These are a delicious way to add extra nutrition, flavor and crunch to a meal.
While these super nuts are harvested in December, they're available year round a great source of those all-important
omega-3 fatty acids.
It's no surprise that this regal and delicious super nut comes from an ornamental tree that is highly prized for its beauty.
The 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 and they're 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, these super snacks definitely aren't hard to crack.
They're delicious and an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, a special type of protective fat the body cannot manufacture.
Their 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, they contain an antioxidant compound called ellagic acid that supports the immune system and appears to have several anticancer properties.
Take Them to Heart
Adding them to your diet can be an important step in improving your cardiovascular health.
They are also 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.
In addition to their heart-protective monounsaturated fats, their concentration of omega-3 essential fatty acids is also responsible for the favorable effects 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.
Since these super orbs contain relatively high levels of l-arginine, an essential amino acid, they may also be of special import when it comes to hypertension.
In the body (specifically within those hard-working blood vessels), l-arginine is converted into nitric oxide, a chemical that helps keep the inner walls of blood vessels smooth and allows blood vessels to relax.
Since individuals with hypertension have a harder time maintaining normal nitric oxide levels, which may also relate to other significant health issues such as diabetes and heart problems, small dnamos can serve as a great addition to their diets.
Antioxidants Play Key Role in their Heart-Healthy Benefits
These, as well as pecans and chestnuts have the highest antioxidant content of the tree nuts, with these delivering more than 20 mmol antioxidants per 3 ounces (100 grams).
Peanuts (although technically, a legume) also contribute significantly to our dietary intake of antioxidants.
Their high antioxidant content helps explain results seen in the Iowa Women's Health Study in which risk of death from cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases showed strong and consistent reductions with increasing nut/peanut butter consumption.
Total death rates decreased 11% and 19% for nut and butter intake once per week and 1-4 times per week, respectively.
To lower your risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, enjoy a handful of these super snacks, or other antioxidant-rich nuts, at least 4 times a week.
Reduce Levels of Several Molecules that Promote Atherosclerosis
In addition to their beneficial effects on cholesterol, more insight into the reasons why they reduce the risk of coronary heart disease were revealed in research published in the Journal of Nutrition.
The study involved 20 overweight or obese men, 30 to 60 years old, and 3 menopausal women, aged 55-65, all of whom had elevated LDL cholesterol levels.
Each subject was assigned to one of the three diets on a rotating six-week basis with a two-week break between each one.
The average American diet served as the control diet, while the two experimental diets were a linoleic acid (LA) diet that included an ounce of walnuts and a teaspoon of it's oil daily, and an alpha-linoleic acid diet (ALA), which added a teaspoon of flaxseed oil, which is especially high in ALA, to the linoleic diet.
Both experimental diets resulted in positive effects, with the ALA diet providing the most benefit.
In addition to lowering LDL cholesterol, the walnut-rich ALA diet: lowered levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation strongly associated with atherosclerosis and heart disease increased levels of the protective omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and decreased levels of ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 and E-selection, all of which are involved in cholesterol's adhesion to the endothelium (the lining of the arteries).
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.
The shape even approximates the body part, looking like it has left and right hemispheres.
And it's no surprise they're nicknamed "brain food" as "they have a very high content of omega-3 fatty acids, which help support brain function
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 these, flaxseed as well as 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.
A Source of Bio-Available Melatonin
Want a better night's sleep?
Try sprinkling your dinner's tossed green salad, fruit salad or steamed vegetables with a handful of these super nuts.
Or enjoy a baked apple or poached pear topped with these for dessert.
Melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland, which is involved in inducing and regulating sleep and is also a powerful antioxidant, has been discovered in walnuts in bio-available form, making them the perfect evening food for a natural good night's sleep.
Melatonin has been shown to help improve sleep for night shift workers and people suffering from jet lag, but maintaining healthy levels of this hormone is important for everyone over the age of 40 since the amount of melatonin produced by the human body decreases significantly as we age, and this decrease in antioxidant protection may be related to the development of free radical-related diseases later in life.
