Friday, February 12, 2010

The Wonderful World of Walnuts

Super Breakfast Bowl Challenge, Day 5: The Wonderful World of Walnuts
We live in a nutty world where “foods” come packaged, bagged, boxed, and wrapped. It’s time to forgo the outer shell and crack into some real superfood: WALNUTS Walnuts have often got a bad rap, commonly being touted as the “fruitcake nut.” It’s time to redeem them and bring them into the nutritional limelight!

But first, what’s in it for you?
Futter Nut Butter agreed to let a lucky reader of the Super Breakfast Bowl Challenge try two jars of their awesome products! I bet you’ve never tried walnut butter before… here’s your chance! I also have a cookbook from Mollie Katzen called “Get Cooking.” Katzen is one of the experts for the California Walnut Board and her cookbook is no-nonsense, simple recipes that are chock-full of whole foods and delicious ingredients.

Onto the 411 about these nutritional gems…

Nutritional Lowdown

A little less than one-fourth cup of chopped walnuts, or a one-ounce serving, (or about 14 halves) provides 180 calories and 18 grams of fat. Whoa! EighTEEN grams of fat?! Well, 13 of these come from the polyunsaturated fat, and 2.5 grams come from alpha linolenic acid (ALA), a precursor to EPA and DHA, or the omega-3 fatty acids that we all hear are healthy for our heart. (After all, February is Heart Health Awareness Month.) But let’s not stop there. An ounce of walnuts also contains 4 grams of protein, fiber, manganese, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and a host of other good-for-you nutrients.

What’s ALA again?

Alpha linolenic acid is the omega-3 fatty acid precursor that is found in plant sources, as opposed to EPA and DHA, the omega-3s often heard about in fatty fish. Although there is no Dietary Reference Intake set by the government for ALA right now, the FDA recognizes that we should get 1.6 grams of ALA daily (for the purpose of nutrient content claims.) Since one ounce of walnuts contains 2.5 grams, you’re golden!

Aren’t walnuts going to make me fat?

Nope. Remember, calories in equals calories out, so while walnuts have more calories per gram than bread or meat, they can (and should) be incorporated into your diet, if, for nothing else, a chance to get in some much-needed ALA.

I’ve seen walnut oil in recipes. What’s this all about?

Walnut oil, like the more commonly recognized peanut oil, is the oil extracted from the nut. Walnut oil is a rich, luxurious nut oil and is great whisked with some balsamic vinegar and poured over a spinach salad with toasted walnuts and dried cranberries. Walnut oil has a relatively low smoke point, so it’s best not to heat it; buy it in small amounts, because the high amount of polyunsaturated fat oxidizes quickly when it comes in contact with air. As such, it’s best to refrigerate walnut oil and walnuts that have been cracked open or ones that you buy chopped. And, if you open a bag and they smell like paint thinner, toss ‘em! They’re rancid and are apt to do more harm than good.

How do you open shelled walnuts?

Here’s how it’s done. Kind of.

How do I get walnuts in for breakfast?

When I’m on the run and don’t have time for a steaming bowl of oats with chopped walnuts or nut butter, I snag one of these bars from my freezer. They’re simple to make, easy to transport, and very very delicious! I originally had the idea when I was training for a half marathon and buying Clif Nectar bars like they were going out of style. They were expensive, and I needed another way to meet my craving.

So, I have this corny and slightly inappropriate joke about this recipe that involves a date with a walnut, but I think I’ll keep that one to myself. Anyway, here’s a fabulous recipe for The Walnut-Date Breakfast Bar. In fact, it is my version of the Lemon, Vanilla and Cashew Clif Nectar Bar.

The Walnut-Date Breakfast Bar

(Note: They are not a beautiful food, but they sure are tasty.)

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup chopped dates

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

2 tsp olive oil


Add walnuts to food processor and pulse on high until walnuts are a crumbly powder. Transfer to a bowl. Add dates to food processor and pulse for about 20 seconds. Add walnuts, lemon juice, olive oil, and walnut powder and pulse until mixture is a fine paste. Transfer to a bowl and mix with your hands to combine. Make 8 1” mini-bars, transfer to a Ziplock bag or wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. If you double the recipe, freeze them for later!

Nutrition Info: 1 bar: 120 calories, 3.5 gm fat (polyunsaturated), 23 gm carbohydrate, 2 gm fiber

For more information and recipes about walnuts and fabulous recipes, visit the California Walnut website.

Don’t forget- you have the weekend to test your recipes and submit your breakfast recipe for avocado (by Sunday), Monday for flaxseed, Tuesday for lentils, Wednesday for quinoa, and THURSDAY for the wonderful walnuts! I REALLY want you to win that walnut butter and Mollie Katzen’s cookbook! Make sure to email your breakfast creations to!

Best of luck and happy breakfasting!


A Fete For Food

Whew! this has been a wonderful, whirlwind of a week!! Can't wait to read all of your recipes and pick a winner! Enjoy your long weekend-I know I will!


Michelle @ Find Your Balance said...

Last time I bought walnuts I followed the advice to soak them overnight and dehydrate. Supposedly this makes them easier to digest and deactivates phytic acid. I liked the way they became light and airy, but not sure it's necessary to go through this process. Any thoughts?

Elizabeth Jarrard said...

Great question Michelle! Most raw foodist advocate this method. I personally find it very time-consuming and have not never seen any of the benefits. I actually found this article the other day, which you might find interesting. I think it's more important to look at incorporating these nuts into your whole diet, and am quite doubtful that the phytic acid in them will be harmful when eating in moderate quantities. but if you like the taste-soaking and sprouting won't be harmful either!
Thanks for the great question!

Chow and Chatter said...

looks great love walnuts

Natalia Real said...

That sounds and looks very delicious! Will have to try out your recipe :)

moretolifethanlettuce said...

walnuts are so good! they don't get enough attention. thanks for the information about all the nutritional aspects of walnuts, and great recipe!