Looking for more sources of plant-based omega-3 in your diet? When it comes to nuts, look no further than the historic walnut. In fact, the Romans and Greeks incorporated the walnut as part of their Mediterranean diet not only as a staple food, but for potential medicinal benefits as well.
It was once thought that walnuts mixed with certain foods and prepared in certain ways could even counteract poisons, remove bruises, cure dog bites, and grow hair. Although today’s medical needs differ, there’s no denying the outstanding benefits that these crunchy, fiber-filled, heart healthy, and versatile nuts offer.
“Change it up. Life is not a cookbook, it’s a journey of different experiences. Live it with the best health possibilities in mind!” ~ Fred Bisci
Learn more about the long history of the walnut through these historical virtues.
Buying and Storing
Walnuts come in a variety of options such as in shell, shelled, whole, chopped, flavored, and raw. In-shell are most abundant in the fall, but walnuts can be found year-round at the grocery store either pre-packaged or in the bulk bins.
Believe it or not, walnuts are best kept in the fridge or freezer. Using them soon, go with the fridge. Keeping them on stand-by, opt for the freezer.
Walnuts have the tendency to absorb the aromas of other foods they are stored with, so avoid placing them in the fridge near onions, fish, or other strong odored foods.
Alternative use: Grind walnuts in a cool, dry food processor to make a walnut flour suitable for baking
The key to maintaining a nutritious diet for the long haul is crowding out the bad foods with the good. This takes a strong arsenal of nutrient-dense foods to keep you interested and coming back for more. The walnut’s versatility for use in breakfast recipes, salads, baked goods, protein toppers, and dessert make it a perfect fit for this goal. Just 1 oz of walnuts provides:
- 18 grams of fat (15.5 of them from healthy unsaturated fats)
- 4 grams of protein
- 2 grams of fiber
- 1 gram of natural sugar
They also contain the important minerals calcium, iron, and potassium while being a cholesterol and sodium free food. No wonder they earn the Heart Check Award from the American Heart Association!
The increased popularity of endurance events has peaked interest in understanding how to better fuel aerobic activity, which tends to require a larger percent of fuel from the macronutrient of fat vs the anaerobic drive to pull carbohydrates. The metabolic efficiency of the athlete is going to dictate which fuel source is most easily converted, and not everyone does well fueling with fats over carbohydrates. But for those interested in becoming more fat adapted, reducing carbohydrate intake, or looking to incorporate calorically dense fuel for an endurance event, nuts and nut butter can be a great option.
Walnuts are a great option since they contain the highest percent of Omega-3 alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an essential fatty acid which helps decrease inflammation, per one-ounce serving. Walnuts also provide phosphorus for energy production and magnesium to help regulate blood sugars.
Before you toss out all of your other nuts, remember that variety is the spice of life. Almonds, pistachios, macadamia nuts as well as others should still find space on your shelf.
Walnut Endurance Bites
- 3 cups walnuts, divided
- 1 cup dried cherries
- 1 cup dried apricots
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup vanilla protein powder
- 1/2 cup oats
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 250°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- Combine all ingredients (except 1 cup walnuts) in a food processor. Mix until ingredients stick together
- Chop remaining 1 cup walnuts. Remove mixture from processor and fold chopped nuts in
- Using your hands, roll into 1” balls and place on baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool. Store in an airtight container. Keep in the freezer. Grab a couple before your next long run!
Walnut Wake-Up Smoothie
- 1 cup brewed coffee, cooled
- 1 cup water
- 1 scoop protein powder (chocolate or vanilla)
- 1 banana, ripe & frozen
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped
- Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until smoothie
- Boost nutrition by adding in a Tbsp of either Hemp Hearts or Chia seeds
Spartan Apple Crisp
- ½ cup milk of your choice (almond, coconut, cow)
- 1 scoop protein powder, vanilla
- 4 Tbsp chia seeds
- 2 Tbsp chopped walnuts
- 1 apple, chopped (Macintosh works best)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Combine milk, protein powder, and chia seeds in a mason jar and store in the fridge overnight
- When ready to eat: Chop apple and place in a small bowl. Top with cinnamon and toss to coat. Microwave 1 minute
- Top overnight chia mix with warm apples and chopped walnuts. Enjoy!
Spiralized Zucchini Salad with Walnuts
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Sea salt, freshly ground pepper and honey, to taste
- 2 medium zucchini, chilled
- 1/4 cup ricotta or goat cheese
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped and toasted walnuts
- In a medium bowl whisk together lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt, pepper and sugar.
- Cut zucchini into spirals using a spiralizer and add to bowl. Toss well to coat.
- Transfer to 4 salad plates and top each with cheese and walnuts. Garnish with lemon zest if desired. Goes great topped with fresh cooked salmon.
Mexican Chicken and Walnuts
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 teaspoons Mexican Seasoning Blend, divided
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder, divided
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 4 small chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
- In a large skillet heat half of the olive oil over medium heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the Mexican seasoning blend and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and stir in walnuts. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until toasty, stirring frequently. Remove from skillet.
- In the same skillet add the remaining oil and remaining seasoning blend and garlic powder. Add chicken and turn to coat both sides with oil/seasoning mix. Cook for 5 minutes on each side until cooked through. Add lime juice to skillet and cook a few minutes more. Top with avocado.
Options: Top with pico de gallo and served with cauliflower rice.
Rosemary and Thyme Roasted Walnuts
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil & 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon Pink Himalayan Sea salt
- 2 cups walnuts
- Preheat oven to 300°F. Melt butter in a small saucepan; stir in olive oil, rosemary, thyme, pepper and salt.
- Add walnuts and stir well with a rubber scraper until mixture evenly coats walnuts.
- Transfer to a baking sheet and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Meat-Free Sloppy Joe De Sena
- 3/4 cup walnuts
- 1-pound Portobello mushrooms, gills and stems removed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-1/2 cups ketchup (Homemade ketchup recipe) Recipe below
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (or vegan Worcestershire)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
- Pulse the walnuts and mushrooms in a food processor in batches until it breaks down and resembles a ground beef texture.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell pepper, and minced garlic, and cook for 5 minutes or until the veggies soften.
- Add the walnuts/mushroom mixture to the skillet, stir so everything is well combined and let cook for 5 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine ketchup, brown sugar, dry mustard, cayenne pepper, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and apple cider vinegar, then add to the skillet. Stir everything together and let simmer for 5 minutes. Adjust with salt to taste.
- Serve on your favorite whole grain or gluten free bun. Also try served in romaine lettuce leaves for a low carb option!
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp onion
- Grated 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl. This homemade ketchup recipe can be made a few days ahead of time and stored in refrigerator in a sealed container for about 1 week