What’s Up With Walnuts?

Walnut kernelsDid you know that research shows that eating just one ounce of walnuts a day is all it takes to reap their numerous healthy benefits? A member of the tree nut family, walnuts can easily be added to a number of dishes to make them healthier. Walnuts are associated with decreases risk of certain cancers due to their antioxidants, potentially reducing the growth rate of tumors. Furthermore, walnuts contribute to heart health by raising healthy cholesterol levels and reducing risk of cardiovascular disease and they also contribute to brain health by increasing cognitive and motor function. Here are some delicious ways to incorporate this healthy nut this holiday season:

1. Salads

Adding walnuts into festive or earthy salads is a great way to spruce them up and get your healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts mix really well with salads that include ingredients like sliced apples, feta cheese, dried cranberries, and an apple vinaigrette dressing. Try using this combination of ingredients along with mixed greens as an appetizer at a holiday party, or add grilled chicken to make it the main course at dinnertime.

2. Mashed Sweet Potatoes

The sweet taste of the potatoes mixed with a slight crunch of the walnuts produce pleasing tastes and textures. Simply mash two precooked sweet potatoes with the skin, add a little bit of skim milk, and sprinkle walnuts into the pan before baking the dish in the oven to create a wonderful, healthy side dish.

3. Muffins

To amp up muffins’ nutritional value and contribute to heart health, add walnuts. Either mix chopped nuts into the batter or top the muffins with nuts before baking.

4. Smoothies

Including walnuts in a smoothie is a great option for people who may not care for walnuts. Grind up the walnuts so that you can’t taste them, but you still reap their great, such as their rare but powerful antioxidants. Combine them with bananas, vanilla Greek yogurt, and honey for a delicious treat, but smoothies are versatile, so mix it up.

5. Trail Mix

Walnuts can be added to many types of trail mix. Trail mix made with dried cranberries, raisins, almonds, chocolate or butterscotch chips, mini pretzels, dried pineapple, and sunflower seeds make a great snack that will keep you alert and feeling full. However, regardless of the ingredients you choose,watch portion sizes because it can be easy to overeat trail mix. A handful of trail mix is about the correct portion size.

Michelle Baker is a junior at the University of Dayton majoring in dietetics, with an emphasis in sports nutrition. She plans to become a registered sports dietitian.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Collins, Dollar Photo Club

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