I would like to dedicate the next 7 days of discussion and recipes to one of the best all-around nuts in the Paleo world: The Walnut. For those of you who haven’t tested the “walnut cooking” waters, shame on you! ( I’m not really scolding you. I just have a flair for the dramatic.) But, don’t worry. That will all change soon. In my opinion, walnuts are one of the most versatile nuts out there ( next to almonds). You can eat them whole, use them as a garnish, add them to salad dressings, some baking, pan frying ( not on high heat) and do all other sorts of wonderful things with them and their oils. Here is a few factoids about our buddy, Mr. Walnut, that you may not know:
- Walnuts are the oldest known tree food — they date back to 10,000 BC!
- There are around 50 species of Walnuts in existence: Most notable are the English Walnut ( aka Persian Walnut) and Black Walnut
- In the 1700’s, Franciscan monks brought the English Walnut to America- namely California, where over 98% of U.S walnut trees are still grown today.
- Walnuts have always been considered important for their medicinal properties, including curing bad breath, reducing inflammation, and healing wounds.
- Walnuts are also very rich in natural oils. Because of this, their oils are frequently used in cooking and baking ( even though walnut oil has traditionally been a more expensive oil to purchase).
- Used as an excellent substitute for olive oil dipping
So, why should we Paleo-ers give a flying hoot about the Walnut? Well, besides all of these FASCINATING facts I have just relayed to you, the Walnut also happens to be what I consider a “Paleo Super Fat”. The Walnut is a healthy monounsaturated fat that delivers the most omega-3 fatty acids ( also having the best Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio) out of any other tree nut. They are rich in phytonutrients and are an excellent source of selenium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium. Furthermore, walnut oil is also a great source of omega-9, which helps artery health and contains the antioxidant ellagic acid, which supports the immune system and is known as a cancer-fighter. At 185 calories, 18 grams of fat, and 2 grams of fiber per serving ( 1 oz), the walnut packs a pretty big nutrient-dense punch. Oh, and did I mention that they are delicious? POW! POW!
There are a few things to keep in mind when cooking with / storing walnut oil. Since walnut oil is a very light and delicate oil, it is susceptible to becoming oxidized when cooked under high heat. Do not use in cooking where conditions exceed 400 degrees. Also, walnut oil can easily become rancid if not stored properly. To prevent your walnut oil from becoming rancid, store in a cool, dark place in a container that does not allow light through or air. Once a container of walnut oil is opened, it is important to store in your refrigerator. If stored properly, walnut oil can have a shelf life of over a year.
If you would like more information about the health benefits of walnuts, please check out Mark Sisson’s article on Walnut Oil by clicking here.