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There is even more evidence that you can eat walnuts to your heart’s content. Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health conducted a thorough review of 26 clinical trials with 1,059 subjects over a 25-year span, investigating the connection between walnut consumption and risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including blood lipid levels. In crunching the numbers, so to speak, the researchers found that a walnut-enriched diet (ranging from 5% to 24% of total calories) appears to promote greater reductions in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and apolipoprotein B, a major type of protein found in LDL cholesterol. This is compared with control diets such as the typical American diet, according to research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Though walnuts are calorie-dense—183 calories in a 1-ounce serving—the study found no association between eating them and gaining weight. The impressive nutritional resumé of walnuts, including omega-3 fat, fiber, minerals and antioxidants, is likely why they are good news for heart health. It’s also why you’ll want to bring along this creamy, walnut-heavy dip to any holiday festivity. More nutritious than most cheesy dips, this one will help you feel a little better about double dipping.

Walnut Eggplant Dip

1 C walnut halves

1 medium eggplant, halved lengthwise

1 small whole garlic bulb

1/4 C parsley

2 T extra-virgin olive oil

2 T fresh lemon juice

1 T paprika

½ t salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes or until they appear a shade darker and smell toasty (stir nuts once halfway through). Remove walnuts from baking sheet. Raise oven temperature to 400 F.

Brush cut sides of eggplant halves with oil and place them cut-side down on a baking sheet. Slice off 1/4-inch from the top of the garlic bulb so the tops of the cloves are exposed. Place garlic bulb on a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle with a touch of oil. Wrap garlic tightly in foil and place on the baking sheet with the eggplant.

Roast for 35 minutes or until eggplant skin remains indented when pressed and the cut side of the eggplant is darkened. The garlic bulb should be very soft. If not, remove eggplant from the baking sheet and continue cooking garlic until softened. Set eggplant and garlic aside to cool.

Using a food processor, chop walnuts until they are broken down into small pebbles. Scoop out eggplant flesh and add to processor. Squeeze softened garlic cloves into the container with the eggplant. Add parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, paprika and salt to the mixture and blend until smooth.

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