Wilderness Underfoot: Wonderful walnuts

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-113580113718780.jpg’, ”, ”);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-113580118522133.jpg’, ”, ‘Eastern black walnut – Juglans nigra is prolific throughout the Eastern U.S., south of the Great Lakes. This tree is well established in Illinois. Many people wonder if the nuts of our native walnut tree are edible. They are indeed edible’);

Great health benefits are packed inside the walnut

The walnut tree has been intertwined with human culture for thousands of years. Its nutritious nuts have been part of our diet since the dawn of humanity. At least 7,000 years ago, walnuts were roasted and eaten by Neolithic tribes along the Danube River valley in Europe.

Ancient Mesopotamians planted walnut groves and harvested the wood and the nuts. In Greek mythology, the goddess Dionysus was transformed into a walnut tree after she died. And the name of the walnut comes from the ancient Romans.

Not surprisingly, the walnut is still an important part of modern holidays and traditions, and a year-round favorite treat.

New research has revealed even more to like about walnuts. Just a handful of walnuts contains 2.5 grams of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are important for the cardiovascular system, and evidence suggests they may also help to fight cancer and improve brain functioning. People with Type 2 diabetes have been shown to benefit from eating a handful of walnuts each day (in addition to a serving of oily fish each week). The “good” fats in these foods helps diabetics manage their energy intake, and the Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce their high risk of heart disease.

If that weren’t enough, it appears the melatonin in walnuts has additional benefits for the heart. Melatonin is an excellent antioxidant, fighting oxidative stress in cells, and it is also a potentially powerful cancer-fighting agent.

Interestingly, walnut trees and the nuts themselves contain a strong toxin—called juglone—that kills other plants and wards off insects, yet it is harmless to humans.

From the Dec. 28, 2005-Jan. 3, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!