Loving the BITE: Walnuts – 3 Ways

03
Nov
2011

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.

Comments:

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

Enjoy Your Ride

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  • Jessica Lang

    Hi Kelli, I don’t like walnuts very much.  Is there an alternate nut you could recommend and can I use it in these same recipes?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kelli-Myers-Jennings/571783190 Kelli Myers Jennings

      Hi Jessica,
      Thanks for your question.  Most all nuts (yes, even peanuts) are very healthy for you and share a lot of the same qualities of walnuts.  Then, beyond the great nutrients they have in common, each different nut has specific nutrients that set it a part.  With walnuts, omega-3s set it apart.  So, for these recipes, I’d recommend almonds, cashews, or pecans.  Yum.  Then  add an extra Tablespoon of ground flaxseeds to the granola and parfait recipes, and 2 Tablespoons of ground flaxseeds to the nut butter.  This will add the omega-3s you’d miss without the walnuts. And, you shouldn’t need to soak the other nuts overnight before making the nut butter. I hope this helps!  Enjoy! Kelli

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Sugar Alternatives for Energy and Hydration

Question: I am using the homebrew sugar formulations (sometimes added to green tea).  I am also trying to wean myself off 1/2 dose adrenalean “lip tonic delivery system” (biorhythm brand- caffeine, hoodia g, synephrine, yohimbe) capsule for energy.

My question is other than juice, can you suggest modifications in lieu of table sugar for energy and hydration.

Answer:

Both raw/organic honey or agave can work great in the homebrew (substitute in the same quantities for the sugar, or to taste), but you do have to shake well in order to make sure they don’t settle out.  Have you tried either of these?  Also, make sure to use at least the minimum amount of salt recommended in the homebrew as the temps rise, you need the sodium replacement if you’re sweating.

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Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to www.apexnutritionllc.com.

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