Glazed walnuts are a popular snack food, often found coated in a sweet, sticky glaze made from sugar and other ingredients. But are these sweet treats actually good for you? Here’s a look at the health benefits and drawbacks of glazed walnuts.
What are Glazed Walnuts?
Glazed walnuts start with raw walnut halves or pieces that are coated with a sugary glaze. The glaze is typically made from corn syrup, honey, or maple syrup along with sugar and butter or oil. It coats the walnuts with a sweet, sticky texture.
Glazed walnuts come in a variety of flavors beyond just plain sugar glaze. Some popular options include:
- Cinnamon glaze
- Maple glaze
- Spiced glaze with flavors like ginger or cloves
- Chocolate or cocoa glaze
- Coffee glaze
- Fruit glazes like raspberry, lemon, or apple
The glaze coating makes them a sweet, crunchy snack. They are often used to top salads, desserts, or eaten on their own as a portable treat.
Nutrition Facts for Glazed Walnuts
Plain walnuts are loaded with beneficial nutrients, especially healthy fats. But does coating them in a sugary glaze undermine their nutritional value?
Here is the nutrition breakdown for a 1 ounce (28g) serving of plain glazed walnuts (about 1/4 cup):
As you can see, even with the added sugar glaze, glazed walnuts remain a high fat, high calorie food. The glaze does add more carbohydrates and sugar compared to plain walnuts.
However, glazed walnuts still provide most of the same nutrients as regular walnuts:
Glazed walnuts contain mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. This includes omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). These healthy fats can help reduce inflammation and lower heart disease risk.
The fiber content is slightly reduced compared to plain walnuts. But glazed walnuts still provide a decent amount of fiber, an important nutrient that can help regulate digestion.
Walnuts contain vitamin E, a fat soluble antioxidant. About 10% of the RDI of vitamin E is provided in a 1 ounce serving.
Glazed walnuts contain around 15% of the RDI for magnesium, a mineral involved in muscle, nerve and immune function.
Manganese is a trace mineral needed for bone health and metabolism. A serving of glazed walnuts contains about 15% of the RDI for manganese.
So while the sugar glaze adds extra calories and carbohydrates, it does not take away from the highly nutritious walnut found inside.
Potential Benefits of Glazed Walnuts
Eating plain, unglazed walnuts has been linked to many health benefits. Do glazed walnuts provide the same benefits?
Here are some of the key evidence-based benefits regular walnut consumption offers:
Walnuts contain ALA omega-3s, polyphenols, and the amino acid l-arginine. Research shows walnuts can improve endothelial function, arterial stiffness, and other markers of cardiovascular health.
The ALA, l-arginine, magnesium, and other nutrients in walnuts have been found to reduce high blood pressure in some studies.
Eating walnuts regularly may improve insulin sensitivity, fasting glucose, and other metrics in people with diabetes.
Walnuts can improve satiety after meals and provide healthy fats. This may support weight loss when substituted for less healthy snacks.
The nutrients and antioxidants in walnuts, like vitamin E, may help prevent cell damage that leads to cancer. However, more studies are needed.
Glazed walnuts likely provide most of the same benefits, as the walnut itself remains intact. However, you may need to eat more in moderation, as the added sugar increases the calorie density.
Potential Health Risks of Glazed Walnuts
What are some of the drawbacks of choosing glazed walnuts over plain walnuts?
Higher in Sugar
The main downside is the extra sugar. Just 1 ounce of glazed walnuts can contain 5-8 grams of added sugars from ingredients like corn syrup, honey, and cane sugar.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to 25 grams per day for women and 36 grams for men. Just one serving could max out your whole day’s limit.
May Contain Trans Fats
Some mass-produced glazes use partially hydrogenated oils, a source of unhealthy trans fats. Trans fats raise bad cholesterol and increase heart disease risk.
The glazing process may destroy some of the polyphenols on the surface of the walnuts. These plant compounds have antioxidant effects.
Heavily processed foods in general can undermine your health when eaten to excess. Glazed nuts qualify as a heavily processed food.
Easy to Overeat
The sweet taste makes glazed walnuts easy to overconsume in one sitting. Portion control is important.
While an occasional serving of glazed walnuts can fit into a healthy diet, regular or excessive consumption may lead to negative effects.
Best Practices When Eating Glazed Walnuts
Here are some tips for enjoying glazed walnuts in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet:
- Look for brands that only use natural ingredients like honey, maple, and actual fruit.
- Avoid hydrogenated oils and “vegetable oils” in the ingredient list.
- Stick to a 1 ounce or less serving size.
- Pair with fruit or a protein source to help control portions.
- Eat as a dessert or snack, not an everyday regular food.
- Keep reasonable expectations – these are candy, not health food.
- Make sure to stay active and burn off the extra calories.
Being mindful of serving sizes, ingredients, and how often you indulge is key to balancing glazed walnuts in your diet.
Healthier Homemade Glazed Walnut Recipes
You can make healthier homemade glazed walnuts by using simple ingredients:
Honey Glazed Walnuts
Coat with a mixture of honey, cinnamon, and vanilla for a sweet glaze.
Maple Bourbon Glazed Walnuts
Toast walnuts with maple syrup, bourbon, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon.
Orange Cardamom Glazed Walnuts
Combine orange juice, cardamom, and honey for a citrusy glaze.
Spiced Molasses Glazed Walnuts
Brush walnuts with molasses, ginger, allspice, clove, and black pepper.
Homemade versions allow you to control the quality of ingredients and amount of sugar used in the glaze coating.
Glazed walnuts can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy diet. While not as nutritious as plain walnuts, they still provide benefits from the walnut itself and the use of natural sweeteners.
To keep glazed walnuts healthy, be mindful of serving sizes, avoid hydrogenated oils, balance them with other wholesome foods, and keep physical activity high. Overall, glazed walnuts are fine as an occasional treat, but shouldn’t become a dietary staple.