Loving the BITE: Walnuts – 3 Ways
Why not walnuts? This question came to mind this week as I was deciding on our Loving the Bite key food. They are absolutely packed with nutrients that will benefit your body. And, as athletes, we’re always on a quest to nourish our bodies well, right?
So, I began to search for good recipes. Problem was, most recipes that include walnuts (baked products and entrees) often contain loads of sugar or sweeteners to override their slightly bitter taste. Sure, we could use these products and substitute a product like stevia for the sugar. But why not embrace all walnuts have for us, bitterness and all?
Turns out, the bitterness is bittersweet. As you’ll see, the bitter skin is a powerhouse of nutrients. This week, we’ll simplify and use walnuts a few different ways:
Recipes of the week: Walnuts, 3 Ways
#1: Quick Walnut Granola
Heat a small skillet on medium-high heat. Add ¼ cup chopped walnuts and cook/toast for ~1 minute, stirring continually. Add ¼ cup old-fashioned oats and ½ tsp cinnamon. While still stirring, cook 1-2 more minutes until toasted thoroughly, being careful not to burn. Remove from heat. Add 1 Tbsp ground flaxseeds, 2 tsp honey, and ½ – 1 chopped peach, pear, apple or banana. Stir until well mixed. Serve with milk or yogurt.
#2: Walnut Parfait:
Place ½ cup Greek yogurt in a bowl. Top with 1 cup berries and 2 Tbsp toasted walnuts. Drizzle with 1-2 tsp honey.
#3: Wonderful Cinnamon Walnut Butter (adapted from http://glutenfreegirl.com/homemade-walnut-butter):
Place 2 cups shelled walnuts in a large bowl, cover with water, and soak overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Drain walnuts and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in oven until completely dry and toasted about 15 minutes – turn walnuts over half-way through. Remove from oven and cool completely
Place cooled walnuts in food processor and process until they form a sticky past. Add ¼ tsp salt, 1 tsp honey and 1 tsp cinnamon. Continue to process and 2 tsp walnut or peanut oil, drizzling in while continuing to process. Keep processing until desired consistency – as a nut butter.
It seems like a no-brainer. Walnuts are healthy. We should eat them.
However, I rarely see walnuts on the food logs of my new clients; and even in my own diet, I used to forgot about them . Turns out, only about 5.5% of the US population eats tree nuts at all! Seems that almonds are more popular, and peanuts are more convenient. And, of course, cashews and pistachios make a wonderful, non-bitter snack. But, as we consider the nutrition content of walnuts, we will likely want to expand our diets and embrace this bittersweet nut today, and every day.
Like with many Loving the Bite key foods, we’ll keep our bodies healthy and cycling strong this week with nutrients that are antioxidants and anti-inflammatory. These nutrients will work in the body to reduce cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes while promoting bone health and potentially improved sleep cycles.
Antioxidants: Walnuts contain at least 10 different antioxidant nutrients. In fact, according to http://www.oracvalues.com/sort/orac-value/40, they have an ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorpbance Capacity) score of 13541, well above blueberries, cranberries, and blackberries.
Walnuts contain vitamin E, one potent antioxidant. But, unlike most vitamin-E containing foods, walnuts’ vitamin E is in the gamma-tocopherol form, rather than the alpha form, which makes it particularly helpful in the cardiovascular health of men. Any male cyclists want a strong heart out there?
Walnuts also provide melatonin, an antioxidant and molecule with hormone-like regulatory mechanisms. Melatonin is a key player in sleep cycles, circadian rhythms, and light-dark adjustments.
Anti-inflammatory nutrients: First, one servings of walnuts provide 2.5 grams of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) omega-3s, a highly anti-inflammatory fat. Next, walnut contain rare anti-inflammatory and antioxidant phytonutrients – some that are found in virtually no other commonly-eaten foods (such as quinine juglone). In fact, some studies have shown a decrease in bone turnover, as a result of more stable bones that lose less minerals, from eating walnuts and these anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.
But wait! Before you follow any advice to remove the whitish, waxy skin of the walnut, which contributes to the bitter taste, realize that approximately 90% of the healthy phenols in walnuts are found in the skin. Instead of altering a wonderful, natural food, leave the walnuts as they are with skin intact and embrace their bittersweet qualities!
I don’t forget the walnuts anymore. Typically, they are a part of my daily diet. And yours? How do you include walnuts? Or, how will you include them now?
Fuel Your Ride. Nourish Your Body.
Image c/o glutenfreegirl.com