Nourishing Thoughts: Superfood for Thought

When it comes to functional superfoods, walnuts appear on nearly every list out there. Once cast aside because of their high fat content, they have worked their way to the top of the list of healthiest foods. Heart healthy, brain healthy, and just plain yummy, walnuts deserve a place in everyone’s pantry.

We now know that eating high-fat whole foods is not associated with obesity. This is because these foods are more satiating and cause you to eat less overall. And walnuts contain only healthy fats, including the omega-3 fatty acids shown to support brain function, reduce inflammation, and improve cholesterol levels. In addition to the healthy and beneficial fats in walnuts, they also pack a powerful dose of high-quality antioxidants. One ounce of walnuts has as many antioxidants as the average person gets from fruits and vegetables in a day.

Some quick and easy ways to increase your walnut consumption is to add them to oatmeal, muffins, salads and even smoothies. Or just eat them out of hand.

Just remember, while they are a healthy food, they are very calorically dense. A one-ounce serving is just 14 halves, and contains 185 calories and 19 grams of fat. Don’t fret about the fat content—it’s healthy fat and will keep you full. Just don’t mindlessly eat your way through the whole bag!

During these summer months, active and busy kids can certainly benefit from this great source of dense, portable nutrition. However, it can be tough to get kids to eat whole nuts, even if they’re disguised in other foods. Not so anymore, with this delicious recipe for the young, and young-at-heart! Sweet, chewy and satisfying, these quick-and-easy bars are a delicious way to enjoy your walnuts.

Raw Oatmeal Cookie Bars

What You’ll Need
2/3 cup (80 g) walnuts
1 cup (160 g) raisins
3/4 cup (60 g) old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 tsp cinnamon, or to taste (optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla, or to taste (optional)
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste (optional)
1-4 tsp water, AS NEEDED

In a food processor, chop walnuts until finely ground, like coarse flour. Add raisins, oats, cinnamon, vanilla and salt and process until well combined and begins to form a sticky ball. Add water if needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture clumps.

Line a loaf pan with parchment, letting the excess hang out over the long edges. Press the mixture down into the pan with moistened fingertips. Chill for at least an hour, and then lift parchment hammock out and place on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut into bars. Wrap in parchment squares and keep refrigerated in an airtight container.

Note: this recipe will work equally well with just about any dried fruit and nut. Have fun experimenting with different combinations!

Nourishing Thoughts is written by Julie Miller, an expert on nutrition and fitness instructor at the C.W. Avery Family YMCA.

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