Monday, March 31, 2014

"Looks Like the Brain, Good for the Brain!"

The title of this post is a quote that the father of one of my teachers in nutrition school said to her one day while he was munching on walnuts. Not only is it an adorable thing to say, it is also 100% true!

On the last day of my most recent trip to Artsakh, our host-family of Saro and Hasmik gave Monika and I a huge bag of walnuts from their own backyard as a goodbye gift. While it made walking uphill to the mashootka stop a little bit more difficult, we were very excited to have shelled walnuts to take home.
My first couple of times buying walnuts from the shugas in Yerevan were almost always met with disappointment because they had been rancid the majority of times. Vendors would shell them and leave them out either in the sun or indoors for who knows how long (but of course insisting they were "fresh") and it would result in them going bad. Walnuts contain the hard-to-find omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs - which you can read more about here) which are sensitive to both light and heat, and you can tell when they have gone bad by the indicative bitter taste. This is true with flax oil as well as walnuts, the former of which I have completely given up on finding fresh in Armenia, so I just attempt to make it myself instead. By consuming fresh walnuts, they are indeed "good for the brain" as EFAs are crucial for the development of our nervous system, and coat and therefore protect our neurons. Walnuts are also a good source of manganese, copper, zinc, and the skin-strengthening vitamin E!

Once walnuts are shelled, the best thing to do in order to keep them fresh is to put them in the freezer. This will significantly lengthen their shelf-life (up to a year, even!). You can eat them as snacks, incorporate them in salads for a protein/nutrition kick, and add them in desserts. Because of the beneficial oils found in walnuts, it is best not to heat them, or at most heat them lightly in order to preserve these important oils.

We don't have the standard walnut smashers in Yerevan (or in our home specifically), so we resort to modernized caveman styles (upgrading from our time in Georgia, of course) with a hammer and a bag.
My room mates and I will enjoy them as snacks, and I will then incorporate them into a raw chocolate. Post about that coming soon, time to get smashing!
Fun-fact: When I went vegetarian and then vegan, on top of the constant "you will never get enough protein/iron/B12" talk, self-appointed "experts" would also tell me that I could only get EFAs from fish sources. I'll take my brain-shaped walnuts and flax seeds over fish any day!

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