Walnuts are tasty nuts that deserve a place at your table, with 13 grams of polyunsaturated fats, 4 grams of protein, 4 grams of total carbohydrate, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 130 mg of potassium and 30 mg of calcium per ounce.
Good Fats: Polyunsaturated vs. Monounsaturated
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics tells us that dietary fat for healthy adults should provide 20-30% of energy, with an increased consumption of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and limited intake of saturated fats and trans fats. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that intake of saturated fats should be limited to no more than 10% of total calories per day by replacing them with unsaturated fats.
Walnuts are the highest in polyunsaturated fats when compared to other nuts such as almonds, brasil nuts, cashew, hazelnut, macadamia nut, pecan, and pistachios, and the only one rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Why eat Walnuts?
- Walnuts are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids with 13 g out of 18 g total fat per ounce.
- Walnuts are the only nuts rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based essential omega-3 fatty acid that has positive anti-inflammatory effects.
- Walnuts help improve cardiovascular risk factors by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and diastolic blood pressure. These two risk factors are major contributors to heart disease risk.
- Research has found that omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP) in those with high cholesterol.
- Recent studies have emerged showing evidence that Omega-3’s alleviate muscle mass loss during periods of muscle disuse, or prolonged resting periods, as well as gains in muscle size and strength in healthy individuals.
The Dietary Guidelines recommend 5 ounces equivalent per week of nuts, seeds and soy products. One-ounce portion of walnuts is equal to 2 ounce-equivalents protein foods.
How to buy Walnuts?
Fresh walnuts smell nutty and taste sweet. To enjoy walnuts and get the most health benefits, they must be handled properly. Do not shell or chop walnuts until you are ready to eat them. To prevent rancidity and to extend walnuts shelf life, store them in the refrigerator away from foods with strong odors and preferably in an airtight container. Walnuts go rancid when exposed to warm temperatures for long periods. Like with all fats, heat causes the fat in walnuts to change the structure which gives an off smell and taste. When nuts are rancid, you should throw them away!
How to use Walnuts?
Toasting walnuts enhances the flavor giving them a crisper texture. Do not chop or mince walnuts before toasting. Heat walnuts in a dry, heavy skillet over medium heat for 1 or 2 minutes or until they are golden brown and smell toasted. Stir constantly to avoid burning. Remove walnuts to a plate or bowl and set aside to cool down. Toss them on top of salads, oatmeal, pizza or ground them up to make fresh walnut butter. See recipe below.
FRESH Walnut Butter Recipe
- 2 cups walnuts, shelled (buy in-shell, do not shell until ready to use)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons walnut or canola oil
- 1 tbsp. honey
Make walnut butter by putting the walnuts (toasted) in the bowl of a food processor and grinding them until they become sticky or paste-like. Add the salt. Add the oil, a little bit at a time until the walnut butter binds together.
Add honey or cinnamon to taste. Serve on whole-wheat toast or crackers.
Serving Size: 2 tbsp (serves 9) Nutrients: 180 calories, 17 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 65 mg sodium, 4 g protein, 5 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugars.
- Kris-Etherton P. Walnuts decrease risk of cardiovascular disease: a summary of efficacy and biologic mechanisms. J Nutr. 2014; 10.39:2S-8S.
- Zhao G, Etherton TD, Martin KR, et al. Dietary alpha-linolenic acid reduces inflammatory and lipid cardiovascular risk factors in hypercholesterolemic men and women. J Nutr 2004; 134: 2991-2997.
There are many benefits to eating well, from disease prevention to overall health and wellness. That’s why Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Foundation have partnered with Kohl’s Cares on a program called #GiveMe5 to encourage children and families throughout the community to stay active and eat their five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Our partnership brings healthy eating tips and recipes to kids in local schools and to families at various community events throughout the year. For more information, please visit our #GiveMe5 page.