Blog post Written by Holly Ellison, RD, LD, Riverfront Hy-Vee Dietitian
When it comes to heart health, it might surprise you that eating a calorie-dense, high-fat snack (we’re looking at you, walnuts) is a good choice for cardiovascular health. But it’s true. Here’s a few reasons you should consider reaching for a small handful of walnuts.
- Walnuts are the only nuts that contain significant amounts of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Your body uses this type of fat for energy, and to a limited degree, it can convert ALA into EPA and DHA—the essential omega-3s you get from certain fatty fish.
- Researchers at Yale University recently found that participants in a study who ate two ounces of walnuts every day for six months had significant reductions in LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- In addition to lowering cholesterol, studies show that walnuts may also help decrease blood pressure.
- Walnuts contain powerful antioxidants and polyphenols that may help prevent cancer as well as memory loss and cognitive decline.
- A ¼ cup serving of walnuts also gives you 2 grams of fiber, a nutrient that can help lower cholesterol and help you feel full. Americans eating a 2,000-calorie diet should aim for 28 grams of fiber daily.
Plus, they’re delicious. In baked goods, on cereals, mixed into breading for fish or chicken, pureed into dips or spreads—there’s no shortage of ways to use walnuts. But because they’re high in calories, it’s important to adjust your diet accordingly. For reference, a ¼-cup serving has about 190 calories.
You can also get similar benefits from using walnut oil (which has about 120 calories in 1 tablespoon). However, because walnut oil can taste bitter if heated, it’s best to use it as a dipping oil for bread or to lightly dress salads and vegetables.
Ready to incorporate walnuts into your diet? Here are two fun recipes that your entire family will enjoy.
Basil-Spinach Pesto with Walnuts
Recipe courtesy of Hy-Vee.com
Makes 16 servings
Pesto is a flavorful combination of fresh basil, nuts, garlic, and Parmesan. Use it to add a taste of Italy to sandwiches, pizzas, sauces, pastas, and even eggs.
⅓ c. Hy-Vee walnuts, finely chopped
1 c. packed basil leaves (about 2 oz)
1 c. packed spinach leaves (about 2 oz)
½ c. Hy-Vee finely shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. minced garlic
½ tsp. Hy-Vee kosher sea salt
pinch red pepper flakes, optional
⅔ c. Hy-Vee Select extra-virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place walnuts on an ungreased baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes; remove and set aside to cool.
- In a food processor, combine basil, spinach, walnuts, Parmesan, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes, if desired. Cover and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add oil and process until thoroughly combined.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to one month. Thaw frozen pesto in refrigerator overnight.
Nutrition facts per serving: 110 calories, 11g fat, 2g saturated fat, 5mg cholesterol, 115mg sodium, 1g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 0g sugar, 2g protein
Chunky Monkey Overnight Oats
Walnuts are a heart-healthy addition to breakfast. Try them in this playful take on overnight oats.
2 c. Hy-Vee 2% reduced-fat milk
1 ½ Hy-Vee old fashioned oats
2 medium bananas, ripe, cut into chunks, divided
¾ c. California Walnuts, chopped, divided
5 tbsp. Hy-Vee semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
½ tsp. Hy-Vee vanilla extract
- Divide milk, oats, 1 medium banana, 1/2 cup walnuts, 3 tablespoons chocolate chips, and vanilla extract equally between 4 mason jars. Cover and shake to combine. Refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to serve, top with reserved banana slices, chocolate chips, and walnuts, if desired.
Nutrition facts per serving: 430 calories, 23g fat, 6g saturated fat, 10mg cholesterol, 60mg sodium, 51g carbohydrate, 7g fiber, 21g sugar, 12g protein
Learn more about walnuts and find recipes at Hy-Vee.com/recipes-ideas.
Written by Holly Ellison, RD, LD
Riverfront Hy-Vee Dietitian
Holly Ellison, RD, LD, is a Hy-Vee Registered Dietitian who received a Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics and exercise science from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Holly completed her dietetic internship through the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Minnesota Dietetic Association.
Holly is passionate about nutrition and exercise. She enjoys teaching others about new foods and cooking techniques and she is committed to helping individuals of all ages achieve their health and nutrition goals.
Through your Mankato Riverfront Hy-Vee, Holly offers group and individual store tours, personalized nutrition counseling, various nutrition-related classes, on- and off-site presentations as well as answering questions you may have.