The Health Benefits of Walnuts – A True “Super Food”

The Greeks called the walnut “the nut of Jupiter,” fit for the gods. Native to Persia, walnuts now come from California, which has over 122,000 acres of walnut trees. The tree itself is very hardy and is 15 years old before reaching full production. The average tree produces for 45 years.

Walnuts are high in unsaturated, fatty acids, iron, and B vitamins. The oil in walnuts has a tendency to absorb strong odors, so they should be kept in cold storage. Manufacturers of syrup toppings, ice cream, candy, casseroles and baking products all rely on walnuts.

Although many nuts have proven to be really beneficial to your health, studies are showing that walnuts contain almost twice as many antioxidants as other nuts. And that’s not just an interesting statistic — all of those antioxidants really do your body a lot of good. Below, we’ll take a look at two big stand-out benefits of walnuts.

Walnuts Boost Brain Power

Since there’s a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts, they’re excellent for brain health. Your brain consists mostly of structural fats that are critical for normal brain cell function. For this reason, walnuts really are “brain food.”

The American diet is almost devoid of all omega-3s, with researchers finding that about two-thirds of Americans are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. This lack of omega-3 fat can make it tough for the brain to function at a high level.

A study done at Purdue University showed that children with a lower concentration of omega-3 fatty acids have a higher risk of hyperactivity, learning disorders, and behavioral problems.1 There have actually been hundreds of scientific studies signifying a variety of problems linked to omega-3 deficiencies.

Walnuts Will Keep Your Ticker Ticking

The most in-depth side of walnut research has been around the benefits they offer for the heart and circulatory system. They have had a very favorable impact on vascular reactivity, which is the ability of our blood vessels to respond to stimuli in a healthy way.2

Walnuts contain high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, which is a major contributor to heart health. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed the heart health benefits of walnuts on 365 participants who were monitored during control diets and diets supplemented with walnuts. Results showed the walnut eating group to have a significantly greater decrease in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).3

Even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently cleared the health claim that eating 1.5 ounces per day of walnuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.4 This is the first time a whole food, not its isolated components, has shown this beneficial effect on vascular health.

Other Healthy Nuts – It Runs in the Family

While walnuts may be the healthiest nuts on the planet, many other nuts can be extremely beneficial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The following table comes from the August 2011 issue of Life Extension® Magazine.

Almonds
Most beneficial to keeping your heart healthy and lowering cholesterol.5
Pecans
Lower blood pressure and may prevent prostate and breast cancers.6
Hazelnuts
One of the best sources of vitamin E.
Brazil Nuts
One of the best sources of magnesium.
Pistachios
Contain two unique antioxidants not found in other nuts, and promote heart and eye health.7
Table: Healthy Nuts and their Benefits

 

A Word of Caution — Don’t Go Too Nuts

Remember — walnuts are very high in calories. This means you should incorporate walnuts into your normal meals and avoid using them as regular snacks. Eating many of them throughout the day could easily sabotage your diet. The best way to benefit from walnuts is to substitute them for other calories so that your total daily calorie intake is not increased.

Also, be careful how you store walnuts; if they’re not properly stored, they can become rancid. For long-term storage, it is best to buy unshelled nuts and store them in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 months or freeze them for up to 1 year.

Shelled walnuts should be kept refrigerated in an airtight container, and they can be frozen for up to 1 year. For reference, 1 pound of walnuts will yield about 2 cups of nutmeat.

Recipe: Herb and Honey Walnut Crusted Salmon

This crunchy, sweet and flavorful salmon recipe comes from the walnuts.org web site.8 Give it a try and let us know how what you think:

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ lbs. salmon fillets
  • Freshly ground sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons stone ground mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil or tarragon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped California walnuts
  • 4 cups baby arugula or spring mix greens
  • 2 tablespoons each: extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F and spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Remove skin from salmon and cut into 4 pieces.
  3. Place on baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Stir together the mustard, honey, herbs and garlic and spread over the top and sides of the salmon.
  5. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons walnuts over each fillet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the surface of the salmon flakes easily with a fork.
  6. Toss greens with oil and vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Place on 4 plates and top each with a salmon fillet.

Once you complete all the steps – bon appétit!


Were you aware of the health benefits that walnuts offer? Do you incorporate them into your own diet? Share your take in the comments!
http://blog.lef.org/2011/11/health-benefits-of-walnuts-true-super.html

References

  1. Available at: http://walnutsweb.com/walnuts/Health+Benefits+of+Walnuts
  2. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpagephp?tname=foodspice&dbid=99
  3. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jul;90(1):56-63.
  4. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/LabelingNutrition/LabelClaims/QualifiedHealthClaims/ucm073992.htm#walnuts
  5. Available at: http://www.nutsforalmonds.com/nutrition.htm
  6. Available at: http://www.ilovepecans.org/nutrition.html
  7. Available at: http://www.pistachiohealth.com
  8. Available at: http://www.walnuts.org/walnuts/index.cfm/all-recipes/herb-and-honey-walnut-crusted-salmon/
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