Eat This Nut, Build Your Bones
If you have the Save Our Bones Program, you may have noticed that I list walnuts (along with most other nuts) as an acidifying food. So why am I recommending walnuts? While it’s true that walnuts are acidifying, it’s also true that they contain many bone-healthy nutrients.
And here’s another surprise; so do many other acidifying foods. When you embark on the Save Our Bones Program, it’s easy to start thinking that all acidifying foods are “evil,” but that’s not so. The important thing is to make the best choices with both alkalizing and acidifying foods and to eat them in the proper proportions – not to eliminate acidifying foods altogether.
Let’s proceed with…
A Bit of Walnut Trivia
Did you know that the ancient Romans believed that the gods dined on walnuts? The Latin term for walnut is Juglan regia, which means “regal nut of Jupiter.” Clearly (and rightly so), the Romans thought highly of this powerful nut.
Maybe they intuited what we now know to be scientific fact: that walnuts are a nutrient powerhouse. A quarter of a cup of walnuts yields over 2.25 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, almost 95% of the recommended daily value. In comparison, four ounces of salmon, which is often touted as (and is!) one of the best omega-3 sources, gives you just over 85%.
In the past few years, there’s been a lot of news about the benefits of essential fatty acids (EFAs) for their anti-inflammatory effects. EFAs are also known to be important for cardiovascular health, cognitive functions, healthy skin and hair, blood pressure, adrenal and thyroid activity, and even blood clotting.
Essential Fatty Acids are Essential for Your Bone Health
But not much has been written about EFA’s and particularly omega-3 fatty acids in terms of bone health.
So I dug out a study demonstrating that EFA omega-3 increases calcium absorption, reduces urinary calcium excretion, increases calcium deposition in bone, and improves bone strength by enhancing collagen synthesis.1 And a controlled study using walnuts and flax showed that omega-3’s inhibited osteoclast activity and enhanced osteoblast activity.2 Osteoclasts are the cells that resorb bone; osteoblasts are the cells that assist with bone formation.
In Other Bone Health News…
Walnuts are also an excellent source of the following Foundation Supplements: boron, copper, and manganese. We need only minute amounts of these all too often-ignored trace minerals, but lacking them can have significant effects.
Boron is involved in bone metabolism and Vitamin D activity as it reduces the amount of urinary calcium and magnesium excretion. Copper, because it is active in an enzyme that produces connective tissue proteins – collagen and elastin – plays an important role in the development and maintenance of blood vessels, skin, bone, and joints. And manganese is necessary for the synthesis of connective tissue in cartilage and bone.
Buy Only the Best Walnuts…
Here are a few tips for buying and storing walnuts:
- A good walnut has a “heavy” feel.
- Look for nuts without cracked or pierced shells.
- Avoid nuts with stains, as that can indicate mold growth.
- For the freshest nuts, don’t crack them until shortly prior to use.
- If you do buy shelled walnuts in bulk, make sure you get them from a covered bin. Also, check with the store to make sure they turnover the stock frequently enough to ensure freshness.
- Examine shelled nuts and try to avoid those that look shriveled or rubbery.
- Store shelled walnuts in an airtight container, preferably in the refrigerator, where they’ll stay fresh for up to six months; in the freezer, they’ll be good for up to a year.
But… I’m Allergic to Nuts!
Here’s my simple answer to that: Don’t eat them. When I talk about the benefits of a particular food, I’m not telling you that you must eat that food to improve your bone health. If you are allergic to nuts (or even if you just don’t like them), you can make other choices.
It’s much more important to eat a varied diet than to focus on any specific food. Walnuts are one good source of EFA omega-3’s. There are many others, including flax seeds and deep water fish like salmon and sardines.
One of the fantastic benefits of the Save Our Bones Program, and what makes it so easy to follow, is its great flexibility. You can choose from an abundant variety of delicious foods to get the nutrients you need for your bone health.
You Don’t Have to Go Nuts…
As incredible as it may sound, you can increase your blood levels of omega-3 with just four walnuts a day.3 So a little of this bone healthy but acidifying food goes a long way!
And there are so many ways to enjoy them.
- Add a few chopped walnuts to your morning cereal.
- Sprinkle chopped walnuts on your salads.
- Bring out the flavor of walnuts by toasting in a 160-170 degree oven for about 15 minutes (higher temperatures can destroy the omega-3’s). If you’re going to chop them, toast before chopping.
- Add chopped or ground walnuts to muffin, cake or pancake mixes.
- Use ground walnuts to add texture to your pasta sauce.
- For a fantastic dip, puree walnuts in your food processor with lentils or black beans, adding your choice of herbs and spices as you process the mixture, and just enough olive or flax oil to achieve the consistency you want.
And for the ultimate in walnut enjoyment, here’s…
Vivian’s Famous One-Bowl Banana Cake
12 + Servings
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon vegetarian butter
¼ cup apple sauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup sugar
6 ripe mashed bananas
½ cup almond or organic soy milk
1 cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350˚ F.
2. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until smooth.
3. Pour into a lightly greased baking pan.
4. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until fork comes out clean.
1Kruger M., Horrobin D. “Calcium metabolism, osteoporosis and essential fatty acids: A review”. Progress in Lipid Research. Volume 36. September 1997.
2Griel A., Kris-Etherton P. et al. ”An increase in dietary n-3 fatty acids decreases a marker of bone resorption in humans”. Nutrition Journal. January 2007.
3Marangoni F., Colombo C. et al. “Levels of the n-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid in addition to those of alpha linolenic acid are significantly raised in blood lipids by the intake of four walnuts a day in humans”. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. September 2006.