Walnuts are among the most popular and widely consumed dried nut oilseeds, right after almonds, cashews, and pistachios. They’re exceptionally healthy and feature a rich nutrient profile, making them an important element in a balanced diet. However, very little is known about walnut oil and how it benefits the body. In this article, we’ll explore the properties and health benefits of walnut and walnut oil.
Walnuts and their Nutritional Properties
The common walnut tree, known as Juglans regia, has been growing in the Himalayan region for a long time. According to some, the common walnut originated in India, while some say its origins can be traced to Southeast Europe and China.
In India, the common walnut is known as ‘English Walnut’. These walnuts are also grown in the countries surrounding the Caspian Sea, which is why they’re also often called Persian Walnuts. The other two major species of walnuts are the Black Walnuts (Juglans nigra) and White Walnuts (Juglans cinerea) – both native to North America.
English walnuts contain 4% moisture, 15% protein, 64% fats, and 16% carbohydrates, while Black walnuts contain 3% moisture, 21% protein, 59% fats, and 15% carbohydrates. In general, walnuts are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and contain good amounts of manganese, copper, and tryptophan.
About 90% of the phenols in walnuts are in the thin brown skin. The flavonoids in them will greatly enhance the antioxidant properties. Therefore, it is preferred to eat walnuts with their skin. However, it is recommended to soak walnuts in water and eat when fully soaked. By soaking it in water, the protein molecules absorb water and become denaturised to an extent, making it easier to digest.
Health Benefits of Walnuts
Walnuts are a rich source of gamma-tocopherol, a form of Vitamin E. This chemical contributes significantly to maintaining heart health, reducing inflammation that leads to heart disease, and protecting against the risk of a heart attack. When you add walnuts to your diet, the fibres, potassium, calcium, copper, and magnesium present in them offer various health benefits and help prevent rheumatism. Walnuts also help maintain the elasticity of blood vessels, reduce the occurrence of blood clots, and are healthy for the brain.
Today, metabolic syndromes have become quite prevalent, leading to problems like high blood pressure, weight gain, low cholesterol, high sugar, and excess body fat around the waist. Recent research shows that keeping walnuts in your diet can reduce these symptoms.
The omega-3 fatty acids present in walnuts also act as antioxidants and counter free radicals in the body. This helps prevent high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and premature aging.
Since walnuts are low in their carbohydrate content, blood sugar levels do not rise quickly if they are consumed. This also makes them suitable for diabetics. The antioxidant properties of walnuts have also been found to prevent prostate and breast cancer.
Although walnuts offer numerous benefits, one needs to be careful when consuming them. They may cause allergies, and a mere 25 grams of walnuts contain 163 calories. Therefore, it is not advisable to add walnuts to your daily diet without proper medical and nutritional advice.
Walnut Oil and its Benefits
Walnut oil features a rich, delicate, nutty flavour with a beautiful brown colour. Walnut oil is extracted from whole walnuts, which are completely dried, crushed, pasted, roasted, and then oiled. Containing many of the nutrients found in walnuts, it can be a great addition to your kitchen.
Walnuts oil is composed of 72% polyunsaturated fatty acids. These are known to help reduce the level of LDL, or bad cholesterol, in your body and bring down the risk of heart disease.
Walnut oil also contains minerals like selenium, melatonin, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, and calcium, which help stabilize hormone levels in the body. Vitamin B and Vitamin E present in walnut oil also make it good for your skin. It improves skin texture and reduces wrinkles, premature aging, eczema, and psoriasis.
Walnut oil also contains a type of acid called ellagic acid, which is a source of antioxidants and can help prevent certain types of cancers and malignant tumours. It has also been found that walnut oil is good for maintaining proper blood circulation, keeping blood vessels flexible, preventing heart disease, and warding off the effects of rheumatism.
How to Store and Consume Walnuts and Walnut Oil
It’s important to store walnuts the correct way. Both walnut and walnut oil should be stored in an airtight container in a cool and dry place. They should be kept away from heat and sunlight as they can turn rancid and start to taste bitter. You can store walnuts in the refrigerator for up to 3 months or the freezer for up to a year. However, since walnuts easily absorb odours, it’s a good idea to keep them away from strong-smelling food items.
Walnuts can be eaten directly as a snack or used as a topping on yogurt, stir-fries, veggie dishes, salads, or ice cream. Walnut oil has a low smoking point and is not ideal for cooking in high heat. You can use walnut oil for simple stir-frying or as a dressing to salads and other dishes.
Walnuts have a rich nutrient profile, and walnuts and walnut oil can both be easily incorporated into your diet. It’s highly recommended to use cold-pressed walnut oil as it retains the various nutrients, antioxidant properties, and health benefits present in walnuts, which would otherwise be lost in processing.