Savour Your Nut's -Walnuts !!

A new scientific study puts walnuts in the number one slot.

Most people think of these types of nuts as holiday nuts eaten around thanksgiving and Christmas, and even though cashews are my personal favorites, with macadamia nuts a close second, a report given in Anaheim, California at the 241st National meeting of the American Chemical Society, scientists presented an analysis showing that walnuts have a combination of more healthful antioxidants and higher quality antioxidants than any other nut. First a little history:

Throughout it's history, the walnut tree has been highly revered. Not only does it have a life span that is several times that of humans, but its uses include food, medicine, shelter, dye and lamp oil. Walnuts are the oldest tree food known to man, dating back to 7000 B.C. The Romans called walnuts Juglans Regia, "Jupiter's royal acorn." Early history indicates that English walnuts came from ancient Persia, where they were reserved for royalty. That's why, the walnut is often known as the Persian Walnut. Walnuts were traded along the Silk Road route between Asia and the Middle East, spreading the popularity of the walnut around the world. As English sailors transported them around the world, and they became known as English Walnuts. Even though England, never grew walnuts commercially. The outer shell provided a natural protective layer helping to maintain the quality of the nut during long transport and voyages. Black walnuts and white walnuts are native to North America, specifically the Central Mississippi Valley and Appalachian area. They played an important role in the diets and lifestyles of both the Native American Indians and the early colonial settlers. Today the California walnut is well known as the top quality walnut for the world.

The walnut was first cultivated in California by the Franciscan Fathers in the late 1700's. The earliest walnuts to enter California were known as mission walnuts. The trees flourished in California, and by the 1870's modern walnut production had begun with orchard plantings in southern California, near Santa Barbara. In the next 70 years the center of California's walnut production shifted with successful plantings to the central and northern parts of the state. The first commercial plantings began in 1867 by Joseph Sexton. Now California walnuts account for 99% of US walnuts, and 3/4 of the world's walnuts. They are harvested once a year in October. The trees are planted from seed and are 4-5 years old before they produce a marketable crop. Most trees are expected to bear fruit, for 30 years."Walnuts rank above peanuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios and other nuts," said Joe Vinson, Ph.D., who did the walnut analysis delivered in Anaheim. "A handful of walnuts contains almost twice as much antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other commonly consumed nut." Unfortunately, people don't eat a lot of them. This study suggests that consumers should eat more walnuts as part of a healthy diet. Dr. Vinson said that nuts in general have an unusual combination of vitamin and mineral nutritional benefits, and in addition there is the quality antioxidants, all wrapped up into a convenient and inexpensive portable package. Nuts also contain plenty of high quality protein, that can be a sometimes substitute for meat. They also contain fiber, and are gluten free.
Despite all the previous research, scientists until now had not compared both the amount and quality of antioxidants found in different nuts, Dr.Vinson filled that knowledge gap by analyzing antioxidants in nine different types of nuts, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, and pecans. Walnuts had the highest levels of antioxidants. Dr. Vinson also said that the quality, or potency, of antioxidants present in walnuts was highest among the nuts. Antioxidants in walnuts were 2-15 times as potent as vitamin E, known for its powerful antioxidant effects that protect the body against damaging natural chemicals involved in causing disease. There's another advantage in choosing walnuts as a source of antioxidants, the heat from roasting nuts generally reduces the quality of the antioxidants. People usually eat walnuts raw or unroasted, and get the full effectiveness of those antioxidants. Well if nuts are so healthful and nutritious, why don't people eat more? Dr.Vinson's research shows, that nuts account for barely 8 % of the daily antioxidants in the average person's diet. Acording to worlds healthiest foods.com, in the United States, as many as 1 in 4 adults may be eligible for diagnosis with Metabolic Syndrome (MetS). MetS isn't so much a "disease" as a group of problematic and overlapping metabolic problems including excessive blood fats (triglycerides), high blood pressure, inadequate HDL cholesterol, and obesity.

