Walnuts are a delicious and flavorful way to add extra nutrition and crunch to a meal or snack. Although harvested in December, walnuts are readily available throughout the year. Walnut trees have been cultivated for thousands of years and come in different types with varying origins and tastes. The English walnut is the most popular readily available variety of walnut in the United states and features a thinner shell than other varieties. The English walnut can be found on the shelves of your favorite supermarket.
Walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids providing 90.8% of the daily value in only ¼ cup. As many of us are well aware, omega-3 fatty acids provide many health benefits ranging from cardiovascular protection, to the promotion of better cognitive function, to anti-inflammatory benefits helpful with asthma and inflammatory skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis. Omega-3 fatty acids also help to promote bone health by preventing bone loss by lowering omega-6 levels in the body. Omega-3 is also important for maintaining a healthy scalp with a deficiency resulting in a dry scalp and hair, giving your tresses a dull look.
Walnuts can also help you get a better night’s sleep. How? A hormone called melatonin. Melatonin is produced in the human body. It is involved in inducing and regulating sleep and is also a powerful antioxidant. Melatonin has been discovered in walnuts in a bio-available form, making them the perfect evening snack for a natural good night’s sleep. Melatonin has been shown to improve sleep for nigh shift workers and people suffering from jet lag. In a study conducted at the University of Texas the amount of melatonin present in walnuts was not only quantified but demonstrated that eating walnuts triples blood levels of melatonin and also increases antioxidant activity in the blood stream in animals. The authors theorized that by helping the body to resist free radical damage, walnuts may also help reduce the risk of cancer.
Of all the wonderful health benefits walnuts have to offer they also offer the great benefit of being easily portable and accessible. A quarter cup can be tossed in a Ziploc bag and stuffed into a book bag or purse or diaper bag (for yourself of course) or anywhere else. However, keep in mind that walnuts are extremely perishable and care should be taken with their storage. Shelled walnuts should be kept in an airtight container and placed in the refrigerator, where they can be kept for up to six months. Unshelled peanuts should be stored in the refrigerator or in a cool, dry, dark place. Using walnuts to make homemade granola, sprinkled into salads, or with yogurt topped with maple syrup are all great ideas to add this nutty treat to your diet. Check back next week for a delicious and nutritious recipe featuring walnuts.
Fit Tip of the Week:
Kick Up Your Workout Routine…Literally!!
If you’re bored with your current fitness routine you might want to give some thought to joining one of the most popular workouts available. Kickboxing! Also referred to as boxing aerobics and cardio kickboxing, kickboxing is a hybrid of boxing, martial arts, and aerobics that offers an intense cross-training and total-body workout. Kickboxing is a high-power exercise routine that strengthens the mind as well as the body, decreases stress, and increases endurance and cardiovascular health. Although kickboxing has strong roots in full-contact fighting, it has found its way safely and effectively into the fitness community. If you are interested in taking a kickboxing class there are a few things to consider before taking your first kick.
First, you must determine your fitness level. Not all fitness centers offer kickboxing classes based on progression. Even if you currently incorporate a healthy combination of cross-training workouts into you routine, you may want to take things easy at first and then build as your body adapts. If you’re not used to this level of activity, then an hour long session may not be the wisest choice for you. Starting out with a 30 minute workout and working your way up to the 45 minute or one hour mark would be better suited for you and your safety.
Second, familiarize yourself with the basics. Remember, adequate warm-ups and paying close attention to proper technique are paramount. Classes should start with basic stretches and a light cardiovascular warm up such as push-ups or jumping jacks. Typically, an aerobic kickboxing routine involves a series of repetitive punches alternating with hand strikes, kicks and a combination of all three. The repetitions help participants to focus on proper technique while engaging several muscle groups and tossing in a fierce cardiovascular workout. At the end of the routine, stretches and floor exercises are commonly performed as a cool-down.
When attending your first class, here are a few do‘s and don’ts:
- DON’T wear weights or hold dumbbells when throwing punches. This puts your joints in danger of injury. Not to mention the person standing near you should that weight slip out of your hand or off your ankle!!
- DON’T lock your joints when throwing kicks or punches.
- DON’T overextend kicks (beginners should avoid high kicks until they get used to the routine and gain more flexibility).
- DON’T give into peer pressure and exercise beyond fatigue.
- DO ask your instructor about his or her training. Cardio kickboxing is a combination of martial arts and aerobics and employs different techniques than a “pure” martial arts class. Make sure your instructor has appropriate class experience and is certified by an accredited organization.
- DO wear loose clothing to class that allows freedom of movement during your kickboxing workout.
- DO drink plenty of water.
It may seem awkward at first, but the basic moves in a typical kickboxing class can be mastered with practice and patience. Remember to give yourself and your body time to adjust. To give you an idea of some of the moves you can expect, her are two basic lower-body moves that you’ll find in a typical kickboxing class:
Roundhouse kick—Starting from a basic stance (side of body facing bag, knees slightly bent, feet shoulder-length apart), lift your right knee and point it just to the right of your target. Pivot on your left foot as you extend your right leg. Kick the target with the top of your foot.
Side kick—From the basic stance, pull your right knee up toward your left shoulder. Pivot on your left foot as you snap your right leg into your target. Strike with either the outside edge of your foot or your heel.
So, if you’re ready to kick up your workout remember these tips to help ensure a fun and safe class. Until next week…