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Ways to Incorporate Walnuts in Your Diet

Updated on January 22, 2016
Emese Fromm profile image

Growing up with a dietician/nutritionist for a mom, Emese has learned a lot about how food affects our health.

Walnuts are a personal favorite of mine. I grew up with a huge walnut tree (and a few smaller ones) in my grandparents' garden. That tree was our "home" when my brothers and I were there, we set up camp in the mighty branches on top of it. We played house in there and we played Tarzan in there. But mostly, we enjoyed picking the walnuts off when they were ripe. Well, maybe picking is the wrong term. To get the walnut when it's ripe, you need to wait until it falls, and hopefully the outer protective green layer dries off. But we liked them green, too. Green walnuts are tastier than those ripe (is that really the right term for walnuts?). The only problem with that is that while stripping them from the green layer, our hands got absolutely black and there was nothing that could take that stain off. It was a small price to be paid for the amazing taste of the freshly peeled white flesh of the nut. We wore the black fingers with pride, since all the kids in school recognized the signs of someone who had the privilege to pick fresh walnuts.

Since they was so easily accessible and my mother, who was a dietician, was convinced of their benefits, we grew up eating a lot of walnuts. Snacking on walnuts was a given, but we also incorporated them in meals and desserts. Like a lot of Hungarians, we ate grated walnuts sprinkled on pasta, as a meal. That was one of my all-time favorite meal.

My favorite way to eat them is by incorporating them in baking, as a dessert. I enjoy baking and my favorite recipes include walnuts.

The Reason You Should Eat Walnuts: They Are Considered Superfoods

The term "superfood" is usually referred to food that can ward off just about any disease. They lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, and even act as mood enhancers.

Walnuts have an unusual form of Vitamin E, called gamma-tocopherol, which is extremely beneficial for cardiovascular health and protection from heart problems. They contain ellagic acid, and antioxidant that is thought to fight cancer by protecting healthy cells from harmful free radicals, detoxifying potential cancer-causing substances and preventing cancer cells from multiplying. Walnuts are high in fat, but it is unsaturated fat, that includes protective linoleic and alpha-linoleic fatty acids that lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, and it is thought to reduce the severity of psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. Walnuts are also high in iron, selenium and zinc.

Walnuts are not the only superfoods, some others are:

  • blueberries
  • oranges
  • tomatoes
  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • beans
  • oats
  • salmon
  • tea

Walnuts and Memory Function

In recent years, it has been widely known that walnuts, (and nuts in general) are linked to optimal brain function, especially memory performance. Maybe that’s why my grandmother, at 98 years old, still had a perfect memory, still recognizes all of us, even her great-grandchildren, though she only used to see them once every few years. She had been eating walnuts her whole life since she had walnut trees in her garden. Maybe my walnut-eating habits are helping me remember algebra from my 7th-grade years (30+ years and I haven’t used it since).

All joke aside, it really has been proven that walnuts contain choline, that has a major effect on memory function and learning performance by helping us concentrate and retain what we have learned. The way it works, this choline manufactures acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter which sharpens our ability to concentrate, and to retain what we have learned. Because of this, some research suggests that It might prevent Alzheimer's disease, which is linked to a lack of acetylcholine.

Choline is also found in liver, egg yolk, cheese, oatmeal, and soybeans.

Walnuts ready for snacking
Walnuts ready for snacking

How to Use Walnuts

  • Walnuts are one of the best snacks to have around. Just eat a handful any time.
  • Add ground walnuts to your favorite cereal or oatmeal in the morning.
  • Top your pasta with ground walnuts. This is a Hungarian tradition, an easy child-pleasing, yet nutrition meal, adding protein to the carbs that they always ask for.
  • Use walnuts in baking, substituting all or part of the flour.
  • Use walnuts to make granola.
  • Use them to make a trail mix, adding them to your favorite dried fruits.


Grinding walnuts
Grinding walnuts

Baking With Walnuts

If you look at a Hungarian cookbook, in the desert section there are a lot of pastries, and other deserts that have walnuts as the a main ingredient. Some even replace flour altogether with ground walnuts. We make walnut cakes, walnut filled breads, chocolate-covered walnut balls and other deserts with this basic ingredient.

