WALNUTS – JUST A HANDFUL EVERYDAY
The regal and delicious walnut comes from an ornamental tree that is highly prized for its beauty. The walnut kernel consists of two bumpy lobes that look like abstract butterflies. The lobes are off white in color and covered by a thin, light brown skin. They are partially attached to each other. The kernels are enclosed in round or oblong shells that are brown in color and very hard.
Unshelled & shelled walnuts are best refrigerated in air tight containers & stay fresh for six months. Walnuts are regarded as ‘Brain Food’ aptly for their nutritional benefits & interestingly for their wrinkled brain-like appearance. While walnuts are harvested in December, they are available year round as a great source of important omega-3 fatty acids.
While walnut trees have been cultivated for thousands of years, the different types have varying origins. The English walnut originated in India and the regions surrounding the Caspian Sea, hence it is known as the Persian walnut. In the 4th century AD, the ancient Romans introduced the walnut into many European countries where it has been grown since. Throughout its 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. It is thought that the walnuts grown in North America gained the moniker “English walnuts,” since they were introduced into America via English merchant ships.
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 leading commercial producers of walnuts are the United States, Turkey, China, Iran, France and Romania.
Walnuts are a delicious way to add extra nutrition, flavor and crunch to a meal. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, proteins & antioxidants. Regular consumption of walnuts has a soothing effect on our mind & nerves, thus enabling sound sleep.
Walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, a special type of protective fat the body cannot manufacture. It has many potential health benefits ranging from cardiovascular protection, to the promotion of better cognitive function and anti-inflammatory benefits
In addition, walnuts contain an antioxidant compound called ellagic acid that supports the immune system and appears to have several anticancer properties.
Approximately 15% of the fat found in walnuts is healthy monounsaturated fat. A host of studies have shown that increasing the dietary intake of monounsaturated-dense walnuts has favorable effects on high cholesterol levels and other cardiovascular risk factors.
Walnuts contain relatively high levels of l-arginine, an essential amino acid, which is converted into nitric oxide, a chemical that helps keep the inner walls of blood vessels smooth and allows blood vessels to relax. Since individuals with hypertension have a harder time maintaining normal nitric oxide levels, which may also relate to other significant health issues such as diabetes and heart problems, walnuts can serve as a great addition to their diets.