Tiny Little Brains

July 13, 2009 at 3:10 pm 5 comments

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a fun summer weekend! I must say, I had a top notch weekend.  Saturday I went to school at Integrative Nutrition and listened to Deepak Chopra lecture for 2 hours. I tell you, he is incredible! And I’m also fairly certain he wore glasses with rhinestones on the side, which I found slightly amusing.  Then we celebrated Matt’s birthday with hibatchi (he’ll post on that later) and a lot of Rockband.

Sunday I had the BEST day with Matt, starting with a home cooked breakfast of oatmeal banana pancakes and tempeh bacon.  Then we hit our farmer’s market and CSA, and after rode our bikes in the park, stopping to picnic and hang out. After, we cooked an incredible dinner (freshly made “carrot” pasta from the farmer’s market and a frittata with some of the greens from the CSA). Top it off with an episode of True Blood, and you’ve got one damn fine day.

Tiny little brains!

Tiny little brains!

Unfortunately, my Sunday was punctuated with long spells of studying for my microbiology test I have on Thursday. Ugh, summer school! In addition to making sure I get enough sleep the week of a test (because we know that sleep is the most important thing, ever, we can give our body) I also load up on “tiny little brains,” as my friend Tamra calls them.  I’m talking about walnuts, people!

Walnuts are an incredible superfood for brain functioning and brain health, and nature has let us know this by making them look like little brains. I swear I feel smarter when I eat them (which is why I load up on them the week of a test…call it the placebo, but I swear eating “little brains” increases my smarty pants-ness).  But think of it: the walnut itself is the brain. The thin papery layer on top is the scalp, and the shell is like the skull. And the walnut comes with two sides, representing the right and left hemispheres of the brain. SO cool!

 Walnuts are about 15-20% protein, as well as containing high amounts of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. They also contain  vitamin E and B6, which are wonderful for your nervous system.  The Omega 3 fatty acids are especially important in brain function, as our brains are made up of over 60% fat (which is why low fat diets are NOT good—your think tank needs good fats to work!) The Omega-3 fatty acids help our brain cells take in good nutrients and remove cell waste efficiently.

 Walnuts are also known to help balance our serotonin levels, which control our appetite and mood.  I would say that’s pretty important, right?

Lastly, as with any food, servintg size is important. Although these nutty power houses are chock full of good fat, they are high in calories, so portion control is key.  A portion is 14 walnut halves (approximately 1 ounce) and contains about 185 calories, 4 grams of protein, and 18 grams of fat. 

Try adding walnuts to your diet this week….and perhaps you’ll notice you’re a little bit smarter, too.  I know I need all the help I can get this week!

Update: Larie asked about the shelf-life of walnuts and how to store them. She has had some walnuts in her pantry for several months, and was wondering if they’re still OK to eat. According to the Board of California Walnuts, here are suggestions on how to store your walnuts:

Where to Store Walnuts

When you bring walnuts home from the store, the best place to store them is in your refrigerator or freezer, depending on when you’re going to use them. If you’re going to use the walnuts right away, place them in your refrigerator. If you’ll be storing them for a month or longer, store them in your freezer.

How to Store Walnuts

If you buy walnuts in sealed packaging, you can store the walnuts in their original packaging. Once you open the bag, transfer the walnuts to an airtight container to maintain freshness. If you buy bulk walnuts, either in-shell or shelled, place the walnuts in an airtight container for long-term cold storage.

More Storage & Handling Tips

When storing walnuts in your refrigerator, store them away from foods with strong odors (e.g. fish, cabbage, onions). Walnuts can absorb the flavors of other foods

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Beni ha-ha (or “Benihana’s gets the last laugh) by Matt

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Larie  |  July 14, 2009 at 2:48 am

    Wow. Very interesting how you pointed out that walnuts are like little brains. That will definitely stick in my head. I have a question about walnuts. Can they actually go bad? Do they have a freshness date and can their benefits diminish over time? I have a bag of walnuts that’s been sitting in my pantry for several months and I read that they can go bad. Thanks!

    Reply
    • 2. Amanda  |  July 14, 2009 at 1:14 pm

      Great question Larie…Walnuts can go badly very quickly. I would throw those old ones out. Here is what the board of California walnuts suggests:

      Where to Store Walnuts
      When you bring walnuts home from the store, the best place to store them is in your refrigerator or freezer, depending on when you’re going to use them. If you’re going to use the walnuts right away, place them in your refrigerator. If you’ll be storing them for a month or longer, store them in your freezer.

      How to Store Walnuts
      If you buy walnuts in sealed packaging, you can store the walnuts in their original packaging. Once you open the bag, transfer the walnuts to an airtight container to maintain freshness. If you buy bulk walnuts, either in-shell or shelled, place the walnuts in an airtight container for long-term cold storage.

      More Storage & Handling Tips
      When storing walnuts in your refrigerator, store them away from foods with strong odors (e.g. fish, cabbage, onions). Walnuts can absorb the flavors of other foods

      Reply
  • 3. Abbs  |  July 14, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    I never thought about them as little brains but I love the analogy!

    Reply
  • 4. Natural Grocers  |  July 14, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Just FYI, we are a 55-year-old small chain of natural food markets with a big bulk food selection. We refrigerated our walnuts from the moment we get them until the customer buys them. Their oils begin going rancid even while they are on the tree after ripening, so refrigeration is really key. (Especially when they are not treated with preservatives like in some places, but don’t get us started on that issue.) In fact, we ‘frigitate most of our nuts, candies, flours, rice, etc. to keep it fresh and bug-free, in our warehouse and in our stores. The real wonder is just how much slowly rotting food you can find at room temperature on grocery store shelves everywhere.

    Chill your nuts!

    Reply
    • 5. Larie  |  July 16, 2009 at 3:16 am

      Thank you! I will definitely store nuts in the fridge. That’s good to know, especially since stale walnuts taste so blah. I have another question about nut oils and nut milks – are they as good as eating the nuts raw/roasted? Will I be getting the same benefits? I think almond milk is tasty. I see nut oils on the shelves of gourmet stores and wish I knew how to cook with them. Any suggestions? Ok! Enough with the nut questions. Starting to act like a squirrel. 🙂

      Reply

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