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California Walnuts: Your perfect partner for American Heart Month

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(BPT) - February is American Heart Month, which is an excellent time to make sure you’re supporting your heart health by incorporating walnuts into your everyday meals or snacks. Heart disease continues to be one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.1 However, leading health experts associated with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans note that following a healthy dietary pattern, which includes nuts like walnuts, can help people achieve and maintain well-being and reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease.2

Three decades of studies have demonstrated that walnuts can support cardiovascular health. Their nutritional profile makes them a delicious and convenient option for supporting heart health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved walnuts as one of the first qualified health claims for a whole food 20 years ago and the world-renowned Mayo Clinic also supports walnuts as a heart health-supporting food, confirming that eating nuts, particularly walnuts, is beneficial for your heart.3 Research suggests that regularly eating a healthy diet that includes nuts may reduce the risk of early death due to heart disease.

Why are walnuts good for your heart, and how should you incorporate them into your diet? Here are some fast walnut facts from California Walnuts, including more reasons to eat a handful of walnuts every day and ways to make it easier to do so.

  • Since 1993, published research has been investigating how eating walnuts affects various heart health markers such as LDL (“bad”) and HDL (“good”) cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation and plaque formation.
  • The American Heart Association certifies California Walnuts with their Heart-Check mark4 — a distinction that easily identifies foods that meet the nutritional standards set by the American Heart Association.
  • One ounce of walnuts includes important nutrients for optimal health including 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 18g of total fat, 2.5g of monounsaturated fat and 13g of polyunsaturated fat including 2.5g of alpha-linolenic acid. Walnuts are the only nut with an excellent source of the plant-based omega-3 ALA, an essential fatty acid that may play a role in heart health.5,6
  • Walnuts are versatile, making a great grab-and-go snack or delicious addition to a meal.
  • Here’s an easy way to estimate how much is the right daily serving of walnuts: Grab a handful (~1 oz.) and you've got it right.
  • Keep walnuts in the fridge to keep them fresh. A great home for them is in a sealed container in your deli drawer.

To inspire you to include walnuts in your next meal, here's a delicious side dish that has earned the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark for meeting their criteria for a heart-healthy recipe. It’s a perfect example of how walnuts can elevate the taste and nutritional value of your meals.

Roasted Vegetables with Walnuts, Basil and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Brighten up your dinner table and help your heart with this colorful dish!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 small red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 small orange bell pepper, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch cubes, separated
  • 4 ounces baby Portobello mushrooms, halved
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar snap peas
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 1 small yellow summer squash, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, snipped (may substitute 1 teaspoon dried basil, added with olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup California walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place peppers, onion and mushrooms in a large bowl and toss with olive oil and salt (and dried basil, if using). Place in a single layer on a large baking sheet, making sure not to crowd the vegetables. Bake for 10 minutes.
  2. Add snap peas, zucchini, yellow squash and garlic, stir slightly. Top with walnuts and cook for 5 to 10 minutes more or until all vegetables are crisp-tender and walnuts are toasted.
  3. Drizzle with balsamic and toss well. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve!

For more information, or to find more delicious recipes, visit walnuts.org/american-heart-month.

References:

1. Tsao, C. et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2023 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2023;147:e93–e621. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIR.0000000000001123

2. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.

3. One ounce of walnuts provides 18g of total fat, 2.5g of monounsaturated fat, 13 g of polyunsaturated fat, including 2.5 grams of alpha linolenic acid, the plant based omega-3; 2g of fiber; 4g of protein. Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces per day of walnuts, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet and not resulting in increased caloric intake, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

4. California walnuts are certified by the American Heart Association per one ounce serving. Heart-Check Certification does not apply to scientific research by an organization other than the American Heart Association, unless expressly stated.

5. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, 2019. Fdc.nal.usda.gov.

6. Sala-Vila A, Fleming J, Kris-Etherton P, Ros E. Impact of α-Linolenic Acid, the Vegetable ω-3 Fatty Acid, on Cardiovascular Disease and Cognition. Adv Nutr. 2022 Oct 2;13(5):1584-1602. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmac016. PMID: 35170723; PMCID: PMC9526859.