Walnuts are round edible single-seeded fruits from the trees of the Juglans genus belonging to the tree nut family. Wrapped up in its small case is a nearly perfect package of protein, carbohydrate, healthy fat, antioxidants, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. Their benefits ranging from heart health, tumor protection, depression and beauty cannot be overlooked.
The plant is believed to have originated in India and the regions surrounding the Caspian Sea, and in the 4th century A.D., the ancient Romans introduced the walnut to many European countries. Since then it has been cultivated there extensively. Today China is the largest producer of walnuts, closely followed by the United States, Ukraine and Romania. In the United States, California produces 99 percent of the nation’s commercial English walnuts.
There are almost 30 varieties of walnuts, of which the three most commonly known are Persian or English walnut, black walnut, and butternut walnut. It takes 15 years for the tree to grow until it starts producing fruit. Walnut trees have an average lifespan of 80 years; however, under favorable conditions some may live for 300 years or more.
Among all other nuts, walnuts contain the highest amount of antioxidants, making them extremely effective in aiding in destroying free radicals and combating heart disease. Adequate intake has been shown to significantly raise blood levels of healthy omega-3 fats which may prevent the formation of blood clots which can cause sudden cardiac death, as well as lowering bad cholesterol and increasing the production of good cholesterol, thus also maintaining safe insulin levels with type 2 diabetes.
The antioxidant properties of walnuts help lower the risk of chronic oxidative stress, and the anti-inflammatory properties help lower the risk of chronic inflammation. Lowering these two risks helps diminish the greatest threat for cancer development. Prostate, breast cancer and bowel cancer risk has been found to be reduced by the consumption of approximately 3 ounces per day. Studies have found that the greater the omega-3 acids, the smaller the tumor.
Walnuts which are rich in B-vitamins and antioxidants aid in preventing skin from free radical damage, wrinkles, and signs of aging. The walnut’s oil protects the skin from dryness and returns its natural moisture. It is also used as base oil in many massage oils used for massage therapy. Walnuts are a good hair food as they contain biotin or vitamin B7 that helps strengthen hair, reduce hair fallout, and improve hair growth to a certain extent.
Because the shell is shaped somewhat like a human skull and the crinkly kernel resembles a brain, the walnut has historically been regarded as brain food. In fact, because it provides omega-3 fatty acids coupled with iodine and selenium, it does indeed aid in ensuring optimal healthy brain function. Consuming walnuts may increase serotonin and melatonin levels, which are directly linked to mood, cognitive function, and sleep. Boosting levels of omega-3s may have a natural effect on decreasing the symptoms of depression.
|Maple Walnut Cookies
(a.k.a. Brain Food Cookies, Mood Enhancing Cookies, Prozac Cookies)
|2 ½ c. walnuts, ground in food processor||1/3 c. carob chips|
|2/3 c. whole wheat pastry flour||1/3-½ c. maple syrup|
|1 tsp. salt||2 tsp. vanilla|
|1/3 c. ground flaxseed|
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl add all ingredients in given order; mix well. Drop small spoonful of dough on slightly oiled cookie sheet and flatten with fork. Bake 10-15 minutes or until golden brown, checking often to prevent burning. Let cool before removing from sheet.
* May add chopped dates, dried cherries, etc., decreasing amount of maple syrup.
Recipe from Dr. Neil Nedley