Walnut Chocolate Cake

Walnut-cake with chocolate glaze and raspberry topping    The cake base uses ground walnuts instead of flour.
Walnut-cake with chocolate glaze and raspberry topping The cake base uses ground walnuts instead of flour. | Source

Ingredients

  • 7 eggs
  • 140 g confectioners sugar
  • 100 g ground walnuts
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 30 g cocoa
Grind the walnuts; this is approximately enough for the cake
Grind the walnuts; this is approximately enough for the cake

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Prepare baking pan: butter it and sprinkle with flour, unless you are using a non-stick pan
  3. Grind the walnuts. You can use a manual walnut grinder specifically designed for this purpose, or a coffee grinder. When using a coffee grinder, I prefer it it at coarse setting, or it will stick together. You can still use it anyway, it's more of a preference.
  4. Mix flour with baking powder. Set aside.
  5. Separate the eggs.
  6. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form.
  7. Gently fold in egg yolks, then ground walnuts, flour and cocoa.
  8. Pour in cake pan.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Do not open the oven for the first 30 minutes.
  10. Prepare the chocolate glaze: Mix 2 tbsp cocoa with 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp water. Cook over low setting until smooth and thick. Take it off the burner and add 2 tbsp (one stick) of butter. Mix until the butter melts.
  11. When the cake is cool, pour the glaze over it.
  12. Top it with raspberries, if desired.
  13. Serve and enjoy
Beat egg whites until soft peaks form
Beat egg whites until soft peaks form
Fold in ground walnuts and flour
Fold in ground walnuts and flour
Fold in cocoa
Fold in cocoa

Cook Time

Prep time: 45 min
Cook time: 35 min
Ready in: 1 hour 20 min
Yields: Serves about 12 people
Cast your vote for Walnut Chocolate Cake

Variations of the cake

A variation of the above cake for those who don't really need the chocolate, is to simply bake the cake without adding the cocoa, and instead of the chocolate glaze, top with a lemon glaze:

Mix 30 dkg sugar with the zest of 1/2 lemon and 2 tbsp water. Mix it for about 15 minutes, until the sugar dissolves and has a consistency that makes it possible to pour it on the cake (but make sure it's not too watery).

After pouring either the chocolate or the lemon glaze over the cake, you can sprinkle it with more ground walnuts.

For a healthier version, substitute butter with coconut oil. You need to use 1/3 less coconut oil than butter.


Other Ways with Walnuts

This is just one recipe that uses walnuts as a substitute for flour. I have used the traditional Hungarian recipe here and presented a few variations.

Of course, nothing beats just snacking on walnuts. I always have them handy when we travel, it is a fast and easy snack for adults and kids alike. it comes in handy on trails, when we hike, or even plane rides when the food they serve isn't quite enough or the kids want something else.

  • Homemade trail mix: I just fill a snack size zip lock bag with a combination of walnuts, almonds and dried cranberries. Sometimes instead of cranberries or in addition to it, I add raisins, coconut, dried mangoes, dried blueberries, or whatever I have in the house.
  • Homemade walnut-based granola bars: I haven't quite written down a recipe for this, so use your own judgement. Ingredients: ground, or chopped walnuts, oats, honey (or agave sweetener), dried cranberries. Mix them until they all stick together. Fill a shallow pan with the mix, and bake on very low setting until slightly browned. Cut into pieces and enjoy.

No matter how you eat them, you can't go wrong with walnuts.



Health Benefits
Nutrients
lowers cholesterol
Vitamin E - gamma tocopherol; unsaturated fat, incl. linoleic and alpha-linoleic acids
lowers high blood pressure
Vitamin E - gamma tocopherol; unsaturated fat, incl. linoleic and alpha-linoleic acids
reduces the risk of heart disease
unsaturated fat, including linoleic and alpha-linoleic fatty acids
reduces the risk of cancer
ellagic acid
improves memory function
choline
 
zinc
 
iron
 
selenium

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    • Emese Fromm profile image
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      Emese Fromm 2 years ago from The Desert

      @ Taranwanderer: Putting nuts in your breakfast yoghurt is a great idea! I have to try it myself. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

    • Taranwanderer profile image

      Taranwanderer 2 years ago

      I am a big fan of walnuts, almonds and pecans. I include a variety of these in my Fage Greek yogurt plain cup on most mornings to start the day. The walnuts seem to make my skin glow, I've noticed.

    • Emese Fromm profile image
      Author

      Emese Fromm 3 years ago from The Desert

      Hi Bill, glad to be of help. A few years ago my husband had really high cholesterol and he was prescribed medications for it. Reading the possible side effects I asked him to just let me get him on a diet instead. So he just followed my directions until his scheduled follow-up. When he went back, the dr. assumed he was taking the medications since his cholesterol got back to normal. Walnuts were a good part of this diet, I learned it all from my mom, who is a dietician.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very interesting. My wife was just told her cholesterol is too high,and the first suggestion by the doctor was to eat more walnuts. I'll pass this on to her. Thank you!