Protective Omega-3 Levels Greatly Improved by Eating Just 4 a Day
Enjoying just 4 of these super nuts a day significantly increased blood levels of the health-protective omega-3 essential fatty acids, alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
That's Nut the End of the Health Benefits
Walnuts are a very good source of manganese and a good source of copper, two minerals that are essential co-factors in a number of enzymes important in antioxidant defenses.
For example, the key oxidative enzyme superoxide dismutase, which disarms free radicals produced within cell cytoplasm and the mitochondria (the energy production factories within our cells) requires both copper and manganese.
These nuts also contain an antioxidant compound called ellagic acid, which blocks the metabolic pathways that can lead to cancer.
Ellagic acid not only helps protect healthy cells from free radical damage, but also helps detoxify potential cancer-causing substances and helps prevent cancer cells from replicating.
In a study of over 1,200 elderly people, those who ate the most strawberries (another food that contains ellagic acid) were three times less likely to develop cancer than those who ate few or no strawberries.
While walnut-trees have been cultivated for thousands of years, the different types have varying origins.
The English variety originated in India and the regions surrounding the Caspian Sea, hence it is known as the Persian walnut.
In the 4th century AD, the ancient Romans introduced it into many European countries where it has been grown since.
Throughout its history, the walnut-tree has been highly revered; not only does it have a life span that is several times that of humans, but its uses include food, medicine, shelter, dye and lamp oil.
It's thought that the variety grown in North America gained the moniker "English-walnuts," since they were introduced into America via English merchant ships.
Black-walnuts and white-walnuts are native to North America, specifically the Central Mississippi Valley and Appalachian area.
They played an important role in the diets and lifestyles of both the Native American Indians and the early colonial settlers.
Today, the leading commercial producers are the United States, Turkey, China, Iran, France and Romania.
How to Select & Store
When purchasing whole and that haven't been shelled, choose those that feel heavy for their size.
Their shells should not be cracked, pierced or stained, as this is oftentimes a sign of mold development on the nutmeat, which renders it unsafe for consumption.
The shelled varieties are generally available in pre-packaged containers as well as bulk bins.
Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure its maximal freshness.
Whether purchasing them in bulk or in a packaged container, avoid those that look rubbery or shriveled.
If it's possible to smell them, do so in order to ensure that they're not rancid.
Due to their high polyunsaturated fat content, they are extremely perishable and care should be taken in their storage.
The shelled variety should be stored in an airtight container and placed in the refrigerator, where they'll keep for six months, or the freezer, where they'll last for a year.
Unshelled, should preferably be stored in the refrigerator, although as long as you keep them in a cool, dry, dark place they'll stay fresh for up to six months.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Mix them crushed into plain yogurt and top with maple syrup.
Add walnuts to healthy sautéed vegetables.
They're 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 seed oil so that it achieves a dip-like consistency.
Sprinkle these super nuts onto your salads.
Add them to your favorite poultry stuffing recipe.
To roast these super nuts at home, do so gently-in a 160-170°F (about 75°C) oven for 15-20 minutes-to preserve the healthy oils.
And, if after reading this, you're wondering how to incorporate more into your diet, may we suggest this fantastic recipe;
Walnut Crusted Salmon with Lemon Roasted Broccoli
If the winter blues have grabbed hold of you, you'll be happy to know that eating omega-3-rich foods like salmon, sardines, anchovies, flaxseed, walnuts and algae have been found to decrease depression.
Eating fish rich in omega-3 or tossing a tablespoon of sunflower seeds or walnuts into a cup of unsweetened yogurt will offer a mega mood boost when you need it most.
This recipe makes 4 servings
For the Salmon:
1/2 c. whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs
1/2 c. crushed walnuts
1 lb. salmon fillets
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
For the Broccoli:
4 c. broccoli florets
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
For the salmon, preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a small bowl, combine panko and walnuts; set aside.
Place salmon fillets in a large baking dish.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper; drizzle with lemon juice.
Sprinkle panko mixture on the top of the fillets, pressing to coat.
Place in oven and bake 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Meanwhile, for the broccoli, line a baking sheet with foil.
Place broccoli on the baking sheet, and season with salt and pepper.
Drizzle with oil; toss to coat.
Place in oven and bake eight minutes or until tender.
Serve with salmon.
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