Walnuts for a Healthy Heart
FRESH WALNUTS PROVIDE ESSENTIAL FATS and OTHER VITAL NUTRIENTS
Walnuts are unique among nuts because the essential fat they contain is primarily polyunsaturated (the source of omega-3 fatty acids). While the omega-3s seem to be at the heart of their health benefits, walnuts contain a host of other important vitamins and minerals as well. In fact many scientists believe that it is walnuts’ unique nutritional profile that makes them such a healthy food.
Heart-healthy and much more. Studies show that eating walnuts on a regular basis packs a powerful health punch. In addition to studying the effects of walnuts in an American diet, researchers have conducted clinical trials to test the effects in the Mediterranean and Asian-style diets as well. The results have been equally promising in all instances. Consuming walnuts reduces serum cholesterol levels significantly. For example, scientists at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, in partnership with Loma Linda University in California, found that consuming two ounces of walnuts per day lowered LDL or “bad” cholesterol by 5.9%, out-performing a cholesterol lowering Medieterranean diet (ref: Zambon et al, Annals of Internal Medicine, April 2000). But there's more to the story. Walnuts are also beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight. Those who have taken part in the various walnut studies did not gain weight, even if their calories were increased. Some even lost weight! Study subjects reported feeling more satisfied; many said walnuts made it easier to stick to the diet. Research experts believe walnuts aid satiety, a factor in successful weight loss.
Antioxidants in walnuts. Recent reports indicate that walnuts are one of the best sources of antioxidants, powerful agents in the prevention of cancer and other chronic diseases.
The power of omega-3. One ounce of walnuts is all it takes to meet the 2002 dietary recommendation from the Food Nutrition Board of the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine for omega-3 fatty acids. The guidelines indicate that “People must get two types of polyunsaturated fatty acids, known as alphalinolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid), from the foods they consume since neither is synthesized in the body.” For alphalinolenic acid, the recommendation is 1.6 and 1.1 grams per day for men and women respectively. The two families of essential fatty acids (omega-6 and omega-3) must be balanced in the diet for optimum health. Experts have cited the 4:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts as being the perfect balance. The presence of omega-3s in the blood can reduce blood pressure, arterial inflammation and the stickiness of platelets, making them less likely to cling together and form plaque which can build up and plug arteries.
It’s easy to add a handful a day. Snack on walnuts or be creative by adding them to:
- Salads: mixed greens, tuna or chicken
- Pasta, rice, couscous and other grain dishes
- Fruit salad
- Hot or cold cereal
- Cooked vegetables
- Fish, seafood and poultry dishes (use finely-chopped walnuts as a coating)
- Yogurt or ice cream
- Baked bread and muffin recipes
- Sandwich wraps
- Desserts (of course!)
Helpful tips. To store, keep shelled walnuts tightly sealed and refrigerated or freeze for up to one year.
To toast, place walnuts on a baking sheet in 350ºF oven for eight to ten minutes. Or spread walnuts evenly on glass pie plate and microwave on high for five to six minutes, stirring every two minutes. Add spices or seasonings to walnuts during toasting for additional flavour. Toasted nuts should be stored tightly-covered in the refrigerator and used within three weeks.
For more information and recipes, visit: Walnuts.org
The age-old walnut. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Europe, herbal treatments became official medical practice under the “Doctrine of Signatures.” Various plants were prescribed due to their resemblance to a particular body part. Even today in some Asian cultures, the walnut is considered “brain food.” In fact college students there munch on walnuts by the handful before exams, hoping to boost their scores. Depending on which way a walnut is cracked open, it has a striking resemblance either to the brain or the heart. Crack open a walnut and see for yourself! You won’t get a “perfect” heart every time but you’ll get the message – walnuts are heart-healthy!
Republished from the California Walnut Commission website.
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