My boring salads just found what they’d been missing – Walnut Oil.
A year ago I purchased a bottle at Whole Foods in Nashville and brought it home. It promptly found a hiding place in my refrigerator behind a five-pound bag of flour which I never use anymore.
This week I found myself out of olive oil and began plundering through the wasteland of the GE tundra, looking for something to dress up my salad.
“There you are you naughty boy.” I was beginning to think my son had swiped it. What the heck, I thought, and gave it a try.
Mixed with a smidge of balsamic vinegar and a squirt of mustard, it produced the best dressed salad I ever had. This specialty oil, though expensive, is generally made in France. Unlike other nut oils, unrefined walnut oil is made from nuts that are dried and then cold-pressed, and it is very high in Omega 3s.
It has a rich, nutty flavor that is perfect for salad dressings, to flavor fish and steaks, to toss with pasta, and to jazz up desserts. Walnut oil is best used uncooked or in cold sauces because when it is heated, it can become slightly bitter.
You can even polish your furniture with it, and it is purported to improve your memory.(I’m about to have a jigger full)!
One problem. You can’t find it in my community. My friend Brenda said she carried it in her gift shop, but couldn’t sell a bottle (we’re still using lard down here I guess).
A 35 gram serving of walnut oil provides the same nutritional benefits as 50 grams of walnuts. It is rich in phytonutrients and is an excellent source of selenium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium. Walnuts and/or walnut oil provide hefty levels of Vitamins B-1, B-2, and B-3, coupled with Vitamin-E and niacin.
The health benefits of walnuts were first identified in 1937 when researchers discovered that they were a significant source of vitamin C. (my gosh, this is a miracle oil). Over the last 70 years, numerous other studies that evaluated the effects of walnut and walnut oil consumption on mortality, disease prevalence, and disease risk factors have been performed. It has now been well established that eating walnuts on a regular basis has definite health benefit. The most significant of which being a reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease. Adding walnuts to the daily diet can certainly help one maintain a healthful body balance.
Consumption of walnuts or walnut oil has been shown to lower total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol) and the ratio of LDL to HDL (good cholesterol). Furthermore, regular walnut oil consumption reduced triglyceride levels 19 to 33% in a 45-day study. In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration stated:
“Supportive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces per day of walnuts, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”
The cardio-protective benefits of walnut oil are primarily due to the high concentration of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an omega-3 fatty acid that ultimately is converted to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and omega-3 fatty acids that are easily utilized by the body. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that one tablespoon of walnut oil provides 1.4 grams of ALA. Men require 1.6 grams and women 1.1 grams of ALA per day. Walnuts differ from other nuts because they primarily consist of omega-3 fatty acids whereas monounsaturated fats are found in higher levels in most other types of nuts.
Walnuts and walnut oil are also rich in antioxidants and are one of the best antioxidant sources among the tree nuts. Antioxidants are substances that counter the effects of free radicals, which are substances that cause cell damage and accelerate the aging process. Walnuts are especially dense in the antioxidant ellagic acid, which aids in controlling the replication of malignant tumors and has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antiseptic properties. Gallic acid and malic acid, both antioxidants, are present in smaller quantities and have similar protective effects. This demonstrates yet again that nutrition is best derived from whole foods verses liquid vitamins and other vitamin supplements.
Overall, regular use of walnut oil provides a dietary source of essential fatty acids and antioxidants, both of which are often difficult to attain in adequate quantities within a typical Western diet. The practical benefits of this regular use are significant reductions in coronary heart disease risk and possible decreases in cancer risk and slowing of the aging process.