Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Posts Tagged ‘omega 3’

Chocolate Chip Cookie Look-Alikes

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on May 31, 2009

I love teaching plant-based cooking classes. What gives me so much pleasure is seeing the surprised looks and hearing the delightful expressions that come from students who are amazed that plant-based foods that spotlight nuts actually taste pretty darned good and are crammed full nutritious natural ingredients. The menu for a recent cooking class featured these very nutty bean patties made from black beans, pine nuts, and walnuts. The students loved them so much, they made both platters of patties disappear.
While walnuts and pine nuts are quite different in nature, they do have some beneficial health attributes in common. Both contain significant levels of arginine to encourage good blood flow, phytosterols to regulate the absorption of cholesterol, and antioxidants that protect our cells from oxidation. They excel in healthful mono and polyunsaturated fats. Both nuts contain plenty of protein, fiber, B vitamins, especially folate, and vitamin E.
Focusing on their uniqueness, walnuts score very high in the all-important omega-3 fatty acids with 9.08g for 3.5 ounces that help to reduce inflammation in the arteries. Pine nuts contain no omega-3 fatty acids, but they do have a whopping 1324 mg of copper for 3.5 ounces to help protect the bones. Walnuts contain 2.94 mg of Vitamin E, but pine nuts stand out with their 9.33 mg of Vitamin E for 3.5 ounces. Walnuts deliver 104 mg of calcium, while pine nuts contain only 16 mg. Clearly, each nut, has individual strengths in particular nutrients, driving the point that no single nut stands out as superior. Variety works best.


While these nutty bean patties deliver a rich savory flavor, they look surprisingly like chocolate cookies dotted with chocolate chips. Enjoy these with fresh salsa on top or tuck them into a whole-wheat pita with lots of trimmings like chopped tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and shredded lettuce. You can also enhance them with your favorite barbecue sauce.

This is one of the delicious recipes from my cookbook, The Nut Gourmet: Nourishing Nuts for Every Occasion.

beanpatties copy

Yield: 9 to 10 patties (3-inch diameter)

1/4 cup raw pine nuts
1/4 cup raw coarsely chopped walnuts

1 small onion, coarsely chopped

2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained*

1/2 cup oat bran or wheat germ
2 to 3 tablespoons water, as needed
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly oil a large baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
2. Combine the pine nuts and walnuts in the food processor and process until they are finely ground. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
3. Put the onion into the food processor and chop until it is minced. Transfer to the bowl with the nut meal.
4. Measure 1/2 cup of the black beans and add them to the bowl with the nut meal. Put the remainder of the beans into the processor. Add the oat bran, water, salt, cumin, coriander, chili powder, garlic powder, and pepper and process until well blended. Spoon the mixture into the nut meal and mix well.
5. Drop the mixture from a large spoon onto the prepared baking sheet to form nine or ten 3-inch patties. Flatten the patties slightly so they will bake evenly. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Turn the patties over with a metal spatula and bake 10 to 12 minutes longer.

Note: If you prefer to use canned beans rather than cooking beans from scratch, 1 1/2 (15-ounce) cans will give you the 2 cups of beans needed for this recipe. Rinse and drain the beans before using.

Posted in Antioxidants in Nuts, Bean Recipes, Minerals in Nuts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nuts and Health, pine nuts, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on March 6, 2009

Macadamia nuts are frequently treated as outcasts, shunned because they’re charged with being TOO HIGH IN FAT. Even the FDA refused to include them on the list of nuts they considered acceptable for health claims. Do macadamias need to prove their innocent goodness with a trial?

Fear and uncertainty have caused people to hesitate before reaching for a handful of delicious, creamy macadamia nuts. But should we really hesitate to put trust in one of nature’s wondrous foods? Convincing scientific trials claim multiple health benefits from munching on a handful of macadamias a day. No trial is actually needed, but a nod from scientific studies can often clear up confusing information and reassure us about a food’s health benefits.

