Walnuts are loaded with antioxidant polyphenols, compounds that interact with free radicals to stabilize them and prevent them from wreaking havoc on our cells. ©JKlingebiel/shutterstock.com

(Relaxnews) – One simple way to boost your health is to start putting that holiday nutcracker to good use: walnuts, both roasted and raw, are a top nut when it comes to protecting your heart, according to new research.

Reported in WebMD on Thursday, researchers from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, US, compared antioxidants called polyphenols in nine types of roasted and raw nuts. Using lab analysis, they also measured how effective the nuts’ antioxidants are in regards to heart health.

“Whether roasted or raw, walnuts beat the competition,” writes WebMD. Walnuts are packed with the highest amount of polyphenols, compounds thought to reduce heart disease risk by lowering blood cholesterol levels, improving blood flow, and reducing inflammation. Plus while high in fat, walnuts don’t necessarily lead to weight gain, noted the researchers.

If you like your nuts raw, brazil nuts ranked second in polyphenols, followed by (from highest to lowest) pistachios, pecans, peanuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, cashews, and hazelnuts. For roasted nuts, brazil nuts again came in second, followed by hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, cashews, macademia nuts, almonds, and pistachios.

The findings are published in the journal Food & Function.

Another recent study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer found that for women, eating about two small handfuls of walnuts every day, may “significantly” curb risks of breast cancer.

“A handful of walnuts contains almost twice as much antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other commonly consumed nut,” said US chemistry professor and study researcher Joe Vinson, who completed a separate health study on walnuts last year. “But unfortunately, people don’t eat a lot of them.”

Plus, like all nuts, walnuts are loaded with protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Want more top antioxidant foods? Find them here: http://www.myhealthnewsdaily.com/best-foods-brain-health-0975/