Finding new benefits for ancient walnuts
Walnuts are prized for their delicious flavor as well as their health-promoting nutrients and unique supply of plant compounds.
Walnuts are the oldest tree food known to man, dating back to 7,000 BCE. Native to ancient Persia, walnuts were so coveted that only royalty were allowed to eat them.
Ancient Greeks then used walnuts for food, medicine and dye for wool and cloth.
They came to be called English walnuts because English merchants traded the popular nut in ports all over the world, including North America. Today, California’s Central Valley produces 99% of the commercial U.S. supply of walnuts.
Three types, all good
English walnuts (Juglans regia) are the most popular walnut in the U.S., followed by black walnuts (Juglans nigra) and white walnuts (Juglans cinerea).
English walnuts have a thinner shell and are more easily cracked than the black variety, which has a more pungent flavor. The white walnut is sweeter but not as easy to find.
Walnuts are a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids and are the only nut with significantly high in omega-3 ALA, which is linked to several health benefits.
A one-ounce serving of walnuts (about 14 halves) packs 48% DV (Daily Value, based on 2,000 calories/day) of manganese and 11% DV of magnesium, both key players in bone health, along with 22% of the essential nutrient copper.
Recent studies find benefits
Walnuts, rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, have beneficial effects on cardiovascular risk factors, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
According to a 2019 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the benefits are not just due to replacing saturated fatty acid diets with unsaturated fatty acids; there are benefits to walnuts as a whole food replacement.
Another 2019 study in the journal Nutrition Research and Practice found that people with metabolic syndrome who ate 45 grams of walnuts daily for 16 weeks significantly reduced metabolic syndrome risks, experiencing improved HDL (“good”) cholesterol, decreased fasting glucose levels and lower blood pressure.
Available all year
Harvested in late August through November, walnuts are kept in cold storage to be available year-round. You can find them shelled or unshelled, in bulk bins and packaged whole, in halves, pieces, ground and bottled as oil.
Because of their high fatty acid content, they can go rancid easily, so store them in the refrigerator or freezer.
Mix crushed walnuts into hot or cold cereals and yogurt parfaits; sprinkle halves or pieces onto salads, sauteed vegetables and whole grain side dishes; blend into pesto and serve over pasta or bruschetta; or keep a handful nearby for a satisfying snack.
Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC, 1-800-829-5384, EnvironmentalNutrition.com.
© 2020 Belvoir Media Group. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.