Nuts About Walnuts
Walnuts are the fruit of the walnut tree, which grows in temperate areas throughout the world. Walnut remnants were found in France over 8,000 years ago. They made their way from Europe to the U.S. by English merchant ships. Today, the main producers of walnuts are China, the U.S., Turkey, Romania, Iran and France.
The three main types of walnuts are white (AKA butternut), black and English (AKA Persian). English walnuts are the most widely available, they are found year-round, with California growing 99% of them.
Black walnuts have an extremely tough outer shell, making them very difficult to crack. They have a strong bitter flavor, and can go rancid pretty quickly due to their high fat content. White walnuts have a rich and oily center and are typically used for baked goods and candies. They also have a high fat content and go rancid quickly.
One ounce (14 halves) of English walnuts contains 185 calories, 18 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 2 grams fiber and 4 grams protein. Walnuts are packed with copper, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus. One serving of walnuts has 2,565 milligrams of omega-3 fats. Walnuts are also high in an antioxidant compound called ellagitannins, which has been shown to help fight cancer.
Some studies show that walnuts can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and can help improve insulin resistance in type-2 diabetics. Walnuts also contain the antioxidant melatonin, which helps you get a restful sleep.
Add walnuts to your favorite baked goods like muffins, pancakes, banana bread, chocolate chip cookies or brownies. Sprinkle toasted walnuts over salads, oatmeal or yogurt. To toast, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and place shelled walnuts on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Shopping and Storage Tips: Choose in-shell walnuts that are plump and crisp. Avoid those with cracks, holes or those that are shriveled. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months, refrigerate in a tightly covered container for up to 6 months, or freeze for up to 1 year. Shelled walnuts should not be rubbery, limp or smell rancid. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or freeze for up to 6 months.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »