Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Go to any house in America and I’m sure you’ll find chocolate chip cookies loaded with delicious varieties of nuts. In my house, however, you wouldn’t be so lucky. As a kid I wasn’t allowed to eat them.

“Stay away from the nuts,” my dad always said to me as a little girl, referring to walnuts, pistachios, peanuts, pecans and any other morsel that came my way.

I always thought that my dad didn’t like them and he was saving me from the inevitable fate of eating one. However, I later learned that in fact he did like them. Actually, he loved them. But he was always afraid that I would choke on them because they break apart so easily in your mouth.

It took years before I began eating them, and it took me even longer to like them. Of course, like so many other things, culinary school was the turning point of my relationship with nuts. I quickly learned there was nothing like hot roasted walnuts coming out of the oven and that they burn very easily.

When you cook anything, remember to keep foods as close to their natural state as possible to retain health benefits. In this case, when you roast walnuts cook them at a lower temperature to release the natural oils and flavor without losing the important vitamins, minerals and polyphenols.

Now that I do eat them, I think they’re a perfect complement to almost any salad, fish or chocolate dish around and they’re a great afternoon snack. They are also loaded with tons of Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, Magnessium and the list goes on. They’re even known for reducing your cholesterol and might even lower your risk for a heart attack by at least 15 percent and maybe even more.

That’s why, as a nutritionist, I suggest keeping them at reach at all times. You know what they say, “A handful of nuts a day keeps the doctor away.”

This rich super food is loaded with antioxidants, which will help keep you living a long and healthy life. Walnuts, or any other nut for that matter, should be added to your diet in substitution for something else. Though they are terrific for you, they also have a high calorie content. So, instead of just adding them to your diet, put them in place of something else to prevent adding the extra inches to your waistline.

As a replacement snack they’re very filling, they can curb your craving and can help maintain your energy level throughout a busy workday. When you need a pick-me-up in the afternoon, try eating a serving (1 ounce or about 6-8) of walnuts instead.

Interestingly enough, many of the walnuts we eat today are genetically modified versions of the originals. These new nuts are designed to have thinner shells with more nut-meat inside. Translation: heaven. And speaking of heaven, I think walnuts look like a pair of pale, brown, caramel angel wings, with each ridged side connected by one thin centerpiece. For those of you who on occasion get them confused with other nuts, now you’ll always remember them as the winged nut!

My dad always tried to protect me. However, I was wrong about why he wanted me to stay away from nuts and had I not investigated further and figured out for myself, I might have missed out on a beautiful friendship.

Happy Cooking!

Chef Mary

For more great cooking tips, recipes and stories from Chef Mary,visit her blog. To learn more about Chef Mary, check out her Hail

Mary's Inc. Web site. E-mail questions for Ask Chef Mary Fridays to mary@hailmarysinc.com or click the Ask Chef Mary link above.

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The information provided is general information about healthy eating. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice or treatment that may have been prescribed by your physician or other health care provider. Always consult a physician before starting any new diet or regimen.

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