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Healthy Eating: Walnuts

Martha Stewart Living, November 2002

Long prized for their flavor and texture, walnuts also help to promote good health and lower the risk of certain diseases. Surprisingly, the fact that walnuts are high in fat is precisely what makes them so good for you -- and good tasting, since fat delivers flavor. We now know that a certain amount of fat is part of a balanced diet; the goal is to limit saturated (bad) fats. Like most nuts, walnuts contain unsaturated (good) fats and are low in bad ones. Also, they are one of the few nuts that provide significant amounts of essential omega-3 fatty acids, which may play a role in lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease and some types of cancer.

Walnuts are also rich in fiber, protein, and potent antioxidants, other substances that are believed to reduce heart disease and cancer. A handful delivers all these important benefits. There's more to recommend walnuts than just good health. With a mellow flavor and hearty meat, they imbue both sweet and savory dishes with a sophistication that mere peanuts cannot achieve. Although walnuts can be enjoyed raw, toasting brings out their subtle sweetness and earthy fragrance.

Walnuts are frequently used for pies and cookies, but we mixed them with a range of dishes that can be enjoyed throughout the day. A Mediterranean style walnut dip is stylish party fare, while verdant linguine with walnut pesto is an easy yet elegant midweek lunch or dinner. Green beans and walnuts dress up a simple salad; its delicate walnut-oil vinaigrette would work just as well with pears, endive, and blue cheese. These versatile nuts can be enjoyed at the end of a meal, too. Warmed and mixed with honey, walnuts make a scrumptious dessert topping; it's tempting enough to make you forget that walnuts are also good for you.

Yogurt Drizzled with Honey and Walnuts
Spinach Linguine with Walnut-Arugula Pesto
Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip
Green Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Walnut Oil, and Green Beans