I did not grow up eating walnuts. In fact, I must have been in my 20’s before I ever tasted a walnut and I think it was on top of a carrot cake. On the other hand (in my quest to expose him to as many flavours as possible) my son, who is almost 4, has a handful of walnuts at least twice a week. He’ll have them at breakfast with pear or apple or as a snack. He refers to them as ‘little brains’ which I find cute as they do look like little mini brains and are in fact a good source of nutrients for your brain.

As an aside I’m not a fan of peanuts. They’re not even a nut! Technically they’re a legume which means they are closer to peas, lentils and chickpeas. I started avoiding peanuts during the final year of my Nutritional Therapy course when I read studies on aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a poison produced by a fungus known to grow well on peanuts, anyway this was enough to put me off! Also there are so many nutritious ‘real’ nuts to choose from, it’s very easy to avoid peanuts. For example, for a nutty spread, we go for almond butter rather than peanut butter. I digress, back to walnuts…

Some interesting facts about walnuts:

  • They are considered to be the oldest tree food known to humans. (What other tree foods can you think of?)
  • Walnut trees live long with a lifespan several times that of humans
  • Most people prefer to eat the ‘English’ walnut because it is easier to break the shell
  • California provides more than half of the world’s production of walnuts

There you go! Some interesting facts for you to share with your friends over Walnut and Banana Bread (recipe below).

You can buy the walnut shelled or unshelled. Unshelled walnuts should feel heavy for their size, not appear rubbery or shrivelled. Mouldy nuts can be a problem so check that shelled walnuts are not cracked, pierced or stained. I normally buy in small quantities and store in an airtight container in the cupboard but you can refrigerate them too.

Now for the important nutritional highlights of walnuts. They are extremely nutrient dense and an amazing source of:

  • Antioxidants such as vitamin E which can help improve cognitive skills and slow brain ageing
  • Magnesium which can lead to a better mood and improved concentration
  • Omega-3 fatty acids which are amazing for memory and overall brain performance

My fave walnut combinations:

  • Chopped pear and walnuts make a lovely snack
  • A nice addition to salads for an added crunch
  • Walnut and banana bread

Here’s an easy recipe for Walnut and Banana Bread. You will need:

  • Butter, for greasing
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 3 organic eggs
  • 110g almond flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoons raw honey (I like the raw and organic acacia honey by Hilltop Honey)
  • 70g walnuts, roughly chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and lightly butter a 20×12.5cm loaf tin

2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas thoroughly with a fork

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, then add the flour and honey. Stir in the walnuts and mashed banana.

4. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for about 20 minutes. You know it’s done if you stick a skewer in it and it comes out clean.

5. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before munching.

So one great thing you could do for your mood and mind this week is have a handful of walnuts. Have them in their natural state or get creative. Let me know how you get on!

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