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Go a Little Nutty with Your Oils

In years past, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has been touted as the queen of the oils. Many have come to know this heart-healthy oil thanks to the likes of celebrity chefs like Emeril and Rachel Ray. As of late, however, EVOO is not the only player in the heart healthy arena. Enter in oils pressed from walnuts and pistachios! Let’s explore the nutritional advantage of each oil and its source.

Walnut Oil
Compared to all the other nuts, walnuts contain the highest amount of Omega-3 fatty acids, which we well know that Americans do not eat enough of. Walnuts are also good sources of B vitamins (thiamine, B6 and folic acid), gamma tocopherol (a form of Vitamin E) and the minerals- phosphorus, magnesium and copper. Studies have shown that eating walnuts regularly (1.5 oz./day) may decrease one’s risk of coronary heart disease.

Walnut oil is described as having a nutty flavor without the bitterness of whole walnuts. One unique way to sneak in walnuts to the diet is to use its oil in your favorite dressing. One vinaigrette recipe I ran across from Béatrice Peltre (author of La Tartine Gourmande) combines 2 Tbsp. walnut oil, 1 Tbsp. EVOO, 1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar, ½ tsp. ground cumin and a dash of salt and pepper. Drizzle this on your favorite salad and reap the walnut oil’s (and EVOO’s) heart healthy benefits.

Pistachio Oil
Pistachios have come a long way from the days when your fingers were dyed green (or red) from enjoying these tasty nuts at the holidays. Now, they are deemed as the green nut and can be found in their natural state at most local groceries and convenience stores to be enjoyed year round. Pistachios pack a nutrient-rich punch. Forty-nine little nuts (about 1-ounce) contain six grams of protein and as much potassium as half of a large banana. Additionally, a serving of pistachios are a good source of vitamin B6, copper, magnesium, phosphorus and gamma-tocopherol (form of Vitamin E). Like walnuts, pistachios can brag about their ability to help enhance one’s heart health.

Described as having an assertive, but subtly sweet flavor, Peltre suggests integrating pistachio oil into the vinaigrette for this tasty appetizer. Combine 2 Tbsp. unsalted chopped pistachios with ¾ cup sliced grapes, 6 pink radishes and 3-oz. of crumble Roquefort cheese. In another bowl whisk together 2 Tbsp. pistachio oil, 1 Tbsp. each canola oil and balsamic vinegar, a minced garlic clove, salt and pepper. Drizzle the mixture with the dressing and toss. Bon appetite!

Variety is the spice of life. It’s always fun to step out of the box and try something new, especially when it comes to cooking. In this case, integrating these two nut-based oils into one’s diet can reap heart-healthy benefits. So, let loose and go a little nutty with your oils. Your heart will thank you for it.

NOTE: Nutrition details referenced from 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life by David Grotto, RD, LDN.

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