    • Emese Fromm profile image
      Author

      Emese Fromm 3 years ago from The Desert

      Thank you for stopping by, Anmelia. I'm glad you found my hub helpful.

    • easylearningweb profile image

      Amelia Griggs 3 years ago

      Helpful hub! I love walnuts but didn't realize you can use as a replacement for flour. Thanks for the info and recipe.

    • Emese Fromm profile image
      Author

      Emese Fromm 3 years ago from The Desert

      Thank you!

    • Daddy Paul profile image

      Daddy Paul 3 years ago from Michigan

      Nice read!

    • Emese Fromm profile image
      Author

      Emese Fromm 3 years ago from The Desert

      Thank you so much melissae1963. I appreciate your support.

    • melissae1963 profile image

      Melissa Reese Etheridge 3 years ago from Tennessee, United States

      This is a fantastic HUB. it is a great topic and well developed. Voted up and useful.

    • Emese Fromm profile image
      Author

      Emese Fromm 3 years ago from The Desert

      Tina, thank you for stopping by and commenting. I'm glad you liked my article.

    • Emese Fromm profile image
      Author

      Emese Fromm 3 years ago from The Desert

      Susan, thank you for stopping by. I eat all sort of nuts, too, but walnuts are my favorite. They are all a healthy snack any time, anywhere. Thank you for your comment.

    • Emese Fromm profile image
      Author

      Emese Fromm 3 years ago from The Desert

      aesta1, thank you for stopping by and commenting. As with everything, I'm sure you can have too much of it, but I think the limit is pretty high, so it's not really a concern for most people, even the walnut lovers.

    • Emese Fromm profile image
      Author

      Emese Fromm 3 years ago from The Desert

      Kristen, thank you for your vote and for your comment. I'm looking forward on your hub series on superfoods.

    • Tina Asalina profile image

      Asalina 3 years ago from Alabama

      I have always enjoyed nuts but, I think walnuts will be my new love. Thanks for the insight.

    • Susan Hambidge profile image

      Susan Hambidge 3 years ago from Hertfordshire, England

      I love nuts too and have them as a snack most days, but I don't usually have walnuts. I'm going to give them a go now - thank you for bringing them to my attention.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub on walnuts. I love walnuts, too. That cake looks delicious, though I'm not a baker. Real informative on walnuts. (I'll be doing a superfood hub series this spring.) Voted up.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is a wonderful hub. I like your story of the walnut in your home. You know, I have never put walnuts on pasta so this is a new learning for me. We do put some in our morning porridge. I wonder if you can have too much of it.

    • Emese Fromm profile image
      Author

      Emese Fromm 3 years ago from The Desert

      Karine, thank you for your comment. Also thank you for telling me about soy, I need to look into it myself. It generally has been considered one of the super foods, as far as I knew, but my information might be outdated. What you say makes sense though, thank you for letting me know. I will edit my sub as well to change that fact.

    • Karine Gordineer profile image

      Karine Gordineer 3 years ago from Upstate New York

      Interesting Hub. Never thought of putting walnuts on pasta. I would disagree with you regarding soy being a superfood though as there is quite a bit of evidence that it's not good for many people as it is a phytoestrogenic - of which there are many - some of which are good and some of which not so good. Soy falls into the "not so good" category and also many people have allergies to soy, many of whom do not realize it. Soy is used in many processed foods as cheap filler as well.

    • Emese Fromm profile image
      Author

      Emese Fromm 3 years ago from The Desert

      Blackdpaniel1, pecans are probably just as good. I love all nuts (well, maybe not peanuts). I've never had pecans until recently, but they became one of my favorites. Walnut shells are not hard at all, I can break them with my bare hands (there is a trick to it and you need two), and I can't even open a jar. Looks are deceiving. Thank you for your comment, and for the follow. I appreciate you stopping by.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 3 years ago

      I grew up with pecans. I always have been intimidated by the strong walnut shells.

    • Emese Fromm profile image
      Author

      Emese Fromm 3 years ago from The Desert

      Thank you for your vote and your comment, Alphadogg16. I'm glad you found the article useful.

    • Alphadogg16 profile image

      Kevin W 3 years ago from Texas

      A very informative article on the benefits of walnuts Emese Fromm. Voted up on your hub.

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