At the same time I was realising that walnuts are amazing I moved into a house that had a walnut tree dominating the back garden!
To be honest I wasn’t that excited by walnuts in my youth. You only got them at Christmas and had to use the inherited nutcrackers to remove their uninteresting shell (surely they don’t even sell nut crackers anymore?) It was hardly ever a clean break and subsequent squeezes of the novelty crackers just meant you got tiny bits of nut on your lap with tiny bits of shell. However, on the rare occasion someone ‘nailed it’ you did all marvel at the brain-shaped object they raised aloft in triumph.
Anyway, fast forward 30 years and nowadays the mini-brains are in packets in every supermarket and health food store in town: no more shells and no more nutcrackers. You can buy walnut ‘pieces’, walnuts mixed with dried fruit as a ‘grab n go’ snack and, of course, coffee and walnut cakes!
So why am I fascinated by walnuts now? Well, it’s not just because the Walnut tree is the most beautiful tree in my garden but because they are so darn good for you.
About 4 years ago I started researching the nutritional needs of the elderly. After my father lost his appetite in old age I discovered it wasn’t just him…..that a decline in appetite is a very common thing. I learned that the elderly were more at risk of malnutrition than any other age group. So, I started looking into what nutrients are most important, why and where I could find them.
Here’s what I found:
Heart Disease, Dementia and Omega 3
Walnuts are the only tree nuts that are an excellent source of ALA – the plant-based omega 3 essential fatty acid. ALA is thought to decrease the risk of heart disease by helping to maintain normal heart rhythm and pumping. Some research is beginning to show that omega 3s may help protect against dementia – particularly Alzheimers Disease and have a positive effect on gradual memory loss associated with ageing. There have also been some studies that show these fatty acids are also helping with depression.
Inflammation, Cholesterol and Antioxidants
Walnuts have a higher amount of antioxidant activity than any other common nut. This comes from melatonin (which in itself is important for sleep and body clock regulation), vitamin E (great for skin and healing) and polyphenols.
Inflammation is a contributory factor in many diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimers Disease and cancer. This can be caused by oxidative stress or damage. The polyphenols in antioxidants can help fight oxidative damage in the body, including damage due to ‘bad cholesterol.
Other amazing nutrients found in the humble walnut are:
This mineral is another element that promotes heart health. It also helps maintain bone, nerve and immune system function.
Great for your immune system and nerve health. Also important for helping prevent anaemia and depression.
Folate B9 (Folic Acid)
This isn’t just for when you are pregnant! It helps make healthy red blood cells. Folate deficiency can cause muscle weakness, tiredness, pins and needles, depression and confusion, sore tongue and mouth ulcers and weakened vision.
Our bodies are about 1% phosphorus. It helps maintain kidney function and keeps bones healthy. It also is essential to heal wounds and repair damaged tissues.
Manganese has many roles in the body. It helps with bone health, it is part of an antioxidant enzyme and helps reduce inflammation and associated pain.
Vitamin E helps maintain healthy skin and eyes. Some research shows that it might help slow the progression of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s Disease.
So, all in all, walnuts really are wonderful. In fact, they are so great that we packed as many as we could into all our Grandbars, not just the coffee and walnut ones!
I also suggest you might want to plant a walnut. The trees are utterly beautiful and there just aren’t enough around.
If you would like to find out more about the ingredients in our bars check out the nutritional guides section on the website.