Article: Walnuts For a Healthy Holiday Season

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We need to be thinking about holiday gifts already, so why not pour some local, super nutritious walnuts into mason jars with a list of some of your favorite ways to enjoy them? This easy gift idea is one that you can feel good about giving, as great health is truly priceless!

Walnuts are a treat to give and receive!

Walnuts are a treat to give and receive!

Shop Smart
Since walnuts can be kept in an air tight container in the fridge for 6 months or the freezer for up to a year, it is easy to support our local growers! One of my favorite farm stands is Verdura Frescha, on Turner Road, just east of Davis Road. Jan and Richard Hust have been busy growing an array of wonderful produce all summer, and how have a fresh crop of walnuts (only $4 per pound!) and pumpkins. Our wonderful “Pomegranate Lady” at the corner of Harney and Lower Sacramento Road is also open for business, selling walnuts that she has grown for $4 per pound, along with her pomegranates, persimmons, almonds and local honey!

Cook Smart
Sprinkle a small handful of walnuts into your oatmeal (try my recipe for pumpkin oatmeal), or cold cereal, whole grain side dish (quinoa, whole wheat couscous, brown rice), lightly steamed dark green leafy veggies, your favorite green salad, in a twist on traditional pesto, or for a sweet ending, serve walnuts with dried figs. Add roughly chopped walnuts to pancake/waffle/muffin mix, or use your food processor to finely chop them so they will “disappear” in the batter. Since the essential fats in walnuts are susceptible to heat, don’t forget to keep walnuts cold, either in a jar in the fridge, or double bagged in the freezer (for the longest life). To maximize walnut nutrition, incorporate them raw or roast at a low temperature (~170F for 15-20 minutes) and be sure to leave the skins on (packed with powerful anti-oxidants and phytonutrients).

Eat Smart
While all nuts provide an array of healthful nutrients, walnuts are one of the best performers and are simply amazing! They boast a huge dose of unique anti-oxidants, an important form of Vitamin E, several minerals (copper, calcium, potassium and manganese) and healthful fats, both monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids to help our cells stay healthy, reduce inflammation, achieve and maintain favorable blood cholesterol levels, reduce heart disease risk, and may even prevent cancer (specifically breast and prostate). When combined with other nutrient rich foods like brightly colored fruits and veggies (think cantaloupe, papaya, squash, carrots, red bell pepper, broccoli, spinach, kale, and other leafy green veggies), the fat in walnuts improve our body’s ability to absorb all of the fat-soluble vitamins in your meal. We need not be afraid of fat. So long that we don’t exceed our calorie needs, incorporating 1-1.5 oz of nuts daily (14-21 walnut halves) can be a smart move!

Timaree Hagenburger, is a registered dietitian and certified health fitness specialist with a master’s degree in public health. She is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, does corporate wellness work, as well as professional speaking engagements and teaches hands-on cooking/nutrition classes.

View this article as published in the Lodi News Sentinel.

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