Go Nuts for Walnuts!

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I grew up with a native black walnut tree in my back yard. Its ugly green corrugated round fruit would ripen and eventually fall in our yard each year serving as a routine lawn-mowing hazard. My brothers liked to use them to practice their baseball pitches. As they ripened on the ground, they would become yellow-black in color. When they looked like that, you knew not to touch them because their black dye would stain your hands. A great natural dye option perhaps but as a child I didn't have too many uses for that.

English Walnuts were first cultivated in the United States in California in the late 1700's.Today, 99 percent of the U.S. commercial supply of this type of walnut comes from California. A new report last week suggests that walnuts are the healthier nut choice.

Scientists found that walnuts contain twice as many antioxidants as other nuts like peanuts, almonds, pecans, and pistachios. Another reason walnuts are considered better than other nuts is their higher content of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) including both Omega 3's and Omega 6's. Most other nuts are higher in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). Walnuts provide the plant based short-chain form of omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) that serves as the precursor for the longer chain Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

Buying Tips - Walnuts can easily be found in the produce section or baking aisles of local supermarket and bulk food stores. You can find shelled walnuts as halves, halves and pieces, and chopped in addition to those still in the shell. Since walnuts are harvested in late August through November, you can find them most commonly in the fall. They may be harder to find in the spring especially whole in shell and depending on how they have been stored, they may not be the freshest tasting.

Care and Storage - Warm temperatures increase the likelihood of walnuts turning rancid when they can taste like paint thinner and shouldn't be eaten. To maintain freshness, keep walnuts cold either in a root cellar, refrigerator, or freezer. If the walnuts come in a sealed package, store them in their original packaging to maintain freshness. When purchasing bulk, place walnuts in an airtight container for cold storage. Walnuts absorb flavor of other foods so be sure to refrigerate away from foods like fish or onions that have strong odors. Heat changes the structure of the fat in walnuts which can also change the odor and flavor from the sweet taste and mild nutty smell of fresh.

Nutrition Facts - The recommended serving size for walnuts is one ounce which is approximately one quarter cup or 12-14 walnut halves.
Calories – 190
Protein – 4 grams
Total Fat – 18 grams
Saturated Fat – 1.5 grams
Monounsaturated Fat – 2.5 grams
Polyunsaturated Fat – 13 grams (including 2.5 grams of ALA)
Cholesterol – 0 grams
Sodium – 3 mg
Potassium – 125 mg
Carbohydrate – 4 grams
Fiber – 2 grams

Recipes - I love to eat nuts plain as well as the crunchy part of a main dish. There are plenty of creative and healthy recipes that can include walnuts. Consider including them as part of a Mixed Greens with Cranberries and Walnuts salad or enjoying them as part of an omega-3 power packed Banana Oatmeal Muffins with Flax Seeds & Walnuts. Be creative and add walnuts to some of your favorite dishes.

There are nine tree nut varieties. Which is your favorite and how do you enjoy eating them?