WHY YOU NEED THEM
In addition to being loaded with protein and fiber, walnuts are a good source of the healthy fat ALPHA-LINOLEIC ACID (ALA). Several recent studies have linked a higher intake of ALA to a reduced risk of heart disease and heart attack in men. One-quarter cup of walnuts provides all the ALA you need in a day.
A happy heart means a happy skeleton too: The ALA in walnuts helps strengthen your bones.
Walnuts supply the body with a hefty shot of the amino acid L-ARGININE. It's converted to nitric oxide, a compound that causes blood vessels to dilate, improving the blood flow to all your muscles.
Walnuts can also help you fight off disease. Nearly all the VITAMIN E they contain is the gammatocopherol kind, which has been shown to help protect prostate cells from cancer.
Eating about an ounce of walnuts will counteract a meal rich in SATURATED FAT, keeping arteries flexible and tamping down inflammation.
In addition to all that, walnuts supply the body with MANGANESE and COPPER, minerals essential for destroying the free radicals that cause cell breakdown and premature aging.
HOW TO GET MORE
Eat them for breakfast. Instead of cereal, mix a handful of crushed walnuts and honey with plain low-fat yogurt.
Sneak them into side dishes. Sprinkle chopped walnuts on cereal, low-fat ice cream, sauteed vegetables, and salads. Or stir them into cooked rice, whole-grain couscous, or chicken salad.
Add them to a smoothie. Blend one medium ripe frozen banana, 1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt, and 1/4 cup walnuts in a blender or food processor until smooth.
Munch on them while watching TV. Snack on walnuts instead of chips and cookies. Combine them with whole-grain cereal and dried fruit for a healthy trail mix.
Dip them. Dump 1 cup chopped walnuts, 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 2 cloves peeled garlic, and 2 tbsp canola oil in a blender or food processor, and chop until smooth. Use it in place of fatty cream-based dips.
Buy walnuts with intact shells that feel heavy for their size. Or, if you prefer, opt for chopped walnuts in prepackaged containers rather than bulk bags. Store walnuts in a cool, dark, dry place for up to six months. To intensify flavor, roast shelled walnuts on a baking sheet at 170 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes; store cooked nuts in airtight containers for up to two days.