopped the spread of breast cancer cells.1
And with just a handful of nuts (2 ounces) a day, mice delayed the onset of cancerous tumors.2
Walnuts contain a trio of cancer fighters – phytosterols, omega-3s, and flavonoids.
Phytosterols. Studies show that these nutrient compounds can inhibit tumors from forming in the breast and shrink them if they are already there.3
In addition to walnuts, you can find phytosterols in:
- Flax seed oil
- Peanut butter
- Sunflower seeds
- Brussels sprouts
Omega-3s. Omega-3 has a unique ability. They are able to get absorbed into cell membranes where they help cancer cells self-destruct. They reduce an inflammatory enzyme called COX 2, which promotes breast cancer.
In one animal study, mice, bred to have breast cancer, got lifelong omega-3 supplementation and were able to prevent breast cancer. Those that got cancer had a reduction in the size and number of tumors.4
Plus, omega-3s keep your body’s breast cancer genes healthy. When these genes function normally, they help repair DNA and prevent cancer from developing.
You can get omega-3s in these foods:
- Wild-caught salmon, anchovies, sardines
- Flax seeds
- Grass-fed beef
- Almonds, pecans
- Sacha Inchi oil
- Cod Liver oil
- Olives/olive oil
Flavonoids. Walnuts also contain a flavonoid called ellagic acid. This powerful flavonoid inhibits the growth of cancer cells.
For example, there is a certain kind of microRNA signal that is a marker for developing breast cancer.
In a new study, not only did ellagic acid stop breast cancer tumor formation, but it also reversed the dysfunction in the mRNA!5
Ellagic acid not only protects your healthy cells from free radical damage, but it also helps to detox would-be cancer-causing cells and helps prevent cancer cells from reproducing.
Other ellagic acid-rich foods are blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, pecans and pomegranates.
Working all of these foods into your diet will help you protect your body from cancer. Still walnuts are the only food that offers all these cancer-fighting compounds in one.
To get the freshest, most nutritious walnuts, follow these tips:
If you’re buying walnuts in the shell, make sure the shells don’t have any defects – look for little wormholes. Give the shells a little shake. If they rattle when you shake them, they are probably old and over dried.
Store shelled walnuts in an airtight package. You can store them up to about 6 months if you keep them in the refrigerator. Up to a year in the freezer.
If you prefer unshelled walnuts, look for a freshness date on the package. The high oil content makes them highly perishable. Heat and humidity will speed up the process. As with the shelled walnuts, keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator and they will last for several months too. Longer in the freezer.
Aside from popping a handful of walnuts in your mouth, there are many ways to enjoy them. Sprinkle a handful on your salad or yogurt, or experiment with your favorite recipes. I like to add them to chicken salad or sautéed vegetables.
1. Vanden Heuvel J, Belda B, Hannon D, Kris-Etherton P, Grieger J, Zhang J, Thompson J. “Mechanistic examination of walnuts in prevention of breast cancer.” Nutr Cancer. 2012;64(7):1078-86.
2. “Walnuts slow growth of breast cancer tumors.” W V Med J. 2008 Nov-Dec;104(6):36.
3. A.B. Awad et al. “β-Sitosterol activates Fas signaling in human breast cancer cells,” Phytomedicine 2007;Volume 14, Issue 11, Pages 747-754.
4. MacLennan M, Clarke S, Perez K, Wood G, Muller W, Kang J, Ma D. “Mammary tumor development is directly inhibited by lifelong n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.” J Nutr Biochem. 2013 Jan;24(1):388-95.
5. Munagala R, Aqil F, Vadhanam M, Gupta R. “MicroRNA ‘signature’ during estrogen-mediated mammary carcinogenesis and its reversal by ellagic acid intervention.” Cancer Lett. 2013 Jun 18. pii: S0304-3835(13)00462-X.