Walnuts are a delicious way to add extra nutrition, flavor and crunch to a meal. , they are available year round a great source of those all-important omega-3 fatty acids. It is no surprise that the regal and delicious walnut comes from an ornamental tree that is highly prized for its
beauty. The walnut kernel consists of two bumpy lobes that look like abstract butterflies. The lobes are off white in color and covered by a thin, light brown skin. They are partially attached to each other. The kernels are enclosed in round or oblong shells that are brown in color and very hard.
When it comes to their health benefits, walnuts definitely are not a hard nut to crack. This delicious nut is an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, a special type of protective fat the body cannot manufacture. Walnuts' concentration of omega-3s (a quarter-cup provides 90.8% of the daily value for these essential fats) has many potential health benefits ranging from cardiovascular protection, to the promotion of better cognitive function, to anti-inflammatory benefits helpful in asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis. In addition, walnuts contain an antioxidant compound called ellagic acid that supports the immune system and appears to have several anticancer properties.
Take Walnuts to Heart:
Adding walnuts to your diet can be an important step in improving your cardiovascular health. Walnuts are an important source of monounsaturated fats-approximately 15% of the fat found in walnuts is healthful monounsaturated fat. A host of studies have shown that increasing the dietary intake of monounsaturated-dense walnuts has favorable effects on high cholesterol levels and other cardiovascular risk factors. One particular study compared the effects of a cholesterol-lowering . In addition to their heart-protective monounsaturated fats, walnuts' concentration of omega-3 essential fatty acids is also responsible for the favorable effects walnut consumption produces on cardiovascular risk factors. Omega-3s benefit the cardiovascular system by helping to prevent erratic heart rhythms, making blood less likely to clot inside arteries (which is the proximate cause of most heart attacks), and improving the ratio of good (HDL) cholesterol to potentially harmful (LDL) cholesterol. Omega-3s also reduce inflammation, which is a key component in the processes that turn cholesterol into artery-clogging plaques.
Walnuts Improve Cholesterol Profile in Persons with Type 2 Diabetes:
In patients with type 2 diabetes, including a daily ounce of walnuts in a diet in which 30% of calories came from fat translated into a significant improvement in subjects' cholesterol profile.
In this study, published in Diabetes Care, 58 men and women with an average age of 59 years, were assigned to one of three diets in which 30% of calories was derived from fat: a low fat diet, a modified low fat diet, and a modified low fat diet including an ounce of walnuts per day.
After 6 months, those on the walnut diet had achieved a significantly greater increase in their HDL-to-total cholesterol ratio than the other groups, plus walnut eaters saw a 10% reduction in their LDL cholesterol. Why such benefit from walnuts? Most likely because walnuts are exceptionally high in their content of monounsaturated fat and the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid. Plus, walnuts combine these heart healthy fats with a hefty dose of the antioxidants including at least 16 antioxidant phenols, vitamin E, ellagic and gallic acid.
Additional research has confirmed that when walnuts are eaten as part of a modified low-fat diet, the result is a more cardiprotective fat profile in diabetic patients than can be achieved by simply lowering the fat content of the diet.
Food for Better Thought:
Walnuts have often been thought of as a "brain food," not only because of the wrinkled brain-like appearance of their shells, but because of their high concentration of omega-3 fats. Your brain is more than 60% structural fat. For your brain cells to function properly, this structural fat needs to be primarily the omega-3 fats found in walnuts, flaxseed and cold-water fish. This is because the membranes of all our cells, including our brain cells or neurons, are primarily composed of fats. Cell membranes are the gatekeepers of the cell. Anything that wants to get into or out of a cell must pass through the cell's outer membrane. And omega-3 fats, which are especially fluid and flexible, make this process a whole lot easier, thus maximizing the cell's ability to usher in nutrients while eliminating wastes--definitely a good idea, especially when the cell in question is in your brain.
Help Prevent Gallstones
Twenty years of dietary data collected on over 80,000 women from the Nurses' Health Study shows that women who eat least 1 ounce of nuts, peanuts or peanut butter each week have a 25% lower risk of developing gallstones. Since 1 ounce is only 28.6 nuts or about 2 tablespoons of nut butter, preventing gallbladder disease may be as easy as having a handful of walnuts as an afternoon pick me up, or tossing some walnuts on your oatmeal or salad.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Mix crushed walnuts into plain yogurt and top with maple syrup.
Add walnuts to healthy sautéed vegetables.
Walnuts are great in baked goods and breakfast treats. Some of our favorites include zucchini walnut bread, carrot walnut muffins and apple walnut pancakes.
Purée walnuts, cooked lentils and your favorite herbs and spices in a food processor. Add enough olive or flax oil so that it achieves a dip-like consistency.
Sprinkle walnuts onto salads.
Add walnuts to your favorite poultry stuffing recipe
Walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids. Walnuts are also a very good source of the manganese and a good source of copper. In addition, walnuts contain the antioxidant phytochemical, ellagic acid.