Walnuts: the Health-Nuts

Photo ©M-J de Mesterton 2011

The following information was captured from California Walnut Growers, circa 2007:

Walnuts and other tree nuts and peanuts were recently ranked using the Index of Nutritional Quality (INQ) nutrient testing system at the Food Consulting Company of Del Mar, California [i]. According to Karen Duester, MS, RD who conducted the test, “Not surprisingly, walnuts ranked highest among the nuts in INQ. Because INQ relates to nutrient density, we looked at specific nutrients known to be abundant in nuts and peanuts: protein, fiber, omega-3, omega-6, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.”

On another independent scale, the Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI)[ii] ranking system to be used by the Raley’s grocery chain, walnuts received 82 points on a 100 point scale, an excellent score among foods and nuts [iii]. According to David Katz, MD, MPH a nationally renowned authority on nutrition and the principal inventor for the ONQI system, “When overall nutritional quality is assessed, the verdict is clear: walnuts are a great food — they pack a lot of nutrient benefits in a nutshell!”

 

Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University and a member of the Hannaford Scientific Advisory Panel explains, “Walnuts are a whole food rich in antioxidants, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid, protein, fiber, and more. Whole walnuts receive the ‘best nutritional value’ three star ranking (the highest) due to their nutrient profile.”

 

Walnuts have nutritional qualities that are very important. One of the richest sources of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), the plant form of Omega-3, walnuts are unique among nuts and popular whole foods [v]. A one ounce serving of walnuts provides 2.57 grams of ALA, the plant form omega-3s, which is above the dietary reference intake (DRI) set by the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine. Walnuts are also one of the highest natural sources of antioxidants, according to Halvorsen’s study from American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2006 [vi].

 

15 years of clinical research on walnuts have shown benefits for the heart, and we’re not just talking about cholesterol reduction — improved vascular function and a reduction in inflammation have also been documented [vii-xii]. Looking to the future and expanding on this base of knowledge, research is underway at a variety of prestigious universities looking into cancer, diabetes and issues of ageing.
[vi] Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jul;84(1):95-135
“Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces of walnuts per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet, and not resulting in increased caloric intake may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”
[viii] Circulation. 2002 Nov 19;106(21):2747-57
[ix] Hypertension. 2007 Aug;50(2):313-9
[x] J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006 Oct 17;48(8):1666-71
[xi] Arch Intern Med. 2007 Jun 11;167(11):1195-203.

 

[xii] Ann Intern Med. 2006 Jul 4;145(1):1-11

Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Walnuts

How do Omega-3s work?
Inside your favorite kinds of nuts — walnuts, almonds, pecans and others — you’ll find many vitamins, minerals and other compounds your body needs for good health. There are the antioxidants found in vitamin E; several essential minerals such as magnesium, selenium, copper and manganese; and even fiber for more effective digestion. Thiamin, niacin, folate, phosphorus and zinc are all found in nuts.
Researchers believe that omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of heart disease by making the blood less sticky and less likely to form dangerous intravenous or arterial clots. Studies have also shown that omega-3s may lower the risk of stroke and prevent arthritis. In addition, there’s good evidence that omega-3s can increase HDL (good cholesterol), further reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease.
The omega-3s found in fish oil are thought to be responsible for the significantly lower incidence of breast cancer in Japanese women as compared to women in the United States. This may be because omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the tumor growth that is promoted by the acids found in other fats, such as corn and safflower oils.
Finally, the brain itself is composed of a whopping 60 percent fat. It too needs omega-3s to help build and maintain tissue. Brain function itself may be at stake: in treating major depression, for example, omega-3s seem to work by making it easier for brain cell receptors to process mood-related signals from neighboring neurons.
What are good sources of omega-3s?
Omega-3 fatty acids are plentiful in cold-water fish such as mackerel and salmon. They’re also found in walnuts, canola oil, soybean oil, tofu and leafy green vegetables. Which would you rather sprinkle on your morning cereal or grab for a nutritious snack?
Walnuts are a delectable, convenient alternative to fish, tofu and leafy greens. In fact, just a handful of walnuts provides as much omega-3 fatty acid as a comparable serving of salmon.
Walnuts are unusual among commonly eaten nuts,  in that they taste better raw than toasted.
Courtesy of M-J de Mesterton

Coconut Milk, Ideal for the Low-Carb Dieter

I like to use coconut milk in puddings, pies, cakes and in my coffee. It is smooth, delicious and one 403 ml can contains only fifteen grams of carbohydrate. One-third of a cup has but three grams of it.
Coconut milk is good for marinating and poaching chicken, for grilled hors d’oeuvres on skewers, and in savoury main-dishes.

