the squirrels know: nuts for winter nourishment

the squirrels know: nuts for winter nourishment

by February 14, 2013

A friend once told me her grandmother always said to eat a walnut a day because it’s good for your brain.  Given the brain-like look of the nut, I remember thinking this seemed logical.  Little did I know at the time that these little brain shaped gems are packed full of nutrients and healthy fats that not only support brain function, cardiovascular health, and weight, but they also counter act the drying effects of winter.

As Deepak Chopra writes in his book Perfect Health, “When the cold, dry wind begins to blow, the Vata inside you responds…  Cold, dry weather, along with wind, accumulates Vata.”   For many of us, this means dry cracked skin on our hands, chapped lips, and cold extremities if we allow Vata to accumulate (increase) too much and we don’t bring it into balance.

For those of us not allergic or sensitive to tree nuts, walnuts, in combination with other warming spices and foods, offer a perfect Vata / winter remedy.  The healthy fats found in walnuts in the form of heart healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids fit the “heavier and more oily diet” called for in a Vata balancing plan.  In fact, a quarter cup of walnuts can supply 94.5% of the daily value of omega–3 fats.

As we’ve all heard, these essential fats play an important role in brain function, in improving one’s mood, and in overall cardiovascular health.  But in addition, the considerable amount of potassium, calcium, and magnesium found in walnuts can also significantly aid blood pressure regulation.

In fact, according to George Mateljon’s World’s Healthiest Foods (, recent studies show about one ounce of walnuts daily over 2-3 months can help reduce several metabolic syndrome-related problems including excessive blood fats (triglycerides), high blood pressure, inadequate HDL cholesterol, and obesity.  He writes, the addition of walnuts “has also been shown to decrease ‘abdominal adiposity’—the technical term for the depositing of fat around the mid-section… without causing weight gain in any of the studies we’ve seen to date.”

So as winter slowly moves along, take a tip from those foraging critters in your backyard.  Increase your intake of nuts to fortify yourself and to pacify the Vata aspects of winter.

Try some of these easy ways to incorporate walnuts into your diet everyday:

  • Crumble them on a salad with an olive, flax, or walnut oil vinaigrette
  • Add them to your morning porridge or hot cereal
  • Bake cookies, muffins, and breads by grinding walnuts into walnut flour—Visit Elanas Pantry for some great nut flour recipies.

For a sweet treat, try some raw walnut brownies.  While there are several similar recipes to be found online, the following is adapted from Ani Phyo’s Fudge Cake recipe found in Ani’s Raw Food Desserts.

Chocolate Date Brownie Recipe



Combine the walnuts, cacao powder, and salt in the food processor with an S blade and pulse until coarsely mixed.  Be careful not to over process.  Add the dates and optional yacon syrup or coconut nectar and pulse until mixed well.  Press mixture into a small Pyrex, refrigerate until firm, then cut into squares and serve.

Makes about 12-15 brownies

photo credit
Chopra, Deepak. Perfect health: the complete mind/body guide. New York: Harmony Books, 1991. Print.
Mateljon, George.  World’s Healthiest Foods
Phyo, Ani. Ani’s Raw Food Deserts. Cambridge: Lifelong Books, 2009. Print.