Several studies since 2000 have proven that macadamia nuts CAN be included in a heart healthy diet. Macadamia, like all plant foods, have no cholesterol, but they do contain 75% total fat, 80% of which is monounsaturated. This high level of fat would naturally be a concern to anyone trying to avoid excess fat in his or her diet. But these nuts possess amazing properties that actually lower cholesterol in spite of their high fat levels.
Their high fat level also scares people who want to watch their weight or have a few pounds to lose. Several study authors expressed the same concern but found their study subjects actually lost a few pounds or stabilized their weight in macadamia trials.

Macadamias Lower Cholesterol

In a study in the April 14, 2008 issue of Science Daily, lead researcher Dr. Amy E. Griel of Penn State conducted a five-week cholesterol-lowering trial on male and female subjects with mildly elevated cholesterol by comparing the standard American diet with a diet substituting 1.5 ounces of macadamias for some of the fat and protein. Researchers matched the diets for fat content and reported the macadamia diet significantly lowered total cholesterol by 9.4 percent and LDL cholesterol by 8.9 percent compared with the standard American diet. The results were defining and the researchers stated that including macadamias in the diet lowered overall cardiovascular disease risk.

Because macadamia orchards are cultivated in diverse locations, the macadamia nut became a natural study subject in those regions. The University of Hawaii conducted a macadamia study in 2001 and reported similar success showing their participants consuming the macadamias decreased their total and LDL cholesterol when compared with those in the control group who followed the American Heart Association Step 1 Diet.

Macadamia nuts were the subject of a recent study conducted at the University of Newcastle in Australia and reported in the journal Lipids in 2007. The four-week study of 17 male participants with elevated cholesterol included 40 to 90 grams a day of macadamias. Researchers were looking specifically at blood markers for inflammation, coagulation, and arterial oxidation. The study authors found significantly lower blood markers of inflammation and oxidation. At the conclusion, the researchers suggested that regular consumption of macadamia nuts may play a role in reducing the biomarkers of oxidative stress, thrombosis, and inflammation, the typical risk factors for coronary artery disease.

Reduce Coronary Artery Risk

While the macadamia’s rich fats proved successful in reducing coronary artery risk, researchers felt there may be other bioactive factors aside from the monounsaturated fatty acids that were imparting impressive health benefits. Examining more closely, they found the monounsaturated fats contain oleic acid, known as Omega 9, a beneficial fat found in other foods like avocados, almonds, and olive oil. Oleic acid is a naturally heart protective fat that helps to maintain the function and flexibility of the cell structure.
Findings at a 2002 macadamia conference in Australia show that the nuts contain plant sterols, which are natural plant fats found in fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds and play a role in lowering elevated blood cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease.

Macadamias also contain palmitoleic acid, which makes up almost one-third of the content of monounsaturated fat. According to cardiologist Dr. Ross Walker at Walker Health Resources in Australia, “The palmitoleic acid in macadamias works to stabilize, the rhythm in the heart. Omega 3 fatty acids and the palmitoleic acid in macadamias settles the heart down.” He also believes that if you are prone to heart disease or to irregular heartbeats, you would benefit from a daily dose of 10 to 15 macadamias and reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death.

Health Claims for Nuts

In July 2003, the FDA issued the following health claim statement: “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, peanuts, some pine nuts, and walnuts) as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

The FDA’s list of approved nuts for this health claim does not presently include macadamias because they exceed the limit of 4 grams of saturated fat per 50 grams of nuts. Macadamias contain 6 grams of saturated fat for the 50 grams, but researchers studying macadamias suggested they should be included considering their significant health benefits.

Over the years several studies agree that macadamia nuts are effective in the prevention of coronary artery disease and stressed they should be included in the daily diet by substituting them for other saturated-fat-containing foods. Aside from their multiple heart-health advantages, macadamias are just plain good eating and are an excellent source of high protein, high fiber, and healthful plant fats that make them a nutritious food. Enjoy macadamia nuts and reap the benefits.

Posted in Antioxidants in Nuts, Macadamias, Nut Nutrition, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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.


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.

Posted in Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nuts and Health, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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