Walnuts' health benefits something to love

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By Deborah Pankey
Posted2/10/2010 12:01 AM

A box of chocolates may be the iconic Valentine's Day gift, but if you want to let your sweetheart know how much you really care, consider a nice bag of walnuts.

Sure, it might sound nutty, but walnuts can protect the heart of the one who makes your heart flutter, keeping him or her healthy and around for many more holidays to come.


Walnuts contain high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, a plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid that has been linked to heart health. They also are high in antioxidants and fiber, other nutritional components deemed heart-healthy.

According to various studies, a handful of walnuts a day can reduce bad cholesterol levels while raising good cholesterol, decrease blood pressure and reduce inflammation.

Not only are walnuts good for you, they taste good and can be used in a variety of sweet and savory ways.

At Egg Harbor Cafe in Glenview, chef Jon Steinberg tosses toasted walnuts on caramely French toast and at Le Titi de Paris in Arlington Heights, the husband-wife team of chefs Michael and Susan Maddox pairs walnuts with rich dark chocolate (another antioxidant-rich food) for a decadent tart.

On the savory side, walnuts add earthy crunch to salads and create a toasty coating for salmon, pork or chicken.

Steinberg suggests subbing walnuts for pine nuts in pesto, creating a chopped walnut crust for a goat cheese log, adding candied walnuts to a cheese tray or sprinkling chopped walnuts over a poached pear.

Try them in bread, from quick banana to whole wheat, stir them into hot or cold cereals or toast them - 350 degrees for about eight minutes - for a satisfying snack.

Your heart, and your sweetheart, will thank you.

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