Why Walnuts + 3 Simple Ways to Toast Walnuts



Walnuts are packed to the brim with heart healthy nutrients.


Prior to reading this article, it is important to note that all nuts are great and have been studied to have significant benefits to heart health. We all have different preferences for foods and it is important to choose different foods that we enjoy eating personally.


Let's talk numbers. Including nuts in the diet on a daily basis (≥ 30 g) has been shown to lower cardiovascular blood lipid markers like LDL-cholesterol (aka "bad" cholesterol) up to 5-7% and triglycerides up to 5-10%, plus reduce risk of major cardiovascular events up to 28% (1, 2). That is huge! Talk about transformative nutrition.


Let's take a deeper dive into the nutrition profile of walnuts and find out really, why walnuts?


Keep reading until the end for 3 simple ways that you can easily toast your walnuts to perfection at home.

HEALTHY FATS IN WALNUTS


Walnuts, like all nuts, contain beneficial monounsaturated fats that help to decrease LDL-cholesterol (aka "bad" cholesterol) and increase HDL-cholesterol (aka "good" cholesterol).


Other than those beneficial monounsaturated fats, nuts also contain beneficial polyunsaturated fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids. The specific kind of omega-3 fatty acid found in nuts and all plant-based foods is called alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). Once ALA enters our bodies, it is converted to its biologically active forms, EPA and DHA.


Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential, meaning that we must get them through the diet as we do not make them in our bodies. Incorporating more omega-3 fatty acids in the diet may help to decrease inflammation in the body, and improve brain and eye health. Studies have not shown a strong cardiovascular benefit of consuming omega-3 fatty acids through supplementation, unless prescribed by a doctor at higher levels to help decrease triglyceride levels (1).


Walnuts contain the highest amount of ALA compared to all other nuts. One 1/4 cup of walnuts provides about 2.3 g of ALA. Women need about 1.1 g of ALA per day, men need about 1.6 g per day and pregnant women need about 1.4 g ALA per day (3). Other high sources of ALA include chia seeds, ground flax seeds and hemp seeds.


It is important to note that the conversion of ALA to its biologically active forms, EPA and DHA, is limited, thus it is important to have these plant-based sources on a daily basis (4). You can also get EPA and DHA directly through the diet from having fatty fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, herring or sardines) 2-3 times per week. Speak to a registered dietitian to find a pattern of eating that works right for you and your lifestyle.



FIBRE IN WALNUTS


All nuts, including walnuts, are high in good amounts of heart healthy and gut-loving fibre.


Walnuts contain about 8 g of fibre per 1 cup of chopped walnuts (5). Women need about 25 g of fibre per day and men need about 38 grams per day.


Fibre is important to have throughout the day to keep you full, give you energy, lower cholesterol, stabilize your blood sugars, promote healthy digestion, increase beneficial bacteria in your gut, improve immune function and decrease inflammation in the body. It really is a powerhouse!


If you are not used to incorporating fibre in the diet from foods like nuts, legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.), whole grains and fruits and vegetables, gradually increase the amount in your diet to allow your body to adjust. Ensure you drink adequate amounts of fluid, per your doctor's recommendations. Also, ensure good amounts of physical movement throughout the day.

PROTEIN IN WALNUTS


Walnuts, similar to all nuts, are a fantastic plant-based protein choice to include in a heart healthy diet.


Walnuts contain about 4.5 g of plant-based protein in 1/4 cup portion of chopped walnuts (5). Plant-based proteins are higher in cholesterol-lowering fibre and lower in cholesterol-raising saturated fat compared to animal-based protein options.


Every single cell in the body uses protein. Protein is an essential nutrient that our bodies need to give us energy, stabilize our blood sugars and help to build and repair muscle, tissue, skin, hair and nails. It is important to incorporate adequate amounts of protein throughout the day with meals and snacks.

OTHER NUTRIENTS IN WALNUTS


Walnuts are definitely not shy of other beneficial vitamins and minerals (5):


B vitamins important for energy metabolism in the body (6, 7). Iron important for growth and development and formation of hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to different parts of your body (8).

Folate important for synthesis of nucleic acids (DNA) and metabolism of amino acids, plus prevention of neural tube defects during pregnancy (9).

Magnesium important for blood pressure management and regulating muscle and nerve function (10). Zinc for immune function, healing of wounds and growth and development (11).

Copper for immune function and for proper function of various processes in the body (12). Manganese for energy metabolism and protecting cells from damage (13).



HOW TO ADD WALNUTS IN YOUR LIFE


Walnuts, like all nuts, are such a fantastic addition to a heart healthy diet, and can be easily implemented in the diet.


Like mentioned above, walnuts contain good amounts of healthy fats, protein and fibre that all help to keep you full and satisfied throughout the day. Have 1/4 cup of walnuts during your meals as a source of plant-based protein or with a snack throughout the day. Throw them on top of salads, cereals, yogurts, use them when baking, or just enjoy them alone.


You can purchase walnuts pre-shelled or in the shell, raw or roasted, salted or unsalted and flavoured or unflavoured. Feel free to purchase the unsalted pre-roasted versions or buy them raw and try one of 3 simple ways to toast them at home below.



3 SIMPLE WAYS TO TOAST WALNUTS



Mmmmmm, there is nothing like the heavenly smell of freshly toasted walnuts.


Depending on what appliances you have available at home, you can either toast your walnuts in the oven, on the stove or in an air fryer. The best part is that all 3 options come out equally as delicious and are both easy and quick to make.


The recipe below calls for 1 cup of walnuts, however, feel free to double, triple or how-ever-many-ple the recipe you'd like to help save you time in the week or month.


Toasted walnuts once cooled down can be stored for up to 1 week in an airtight container at room temperature, and for even longer if stored in the refrigerator, up to 3-6 months. Please compost the walnuts if they become rancid.


See the recipe below to try out toasting your own walnuts at home!



TOASTED WALNUTS RECIPE


Ingredients 1 cup of unsalted raw walnuts


Yield: 4 servings (1/4 cup per serving)



Directions for Oven

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  2. Place raw walnuts on baking tray in a single layer.

  3. Bake for about 7-8 min, periodically shuffling the tray with an oven mitt or stirring the walnuts around with a wooden spoon at least 1-2 times.

  4. Once the walnuts turn a nice golden brown colour, remove from the oven right away and transport to a separate container, as walnuts can burn very easily. Allow to cool for a few minutes prior to consuming.


Directions for Stove

  1. Place raw walnuts on a pan in a single layer.

  2. Heat on stove for 7-8 minutes on medium-low heat, periodically shuffling the pan or stirring the walnuts with a wooden spoon at least 1-2 times.

  3. Once the walnuts turn a nice golden brown colour, remove from the heat right away and transport to a separate container, as walnuts can burn very easily. Allow to cool for a few minutes prior to consuming.


Directions for Air Fryer


  1. Place raw walnuts in the air fryer in a single layer.

  2. Air fry for about 5 min at 350°F or 175°C, periodically shuffling the tray or stirring the walnuts with a wooden spoon at least 1-2 times.

  3. Once the walnuts turn a nice golden brown colour, remove from the tray right away and transport to a separate container, as walnuts can burn very easily. Allow to cool for a few minutes prior to consuming.



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