Walnuts are part of the tree nut family. This food family includes Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts (filberts), macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts.
Walnut seeds are a high density source of nutrients, particularly proteins and essential fatty acids. Walnuts, like other tree nuts, must be processed and stored properly. Poor storage makes walnuts susceptible to insect and fungal mold infestations.
Walnuts are an excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids, in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Walnuts are also rich in antioxidants, including being a very good source of manganese and a good source of copper. Many other minerals are provided by walnuts in valuable amounts. These minerals include calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, vanadium and zinc. Vitamin B6, while not especially concentrated in walnuts, may be more bioavailable in this food. In terms of phytonutrients, walnuts contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, including more than a dozen phenolic acids, numerous tannins (especially ellagitannins, including tellimagrandins), and a wide variety of flavonoids. The vitamin E composition of walnuts is also of special mention, since there is an unusual concentration of the gamma-tocopherol form of vitamin E in this tree nut.
Walnuts not only taste great but are a rich source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and an excellent source of those hard to find omega-3 fatty acids. Like most nuts, they can easily be added to your Healthiest Way of Eating. Just chop and add to your favorite salad, vegetable dish, fruit, or dessert.
– decreased LDL cholesterol; decreased total cholesterol; increased gamma-tocopherol; increased omega-3 fatty acids in red blood cells (alpha-linolenic acid)
– decreased aortic endothelin; improved endothelial cell function
– decreased maximum platelet aggregation rate; decreased platelet activation
– decreased C reactive protein (CRP); decreased tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a)
– one ounce of walnuts daily over a period of 2-3 months can help reduce several of these MetS-related problems
– addition of walnuts to participant diets has also been shown to decrease “abdominal adiposity”—the technical term for the depositing of fat around the mid-section
– benefits in treatment of type 2 diabetes
– the antioxidant properties of walnuts help lower risk of chronic oxidative stress, and the anti-inflammatory properties help lower risk of chronic inflammation, and it is precisely these two types of risk, that, when combined, pose the greatest threat for cancer development.
– large amounts of walnuts decrease blood levels of N-telopeptides of type 1 collagen (NTx). These collagen components provide a good indicator of bone turnover, and their decreased blood level in response to walnut intake is an indication of better bone stability and less mineral loss from the bone.
Walnuts are a delicious way to add extra nutrition, flavor and crunch to a meal. While walnuts are harvested in December, they are available year round and a great source of those all-important omega-3 fatty acids.
When purchasing whole walnuts that have not 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.
Due to their high polyunsaturated fat content, walnuts are extremely perishable. Keep them in a cool, dry, dark place they will stay fresh for up to six months.