What’s So Great About Walnuts?

What’s So Great About Walnuts?

You probably know what a serving size of almonds is (about 20). You may have a bowl of almonds hanging around the kitchen, always being restocked for little hands to grab for noshing. Maybe you’ve switched to almond milk on cereal or in smoothies to avoid some of the pitfalls of dairy. And there’s a good chance if you dig around in the bottomless pit of your purse or diaper bag, you’ll find a stray almond or two. That’s because we have been told almonds are a staple of a healthy diet. They provide healthy fats and calcium and they’re a good source of protein. And it’s all true; almonds are everything they so confidently claim to be. But walnuts… you need to speak up, come out of your shell (HA!) and take your rightful place. Because it turns out walnuts are even better for us.

According to a 2011 article published by United Press International, “Walnuts may be considered the king of nuts for health benefits, with a combination of more healthful and higher quality antioxidants. Walnuts rank above peanuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios and other nuts (and) a handful of walnuts contains almost twice as many antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other commonly consumed nut.” The study in question was conducted at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania and found that it took just seven walnuts per day to reap major benefits including “decreased risk of heart disease, certain kinds of cancer, gallstones, type 2 diabetes and other health problems.” The study also found that the “antioxidants in walnuts were up to 15x more potent than vitamin E” (a pretty major antioxidant in its own right).

According to www.livestrong.com kids and teens need between 360-410mg of magnesium per day. A serving (about 14 halves) provides 45mg. Walnuts are also high in Omega 3 fatty acids which kids (especially the “discerning” ones among us who are not sold on the benefits of eating fish) tend not to get enough of. And B vitamins, so essential for the development of the brain, nerves and conversion of food into energy are also plentiful in walnuts.

Concerned about young children and nuts? We can’t blame you… it’s tricky getting a straight answer about how soon toddlers can start consuming some foods, especially nuts. The expert opinions range from 12 months up to 3 years and according to my research, “to make matters more confusing, there have been a few studies released since 2008 that indicate that waiting to introduce nuts to babies is not necessary at all. In fact, an AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) Policy Statement notes the following:

“Although solid foods should not be introduced before 4 to 6 months of age, there is no current convincing evidence that delaying their introduction beyond this period has a significant protective effect on the development of atopic disease. This includes delaying the introduction of foods that are considered to be highly allergic, such as fish, eggs, and foods containing peanut protein.”

However, if allergies to certain foods seem to run in the family, more caution is probably warranted. Best advice is to check it out with your own pediatrician and then do what you both decide together to be best. For everyone else, add walnuts to the menu stat! Try them for a grab and go snack, baked into muffins or tossed onto a yogurt and fruit parfait. For those of you who must be more “encouraging” (sneaky), grind walnuts into meal and add them to anything… soup, pasta sauce, baking, you name it. And for the truly reluctant (they like 4 foods and 4 foods only!), I wonder… does maple walnut ice cream count? It must, right? Right?

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