Delicious Coconut Milk, Perfect for Low-Carb Diets, Desserts and Asian Recipes

Poaching Chicken for Elegant Dishes

Poaching Chicken in Miso Broth
Poaching Chicken ©M-J de Mesterton

Add water and the flavouring of your choice to boneless chicken breasts. Simmer for forty minutes, cool and freeze for future use, or slice and use with sauce or gravy, perhaps made with the same poaching-liquid in which you cooked the chicken. I will return at the next opportunity with an original recipe or two, employing poached chicken breast meat. ~~M-J de Mesterton

Eggs, Nature’s Perfect Food

Eggs don’t cause heart disease, as the medical industry previously believed. And here is more good news: a research team at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge determined that women on a weight-loss regimen who ate an egg with toast and jelly each morning lost twice as many pounds as those who had a bagel breakfast with the same number of calories without the accompanying egg.

Huevos, by Spanish Court Painter Diego Velásquez




Eggs are nutritious, convenient, useful in thousands of recipes, and are a relatively inexpensive source of high-quality protein.

One large egg, which represents less than 4 percent of the total daily calorie intake of a person who consumes 2000 calories per day, provides 10 percent of the Daily Value for protein, 15 percent of the Daily Value for riboflavin, and 4 percent or more of the Daily Value for several other nutrients, including vitamins A, B6 and B12; folate; iron; phosphorus; and zinc. Eggs also provide choline, which is  essential in the human diet, and is credited for helping to create healthy babies during pregnancy. Because the percentage of the  recommended  daily amount for many nutrients provided by an egg is greater than the proportion of total calorie intake that the egg represents, the egg more than pulls its weight nutritionally. Most of the vitamins and minerals in eggs are found in the yolk; protein, however, is found in both the yolk and the white.

Recent research indicates that egg eaters are more likely than non-egg eaters to have diets that provide adequate amounts of essential nutrients. This seems to be partly due to the nutritional contribution of the eggs themselves and partly due to the fact that the inclusion of eggs in the diet is an indicator of a desirable eating pattern that includes breakfast.

Eggs can be prepared easily, in a variety of ways. They keep well  in the refrigerator for about three weeks, and therefore an individual can easily use up the dozen eggs in a carton before they spoil. Because most egg recipes involve short cooking times, eggs are convenient for the person with little time to prepare meals.

Eggs have several important physical and chemical properties that help make recipes work. They thicken custards, puddings and sauces; emulsify and stabilize mixtures such as mayonnaise and salad dressings; coat or glaze breads and cookies; bind ingredients together in dishes such as meat loaf and lasagne; eggs are used to clarify coffee and soups; retard crystallization in boiled candies and frostings; and leaven some types of baked goods such as cakes, cookies, soufflés, buns and sponge cakes.

Eggs are economical, especially when compared to other high-protein foods. For people who are trying to balance their budgets as well as their diets, serving eggs occasionally instead of meat, poultry, or fish is very economical.

One other  benefit of eggs is that they are a functional food—that is, a food that provides health benefits that go beyond basic nutrition. Eggs contain the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, two components which are believed to have health benefits.

