Walnuts belong to the tree nut family and have been there for thousands of years. This part of the tree nut family originated in Central Asia and the Mediterranean region. Walnuts have been an important part of the human diet for thousands of years as in the 4th century AD, the Romans introduced it to many European countries. During all the different times, walnuts have been used for various purposes – food, medicinal, lamp oil etc. Today, walnuts are grown in different parts of the world. The North American walnuts, known as “English Walnuts”, got their name as they first introduced to America by English trading ships.
Currently the largest producer of walnuts in the world is no other but China producing over 360,000 metric tons per year. The United States of America is the second largest walnut producer in the world, producing about 294,000 metric tons per year, or 38% of the overall production. Almost 90% of these walnuts produced by the United States are grown in the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys in California. While China and the US are the largest walnut producers, Iran, Turkey, Romania and Ukraine also contribute a significant amount to the total production.
Native to Central Mississippi are the white walnuts and black walnuts. Since these two types of walnuts have been around for thousands of years, the early colonial settlers including the Native American Indians had made them a very important part of their diet.
The tree nut family is a big one and includes cashews, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, macadamia nuts and pine nuts. According to the studies, it is proved that one ounce of tree nuts should be consumed on a daily basis. This is because these nuts provide the nutrients, minerals and vitamins that are very essential for a good health. It is necessary for everyone to consume at least 7 shelled walnuts daily. As the tree nuts are high in calories, it is necessary to include the right amount of them in your daily diet. This helps the body in various ways while helping you maintain a healthy calorie level.
Walnuts are a rich source of vitamins and healthy fats including the monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which both are essential for a healthy heart. Walnuts are not just healthy but also very tasty so you can enjoy the unique taste while improving your health.
Facts about Walnuts
- Recent studies have found that consuming walnuts in their whole form is much better as even the skin of the walnuts contains numerous vitamins and minerals. In fact, about 90% of the carbolic acid C, also known as phenols, is in the skin only. If you ever visit your nutritionist, you will see even she or he will recommend you to consume walnuts with its skin still on as it is very rich in phenol, flavonoids and tannins.
- According to new research, walnuts are considered helpful in improving the immune system. Not only this, but walnuts also ensure that you are, to a significant extent, protected from various cardiovascular diseases and even diabetes. This is because of the phytonutrients including quinone juglone in walnuts help your body with a smooth blood flow and improves your metabolism. Other phytonutrients such as flavonol morin and tannin tellimagrandin, which are not only valuable but are also found in very limited foods, are anti-inflammatory which help keep you from inflammation. Chances of other deadly diseases like cancer of many kinds are also reduced.
- Vitamin E is found mostly in alpha-tocopherol form but surprisingly in walnuts, it is present in gamma-tocopherol form. While these scientific terms can confuse you, let me put it simply. The vitamin E when in gamma-tocopherol form is much more benefiting than when it is in any other form. This helps prevent various heart diseases in men.
How Walnuts Can Keep You Healthy
Walnuts are a rich source of various essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and nutrients. This is why they play an extremely important part in keeping your body healthy and protecting you from numerous diseases. These diseases include prostate cancer, breast cancer, heart diseases, inflammation etc.
Cancer is caused when the cells in the different parts of the body start growing abnormally and cross their limits. Preventing such cells to invade other parts could become a very strenuous thing to do. A very healthy diet consisting of the right amount of nutrients, minerals and vitamins can help prevent such cells from forming. Walnuts contain plant compound, which are extremely useful to prevent cancer. The compounds containing various cancer preventing components are:
- Various antioxidant polyphenols
- Ellagic acid and related compounds
- Omega-3 fatty acids
According to the studies on animals, walnuts help prevent the growth of cancerous cells in kidneys, colon, breasts and prostate. Further studies and research are still being done to identify more healthy effects of walnuts on human health.
Keeps the Heart Thriving and Healthy
There are not just one but many heart diseases. Eating walnuts can prevent most of these diseases. They help lower the LDL, which is considered as bad cholesterol. Moreover, a habit of eating walnuts daily can also make the arteries strong and prevents plaque. This allows a better and smooth flow of blood, which ultimately leads to a better heart health. Walnuts also contain anti-inflammatory substances, which prevents inflammation.
The essential antioxidants and healthy fatty acids in walnuts reduce the risk of several heart diseases such as strokes and heart attacks.
Improves Brain Health
The fact that walnuts look a lot like a human brain can simply not be ignored. Amazingly, walnuts do not just look like a human brain but they are also very important to keep the brain healthy and sharp. The several functions of a brain are highly enhanced by consuming walnuts. It helps fight depression and relaxes the brain while making its life span long. Studies have shown that walnuts have a very benefiting effect on the memory as it allows the brain to remember things for a longer period. Not only the memory is improved but also the reflexes are enhanced by eating walnuts.
Various studies have been carried out on animals to test what effects walnuts have on them. It turns out that the learning skills of rats with Alzheimer’s disease were highly improved. This is because of the omega-3 fatty acids, which provide the brain the most needed and required nutrients.
So it is proved that the right amount of intake of walnuts on a daily basis is very likely to help patients with Alzheimer’s disease while improving the brain’s functionality and building a stronger memory.
How to Include Walnuts in Your Daily Diet
While walnuts are eaten as a whole snack just like most tree nuts, they can be consumed in different ways. You can add walnuts to salads, cereals, soups etc. As walnuts are easy to chop, you can add them in your deserts making them crunchy, tasty and healthy. Walnuts can be used in different foods.
You can use crushed walnuts to mix them with yogurt and enjoy the combo. You can eat this mixture daily in breakfast, as this will allow you to be very active and hydrated the whole day. Walnuts can be added to almost all kinds of salads whether it is a fruit salad or vegetable salad. These tree nuts can also be added to your daily meals such as cooked lentils, spaghetti, pastas etc. You can also roast a bag of walnuts at 75°C for about 15 to 20 minutes, keep them in an air tight jar, and eat it any time you want with salt or any spice sprinkled over it.
Whenever you go to buy walnuts, make sure you check if the shells are cracked or not because if they are, the walnut inside them would not be as healthy as those inside proper shells. Avoid purchasing the ones with stains on the shells too as it is a sign that the walnut inside must be rotten. Smell the walnuts too if possible and if you think it is an unusual smell, do not buy them, as they might be rancid.
Walnuts are highly perishable due to the significant amount of fatty contents so you should make sure you store them in an air tight jar or even better, it would be to store them in a refrigerator or freezer. This will allow you to keep them for long so bulk buying would not create an issue of storage.