Recent studies have shown that approximately one ounce of walnuts daily over a period of 2-3 months can help reduce several of these Met-S-related problems. Walnuts decrease abdominal adiposity the fat around the mid-section. The best part is, the Met-S benefits of added walnuts have been achieved without causing any weight gain in all the studies to date. Eating nuts even makes people feel full and less likely to overeat. In more than one study, nut consumption was associated with a significantly lower risk of weight gain and obesity. Still, like anything, don't overdo it. Dr.Vinson said it takes only about 7 walnuts a day, for instance, to get the potential health benefits uncovered in these studies. The Mayo Clinic chimes in with; "Eating nuts as part of a healthy diet can be good for your heart. Nuts, which contain unsaturated fatty acids and other nutrients, are a great snack food, too. They're inexpensive, easy to store and easy to take with you to work or school. 

Walnuts are loaded with omega-3s, which make them the ultimate "brain food." Some studies have linked low consumption of omega-3s to depression and decreased cognitive function. So making walnuts part of your diet could be a good way boost your spirits as well as your IQ. If you have heart disease, eating nuts instead of a less healthy snack can help you more easily follow a heart-healthy diet. Eating nuts also reduces your risk of developing blood clots that can cause a fatal heart attack. Nuts also improve the health of the lining of your arteries. 
All nuts contain these heart-healthy substances:

  • Unsaturated fats. The "good" fats in nuts, both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, lower bad cholesterol levels.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts are rich in Omega-3s, which are a healthy form of fatty acids that help your heart by, among other things, reduce inflamation that can lead to heart attacks. Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in many kinds of fish, but nuts are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Fiber. All nuts contain fiber, which helps lower your cholesterol. Fiber also makes you feel full, so you eat less. Fiber is also thought to play a role in preventing diabetes.
  • Vitamin E. Vitamin E may help stop the development of plaques in your arteries, which can narrow them. Plaque development in your arteries can lead to chest pain, coronary artery disease or a heart attack.
  • Plant sterols. Some nuts contain plant sterols, a substance that can help lower your cholesterol. Plant sterols are often added to products like margarine and orange juice for additional health benefits, but sterols occur naturally in nuts.
  • L-Arginine. Nuts are also a source of l-arginine, which is a amino acid that will assist blood flow by helping to improve the health of your artery walls. Making them more flexible and less prone to blood clots that can block blood flow.
Another aspect of walnuts and their potential health benefits involves melatonin, a widely-active messaging molecule in our nervous system, and very hormone-like in its regulatory properties. Melatonin is critical in the regulation of sleep, and daily circadian rhythms, (light-dark adjustment), and other processes as well. Melatonin is naturally occurring in walnuts. Due to their high polyunsaturated fat content, walnuts are extremely perishable and care should be taken with their storage. Shelled walnuts should be stored in an airtight container and placed in the refrigerator, where they will keep for six months, or the freezer, where they will last for one year. Unshelled walnuts should preferably be stored in the refrigerator, although as long as you keep them in a cool, dry, dark place they will stay fresh for up to six months.

Now, walnut oil is made from walnuts by using the technique of cold pressing. However, it has a limited shelf life of only 10 to 12 months only. This oil is prone to rancidity and requires cold storage. Walnut oil is a rich source of ellagic acid, an antioxidant that scavenges the free radicals and controls malignant tumors. It also has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antiseptic properties. Walnut oils contain high levels of MUFA (monounsaturated fatty acids) and omega 9 acids, which strengthen the arteries and increases the blood flow smoothly and efficiently. This oil is also known to reduce the risk of hypertension and heart diseases, thereby aiding in weight loss. Minerals like zinc and selenium in walnut oil helps to stabilize and balance the body's hormonal levels. When cooking with nut oils, remember that they respond differently to heat than vegetable oils. Nut oil, if overheated, can become bitter. Just like with nuts, use nut oil in moderation, as the oils are high in calories. Also topical use of the nutrient-rich walnut oil for a better skin seems to be well accepted throughout the world. Along with curing various dry skin disorders. The oil has also been used to avert cell damage and loss of elasticity of the skin. It seems that the Omega-3 fatty acids present in walnut oil have the ability to repair the damaged hair follicles, conditioning the hair and adding to its volume.
Wow, I have to tell you I'm eating walnuts on my ice cream as I'm wrapping up this article. I must say up till now I mainly used them for a topping, but I can honestly say they are in the starting rotation now. I'm going to incorporate them in my regular diet like salads and stir fry, and snack on them more regularly. Have fun thinking up combinations for yourself, you'll be healthier for it, promise.  Good Luck...

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