Care of Laura Wright

walnutsMy first exposure to walnuts was, sadly, as a seemingly stubborn addition to brownies. I’ve grown out of that childhood distaste and thank goodness. The taste is rich and wonderful, whether you’re eating them raw or toasted, and the health benefits are kind of insane too. They are the edible seed of their respective tree and the most common major species of walnuts are grown for their seeds exclusively–the Persian or English walnut and the black Walnut. The black walnut is grown throughout North America, as well as in Ontario, and has a wonderfully strong eucalyptus kind of flavour.

For Your Mind:
Walnuts have an impressive Omega-3 fatty acid content and what’s more? A solid handful will provide you with most of your daily needed intake. Our brains rely on healthy fats for their make-up, but also in terms of mood stabilization and overall activity. Solid, saturated fats rather predictably make for solid and sticky barriers to nutrient and waste flow. Omega-3 fats tend to be more fluid which makes for more optimal nutrient absorption and overall brain function. Sprinkle a few on salads, grind them into a nut butter or simply snack on them for better memory retention, regulated emotions, and better problem-solving capabilities.

For Your Heart:
Regular consumption of these little walnuts help aid in the flexibility of arteries for those that are at risk for developing heart disease as well. In a Spanish study, researchers asked 24 volunteers to eat a relatively high fat lunch. Afterwards they would give half of the volunteers 8 shelled walnuts and the other half 5 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil. After ultrasound examinations of all participants took place, researchers found that the arteries in the walnut-eating group remained more flexible and elastic than those in the olive oil camp. It is true that both olive oil and walnuts have beneficial effects on arteries after high fat meals in that they reduce inflammation. This study shows that only the walnuts maintained flexibility of the arteries. The researchers credited this effect to the Omega-3 content of the walnuts.

Keep Them Properly:
Similarly to peanuts, poor storage makes walnuts susceptible to insect and fungal mold infestations; the latter produces aflatoxin–a potent carcinogen. Buy them from a retailer that you know experiences high turnover. As well, like many Omega-3 rich foods such as flax and hemp seed, walnuts are vulnerable to spoilage rather quickly. I keep them in a sealed bag in the freezer along with almost all of the nuts I use for prolonged shelf life.