Nuts are superheroes, with an arsenal of fancy ninja moves.
Some of the largest health studies in history – the Adventist Study, the Iowa Women’s Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study, and the Physicians’ Health Study – have consistently shown that snacking on raw nuts can lead to a 50% reduction in heart disease.
Research from the British Medical Journal goes further, identifying nuts as one of seven foods that can help reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 75%. You’ll be relieved to hear that dark chocolate and red wine qualify too. You’re welcome.
But don’t get too giddy my friend. You need to recruit the unprocessed, unsalted variety to make a difference to your ticker. Anything else is cheating.
Those flavoured packets in pubs? Bye-bye. We know that unsalted raw nuts contain special-agent unsaturated fats that help raise your protective cholesterol (HDL) while lowering that menacing cholesterol (LDL). Another special-agent fat, omega-3, may also help prevent blood clots much the same way as aspirin does. You’ll find omega 3s dancing in walnuts.
Many nuts are rich in arginine. Scientists, look away while I mutilate your language. Arginine is an amino acid necessary to make a molecule called nitric oxide that relaxes constricted blood vessels and eases blood flow. Think of it as the Bach of the blood. This might indeed help explain why nuts are applauded for their role in protecting arterial walls, making the walls more pliable and less susceptible to damage. Good news for health insurers.
1 cup walnuts
1 cup unsalted cashews
Generous pinch of sea salt
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup any nut butter you fancy
1/4 good honey (preferably local and raw)
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
Pulse the nuts (almonds don’t work here) along with a good pinch of sea salt, the desiccated coconut and your honey in a food processor. A blender will turn it into baby food, which is not today’s vibe.
Add any nut butter you fancy (peanut, cashew, hazelnut or almond), a grating of fresh nutmeg and a whisper of vanilla. Pulse until it clumps together. Don’t be tempted to help the mixture along with water. You’ll regret it! I added a few goji berries for colour too, but they’re not essential.
Scrape and press the flapjack dough into a regular 8×8 brownie square tin. Set in the fridge, and lift out of its tin once firm. Cut into small squares and store in the fridge or freezer. Exactly like flapjacks (until you mizzle melted chocolate all over them of course).
Great with a tall glass of milk.
Will I see you next week at Avoca Kilmac, between Dublin and Wicklow?? I’ll be signing books from 11:30am on Saturday 28th May 2016, and baking treats for you and your loved ones. Free admission.