Cracking Walnuts

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It was a rainy day in southern France and I sat around cracking walnuts with my godfather. There is something deeply soothing about a repetitive motion like cracking nuts – it keeps the hands busy and allows the mind to wander. It is perfect for long conversations or contemplative thoughts.

In this case it was the former, but when my hands are busy cooking I often have time and space to think. I like it so much better when I give myself this space instead of filling my head with the background noise of radio or tv. I like to think of it as a working meditation — time to process my thoughts and let them go, time to quiet the mind. For me, keeping my hands busy can help facilitate this stillness.

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The walnuts were perfect for this, and also left me with a beautiful bowl of nuts when I was finished. Walnuts grow abundantly in Southern France and everyone seems to have a tree in their backyard. The trees produce tons of nuts, so everyone is eager to share their bounty.  The nuts we were cracking were from a friend’s grandmother’s tree. They had been harvested last fall, but were still perfectly fresh and delicious.

Walnuts are a super food in my book. They are packed with nutrients and incredibly tasty. Walnuts have a particularly high level of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. Regular intake of omega-3’s has been shown to help lower “bad” cholesterol levels, strengthen blood lipids (to help prevent coronary artery disease and strokes), reduce blood pressure, support brain health and possibly prevent certain cancers. These benefits come from the anti-inflammatory actions of omega-3’s.

Oily fish is typically thought of as the best source for omega-3’s, but in fact walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are all excellent plant-based sources as well. I try to incorporate them all into my diet, but walnuts are one of my favorites. Eating a quarter of a cup of walnuts gives you 95% of your daily suggested value of omega-3’s.  I usually eat them sprinkled on my oatmeal or grab a few as a snack when I’m dashing out the door. I’ve been enjoying a handful of walnuts with a chunk of dark chocolate on the road.  And I’m feeling healthier and smarter with every bite!


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