In a Nutshell: Walnuts are a Wealth of Health

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (Hy-Vee) - September is National Cholesterol Education Month and that means it's the perfect time to talk about walnuts. When it comes to heart health, it might surprise you that eating a calorie-dense, high-fat snack is a good choice for cardiovascular health. But it's true.

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. Walnuts are the only nut that contains significant amounts of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the type of fatty acids that promote healthy blood triglyceride levels. If you are concerned about your cholesterol and triglycerides, contact your doctor or schedule a biometric screening with your local Hy-Vee registered dietitian.

Walnuts have a hearty texture that make them easy to enjoy in many meals. They're great in baked goods, cereal, yogurt, salads and even pastas and pizza. Incorporate more walnuts into your diet by making a few of your Hy-Vee registered dietitian's current favorite recipes below!

Toasted Walnuts
Serves 1
Maximize flavor by toasting walnuts prior to adding them to a recipe! Toasting draws the natural oils to the surface, intensifying the flavor, creating a deeper color and making them crunchier.

All you need:
1/4 cup walnuts (or quantity desired)

All you do:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread walnuts on the parchment paper in a single layer. Bake 5 to 10 minutes until they darken in color and the aroma is strong in the kitchen.

Source: Adapted from www.thepionerwoman.com

Pasta Salad with Chickpeas, Walnuts and Arugula
Serves 8
This light pasta dish pops with color and bursts with flavor. Make a batch at the beginning of the week to enjoy for lunches or dinners all week long.

All you need:

Dressing (makes about ½ cup)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp minced or crushed garlic
3/4 tsp salt (plus 1 tbsp for the pasta cooking water)
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup olive oil

Pasta Salad
1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
Black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 pound whole-wheat dried pasta shells
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup packed, coarsely chopped arugula
2 cups halved or quartered cherry tomatoes
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted

All you do:
1. Prepare the dressing: In a bowl, combine the vinegar, garlic, salt and oregano; whisk to blend. Keep whisking as you drizzle in the olive oil until it is fully incorporated.
2. Stir chickpeas, mozzarella and dressing together in a large bowl, and grind in a generous amount of black pepper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, foil or just a plate, and let it stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes.
3. When you are ready to assemble the dish, bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat and add a tablespoon of salt. Place a large colander in the sink. When the water boils, add the pasta, keeping the heat high. Cook for the amount of time recommended on the package, checking it toward the end of the suggested time, to be sure it is not getting overcooked. When the pasta is just tender enough to bite into comfortably, dump the water-plus-pasta into the colander. Shake to mostly drain (it's OK to leave some water clinging); then transfer directly to the chickpea mixture in the bowl.
4. Toss the pasta and chickpea mixture with the Parmesan, chopped arugula, tomatoes and walnuts.

Source: Adapted from www.hy-vee.com

Walnut Taco Meat
Walnuts get pulsed with cauliflower to create a satisfying meat replacement.
Serves 6

All you need:

2 cups walnuts
3 cups cauliflower florets
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp lime juice

All you do:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Pulse all walnut taco meat ingredients in a food processor until the mixture is evenly ground. The consistency should be like rice, but slightly pasty.
3. Spread the mixture on a greased baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through to prevent over-browning.
4. Enjoy in any dishes one would use taco meat such as tacos, salads and burritos.

Source: Adapted from www.walnuts.org

Lindsey Frisbie represents Hy-Vee as a nutrition expert promoting healthy eating throughout the community. Lindsey is a Registered Dietitian and member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.