Walnuts and Omega 3 Fats—Married For Life!
Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on January 19, 2009
FATS—should we embrace them or turn our backs on them? Are they good for us or do they challenge us with chronic health problems?
In spite of all the bad things we’ve heard about fats in the diet, there are some fats that are absolutely vital and indispensable to our existence. These “good” fats are protective of our health.
I want to focus on those good fats—Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids. Most people get plenty of Omega 6 fatty acids from meat, dairy products, and vegetable oils. The critical fat that’s often in short supply is Omega 3.
How often have you heard about those almost magic Omega 3’s and that we should all be eating salmon two or three times a week to get those essential fatty acids? I’ve even gotten an earful of those messages from doctors on the radio or in TV interviews. You probably have, too.
What you might not hear are other great sources of those important fatty acids. Have you ever encountered doctors on TV, radio, or in newspapers mentioning that WALNUTS are a terrific source of Omega 3 fatty acids? Probably not. It’s almost as if salmon had an exclusive contract!
Because of my strong interest in nuts for their many health benefits, I’ve learned a few things about walnuts and Omega 3 fatty acids.
Here are some tidbits you may not be familiar with. Walnuts are among the few foods that contain Omega 3 fatty acids. The other Omega 3 food sources include fatty fish like salmon, flaxseeds, flaxseed meal, soybeans, butternuts, and the oils made from these foods. Hempseed, canola oil, broccoli, and dark leafy greens are also really good sources.
So, what on earth are Omega 3 fatty acids anyway and what makes them so darned important? Omega 3 is a polyunsaturated fat that our bodies need to function healthfully. Here are some of the important tasks this fatty acid performs:
• Critical for optimal brain development and function
• Important for nervous system performance
• Vital to form healthy cell membranes
• Needed to hold the cells together and keep them flexible
• Prevention of neurological disorders
• Helpful in hormone production for many metabolic functions
Aside from their great flavor, crunchy texture, and high levels of fiber, protein, B vitamins, folate, minerals and antioxidants, walnuts are the proud possessors of Omega 3 long-chain fatty acids
Whenever I feel a craving for nuts, I can almost always predict it’s walnuts I’m yearning for. The truth is that craving doesn’t occur often because hardly a day passes at our house without some kind of nuts appearing at one meal or another to combine with Omega 3-containing foods. That’s how much of a dedicated nut case I am. But maybe the walnut craving is my body communicating that I’m a little low in those all-important Omega 3 fatty acids.
What to do? I simply keep a good supply of shelled walnuts in a jar in the fridge so I can quickly respond to my body’s call. It’s as easy as that!
But the secret to maintaining a healthy body that doesn’t constantly send out cravings is to eat a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods daily with an emphasis on plenty of fruits and vegetables and a handful or two nuts, and seeds.
As the main overseer of my family’s health, I’ve developed a storehouse of delicious easy-to-prepare nut recipes. I’d like to share a family-favorite walnut recipe from my cookbook The Nut Gourmet.
This recipe is a hearty Mediterranean dish with Greek ancestry and is pure heaven to walnut and eggplant lovers. Its exceptional flavor comes from the combination of cinnamon, tomato paste, and capers. Because the stuffed eggplant is so special, I keep the rest of the meal simple with stir-fried or steamed vegetables, bulgur wheat in place of a rice dish, and a tossed salad.
WALNUT STUFFED EGGPLANT
Yield: 4 hearty servings.
2 (1-pound) eggplants
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound tomatoes, chopped
1/4 pound cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup chopped onions
4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup raw walnuts
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
3 heaping tablespoons capers, well drained
2 to 3 small ripe tomatoes, sliced
1. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, slicing through the stem end. Using a curved, serrated grapefruit knife, scoop out the flesh, leaving a 1/4-inch shell, and coarsely chop the flesh. Put the chopped eggplant into a large, deep skillet or flat-bottom wok.
2. Rub the inside of the eggplant shells with a small amount of olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Place the eggplant shells under the broiler, and broil them 3 inches from the heat source for 5 to 10 minutes, until fork-tender. Watch carefully to prevent burning. Remove the eggplant shells from the broiler and set them aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Add the chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic, olive oil, salt, cinnamon, and pepper to the skillet with the chopped eggplant, and cook and stir for 7 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
4. Coarsely grind the walnuts in a hand-crank nut mill and add them to the skillet along with the tomato paste and capers. Mix well.
5. Fill the eggplant shells with the vegetable mixture and top with the tomato slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake uncovered for 25 to 35 minutes.