Let's talk Walnuts! Walnuts are probably one of the most popular and versatile of all nuts around the world and I get asked by many customers at my farmer's markets, "which nut is the best one for me?" While that question is certainly subjective you would be hard-pressed to find the few cultures that haven't grown or incorporated walnuts into their diets. Often argued to be the most "nutritionally well-rounded" of all the nuts, walnuts have a little bit of everything.
The major regions of the world that grow walnuts for commercial purposes are California, Moldova, Chile, India, and China. Depending on the geographical region they are grown in, walnuts can range from very light to very earthy in their taste and in color and, while most varieties are used for snacking and baking with, some are also used for medicinal purposes, such as Black Walnuts. I've personally worked with and carried organic walnuts from all of these regions and would settle on Chilean walnuts as my favorite, though not always season.
In regards to nutrition, walnuts average about 4-6 grams of protein per ounce and would be considered a great source for plant-based proteins. Their fat profile covers poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats with a healthy ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, walnuts are the only nut to contain the omega-3 fatty acid, ALA (alpha linolenic acid) in significant amounts. Walnuts are naturally high in anti-oxidants as well and, as far as vitamins and minerals go, are a good source of Copper, Phosphorus, Manganese, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B9 (Folate), and Vitamin E.
There are also many studies that suggest that walnuts can lower your risk of heart disease, lower your risk and growth of breast, prostate, colon, and kidney cancers, and even improve brain function. If you're one with dealing with Hashimoto's or Alzheimer's then sprouted walnuts are a must! While none of the research is conclusive, many of the beneficial claims concerning walnuts are most likely due to the array of beneficial fats and antioxidants.
Walnuts are high in naturally occurring enzyme inhibitors and phytates (phytic acid), which bind to and flush minerals from the body and can cause various degrees of digestive distress. Overt symptoms can be a mild itching of the mouth, stomach pains, or loose stools. A diet high in vegetables and fats can help offset the mineral loss from phytates, but for many it's not enough. The simplest solution around this is to pre-soak or sprout your walnuts.
Pre-soaking or sprouting walnuts is relatively simple, but does take time. Walnuts should be soaked for 8-12 hours in a high-mineral salt water solution. I often use Celtic sea salt and pink Himalayan salt myself. After the soaking is complete, you will rinse your walnuts and immediately refrigerate. You can then enjoy eating them for the next 3-5 days, but watch carefully for mold. If you prefer a longer-shelf life and a dry, crispy texture you will want to dehydrate the walnuts at any temperature below 115 degrees and for at least 14 hours. Maximum crispness could take up to 3 days drying. The low temperature drying ensures that the enzymes remain active and alive and the walnuts are still raw.
Of course, if you don't have time, equipment, or desire to sprout your walnuts I always have you covered here. You can buy my Nate's Raw Harvest sprouted, organic walnuts year round and know you're getting the highest quality walnuts anywhere with a fresh, crisp texture like no other. Give them a try and enjoy!