Walnuts are the oldest known tree food, our ancestors were cracking them open as early as 7000 BC. The ancient Greeks and Romans were well aware that walnuts had special health benefits and wrote extensively of their medicinal uses. The Greeks called walnuts karyon, meaning “head,” because the shell resembles a human skull and the walnut kernel itself looks like a brain! There are more than 30 varieties of commercially produced walnuts, the most common is called the English walnut, which originated in central Asia and was brought to America in the 1700s. We now produce ¾ of the walnuts sold around the world.
We love walnuts for their versatility and taste. Their buttery, rich flavor and creamy texture is a welcome addition to any salad or sauce. Not only do they add a culinary benefit to your diet, they are incredibly nutritious. They are often called the “heart friendly” nut due to their high ALA (alpha linoleic acid, aka omega-3 fatty acid) content which helps to reduce blood clots and lower the risk of heart disease. In fact, walnuts are the only nut that contain omega-3s. They are incredibly high in protein and fiber as well as vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, and bio-available melatonin (great for helping to get a good night’s sleep!).
Folklore has long called walnuts “brain food” and considered eating them a sign of intelligence because of the shape of the nut resembling a brain. Modern studies have shown this folklore to actually be true due to their high omega-3 content which does, in fact, improve brain function.
The healthy fat content in walnuts helps to satiate hunger which, contrary to popular belief about healthy fats, can help you to lose weight by keeping you full longer. Studies have shown they also help to reduce bad cholesterol, control diabetes, improve bone health, and slow the spread of cancer. Walnuts are also full of anti-inflammatory properties
Walnut trees can live up to 250 years, their roots are strong and deep. The tree enhances its survival through a phenomenon called allelopathy, where the roots secrete chemicals called juglones that inhibit the growth of other plants near it. The oil of walnuts is used regularly in aromatherapy, massage therapy, and cosmetics because of its astringent properties.