Choline on FoodistaCholine

M-J’s Winter Health Smoothie

cropped-aeedd-elegant_smoothie_winter_health_copyright_de_mesterton.jpg

Green_Smoothie_M-J_de_Mesterton_Recipes
One half-cup of water, one fourth-cup of lemon juice, one jalapeño or serrano pepper (roasted, pickled or fresh), two stalks of celery, one-half of a cucumber, one tablespoon of thick yoghurt or one half-cup of buttermilk, one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and one tablespoon of parsley, all whirled in a blender till smooth. Add water if necessary for processing.

big grinCopyright M-J de Mesterton 2009

Delicious, Economical British Classics Presented by Elaine Lemm

Here are three classic British recipes presented in video form by Elaine Lemm on about.com: the Cornish Pasty (a favourite in my family for four generations, which I made for English-Speaking Union parties at my house many times); Bakewell Tart (invented in Bakewell, England), an elegant dessert, the taste of which  reminds me of Danish pastry; and Irish Colcannon–a vitamin-rich, green-and-white dish that could serve as an economical meal, which contains three vegetables. Note that Ms Lemm crimps her pasties on top. Cornish style dictates that pasties be crimped on their sides.

Italian Easter Pie: Torta di Pasqua

Happy Easter

Torta di Pasqua


Puff pastry or short-crust pie dough, sufficient to line and cover an 11-inch pie-plate (pie tin)

3 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 lbs. of ricotta cheese, well-strained to remove all liquid

1/2 lb. mild or hot Italian sausage, sliced and lightly fried in olive oil

8 to 10 slices of prosciutto ham, coarsely chopped

1/2 lb. of diced mozzarella cheese

2 tablespoons of chopped or dried parsley

Freshly ground pepper, and salt, to taste

One egg-yolk mixed with one tablespoon of water

Prepare your pastry (see M-J’s Elegant Apple Pie recipe). Beat the eggs into the ricotta cheese, and add the rest of the ingredients. Roll out the pastry or pie dough, and line the pie-pan with one-half of it. Pour filling into the dough-lined pan, and lay the rest of your dough on top of it, sealing, trimming, and crimping the edges. Brush the top with the egg-yolk and water mixture.  You may also cut interesting shapes out of extra dough and apply them to the top of the pie. Make a few pretty slits in the top of the crust to create steam-vents, and bake in a moderately hot 350* oven for forty-five minutes to an hour, until the top of Easter Pie is golden. Serve Torta di Pasqua either warm or at room temperature. This recipe is adequate for 8 people.

~~Copyright M-J de Mesterton

Don’t Waste Overcooked Pasta

Photo copyright M-J de Mesterton 2006
How to Salvage Overcooked Pasta
How do you tell when your pasta is overcooked? Break apart a strand of spaghetti or a piece of pasta,  and if you do not find a whitish dot in the center, it is overcooked.  Al dente (to the tooth) pasta will feel somewhat firm in its very core, rather than soft all the way through.  How can you find out when your pasta is cooked enough? Italian cooks sometimes throw a piece of spaghetti at a wall, and if it sticks, they know it is sufficiently boiled.
Instead of dumping your overcooked pasta–the result of an emergency elsewhere while you should be watching the pot–drain it well and sauté it in butter, then add grated cheese if you wish. It will have a toasted flavor and stiffen up a bit if you brown it as shown. Sautéed in butter or olive oil, overcooked spaghetti or pasta can have a nice texture. You may even add the sauce of your choice after it is browned. A little butter won’t kill you, but an Italian, faced with mushy pasta, might!

Don’t Waste Overcooked Pasta

Photo copyright M-J de Mesterton 2008: click to enlarge
How to Salvage Overcooked Pasta
Instead of dumping your overcooked pasta–the result of an emergency elsewhere while you should be watching the pot–drain it well and sauté it in butter, then add grated cheese if you wish. It will have a toasted flavor and stiffen up a bit if you brown it as shown. Sautéed in butter or olive oil, overcooked spaghetti or pasta can have a nice texture. You may even add the sauce of your choice after it is browned. A little butter won’t kill you, but an Italian, faced with mushy pasta, might!

Don’t Waste Overcooked Pasta

Photo copyright M-J de Mesterton 2008: click to enlarge
How to Salvage Overcooked Pasta
Instead of dumping your overcooked pasta–the result of an emergency elsewhere while you should be watching the pot–drain it well and sauté it in butter, then add grated cheese if you wish. It will have a toasted flavor and stiffen up a bit if you brown it as shown. Sautéed in butter or olive oil, overcooked spaghetti or pasta can have a nice texture. You may even add the sauce of your choice after it is browned. A little butter won’t kill you, but an Italian, faced with mushy pasta, might!

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