By Anne Palumbo
Eat more walnuts and you just may live longer.
That’s the message from a recent study at Harvard that explored the link between walnut consumption and longevity.
According to Yanping Li, senior research scientist at Harvard, “What we’ve learned from this study is that even a few handfuls of walnuts per week may help promote longevity, especially among those whose diet quality isn’t great to begin with.”
There are several reasons why walnuts promote longer lives.
First of all, walnuts do a heart good — in more ways than one.
Along with “good” fats that may lower your LDL or “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels, walnuts contain more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than any other nut. These fatty acids, together with a walnut’s special form of vitamin E, may help prevent the buildup of plague in arteries, as well as lower blood pressure.
Despite being high in calories, walnuts actually support weight control. Maintaining a healthy weight, especially in later years, may also contribute to a longer life. Numerous studies show that nuts are not associated with weight gain and, in fact, may contribute to weight loss because they are so satiating. “When people eat nuts, they tend to compensate by eating less during others times of the day and offsetting a good portion of the energy,” says Richard D. Mattes, professor of nutrition science at Purdue University.
Another way walnuts champion longevity? They’re loaded with polyphenols, plant-based compounds that may reduce the risk of certain cancers (breast, prostate and colorectal) by quelling inflammation and by blocking hormone receptors in the body. Results of a recent study, conducted at Marshall University, showed that eating two ounces of walnuts a day for about two weeks slowed breast cancer growth or reduced the risk of developing the disease. While more studies are needed to confirm walnuts’ affect on cancer, the data so far is promising.
A handful of walnuts (about ¼ cup) has 190 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 4.5 grams of protein and 18 grams of (mostly) good fats. Low in cholesterol and sodium, walnuts are rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals, especially copper and manganese.
Walnut Mexican Tacos with Corn
Adapted from walnuts.org
1½ tablespoons hot sauce of choice (I used Sriracha)
½ cup low-fat sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
salt & pepper to taste
Walnut Taco Meat
2-3 cloves garlic
1½ cups toasted chopped walnuts*
3 cups roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1½ teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1½ tablespoons low-sodium
1½ tablespoons fresh lime juice
1½ tablespoons olive oil,
12 mini or 6 (6”) flour or
1 cup corn, drained or fresh cooked
1 cup crumbled cheese,
cotija or goat
½ cup fresh cilantro
Stir together hot sauce ingredients. Refrigerate until serving.
Mince garlic in large food processor, then add the roughly chopped mushrooms and gently pulse a few times until mushrooms are evenly chopped to the size of a popcorn kernel. Scrape contents into medium bowl.
Place walnuts in processor and pulse in a similar fashion to mushrooms. Add walnuts to mushroom mixture, along with spices, soy sauce and lime juice, and gently combine.
Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a non-stick skillet. Add walnut mixture and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring until it releases some liquid and begins to turn dry and browned. Stop whenever the crumble texture suits you. Adjust seasonings.
Spoon walnut taco meat over tortillas; top with corn, cheese, hot sauce, cilantro and lime wedges.
*Note: Toast raw walnuts in a 350 F oven for 8 minutes; let cool.
Anne Palumbo is a lifestyle columnist, food guru, and seasoned cook, who has perfected the art of preparing nutritious, calorie-conscious dishes. She is hungry for your questions and comments about SmartBites, so be in touch with Anne at firstname.lastname@example.org.