Getting to Know the California Walnut Board and Walnut News 2015

Posted 02/12/2015 | By HealthCorps

Can you give us a short history lesson on the California Walnut Board?

The California Walnut Board was established in 1948 to represent the state’s walnut growers and handlers. It succeeded the Walnut Control Board, which was originally founded in 1933 to organize California’s walnut industry but was later suspended after the US entered World War II. Today, the Board represents over four thousand growers and more than ninety handlers who produce 99 percent of all walnuts grown in the U.S. and make up 75 percent of the world’s trade in English walnuts. The board’s key functions include production and health research, marketing, economic analysis and the maintenance of industry grades and standards.

Share the latest research on walnuts and health:

It’s an exciting time for walnuts research and the growing knowledge of the effect eating walnuts has on heart health, cancer, cognitive function, reproductive health, diabetes, and weight management. A new animal study recently published on walnuts and their potential effects on Alzheimer’s disease found that walnuts may reduce the risk, delay the onset or prevent Alzheimer’s disease. A study on cognitive health found a positive association between eating walnuts and improved cognitive function among all adults, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. We’ve also seen research explore the heart-health benefits of ALA, the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. A recent study suggested that ALA may be just as beneficial to heart health as marine sources of omega-3, EPA and DHA. A cell study looked at ellagitannins (ET), a form of polyphenols found in walnuts, and concluded that eating foods rich in ETs may help prevent prostate cancer. An unintended outcome of our research is that the addition of walnuts to the diet does not result in weight gain. These studies add to a growing body of research on walnuts’ health benefits.

Specifically, share some heart health facts related to regular consumption of walnuts and heart health:

More than two decades of published research has explored the potential effects of walnuts in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, decreasing blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and improving arterial function. Walnuts received one of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s first qualified health claims for a whole food in 2004 acclaiming their effect on coronary heart disease. Walnuts were also certified as a heart-healthy food by the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check program in 2011.

Can walnuts help with weight loss?

We do have research that points positively in this direction. Participants in a 2013 PREDIMED study showed significant reductions to their waistlines after having been fed a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts. In another human clinical trial, nut consumption was inversely associated with the prevalence of general obesity. Another important quality walnuts offer when talking about weight management is their satiety factor. Research on walnuts shows they increase satiety and also offer a combination of protein and fiber to keep you full until your next meal.

What is the mission of the California Walnut Board?

Our mission is to represent California’s walnut growers and handlers, promoting the health, taste, versatility and convenience of walnuts through domestic and international educational programs and publicity to consumers, health professionals and the foodservice industry. We also support our industry members by funding walnut production and post-harvest research. Put plainly, it’s our job to make sure consumers worldwide know how great California walnuts are and how hard the people who drive this industry work.

Are consumers embracing the message of increased health being directly connected to nut consumption?

Through our own internal research we know consumers are increasingly embracing the message of health as it relates to walnut consumption. In fact, health is the number one reason stated for purchasing walnuts. In addition, consumers are more concerned than ever before with where their food comes from, how it’s grown or processed, and the nutrient content. We hear a lot of talk these days about avoiding empty calories. We think it all suggests that consumers are trying to eat a little smarter, and walnuts can answer that call.

How versatile are walnuts in terms of daily consumption – easy ways to incorporate servings into one’s daily diet?

Walnuts are incredibly versatile. As an added ingredient, there aren’t many meals that walnuts don’t make more delicious! The easiest way to add them to your daily diet is simply to keep raw or toasted walnuts on hand for snacking or to sprinkle over your oatmeal at breakfast or soup or salad at lunch. But if you are eager for more culinary inspiration, walnuts can also be blended into an awesome banana-walnut shake, cooked into a light farmhouse frittata or used to make a whole grain walnut trail mix. There are countless ideas to explore on our recipes page.

What led to the HealthCorps partnership with the Walnut Board?

Years ago, we noticed that Dr. Oz had a fondness for walnuts that originated from his childhood and that he was consistently recommending them as a nutritious food. At the same time, we were working with Dr. Michael Roizen, who co-authored the “YOU” series of books with Dr. Oz. When we learned about HealthCorps, we were impressed by the program as it reaches one of the toughest age groups (teens) to influence healthy lifestyle changes and demonstrates success. The California Walnut Board decided to support two existing HealthCorps schools in the Los Angeles area. Soon after that, we moved our sponsorship to areas closer to our growing regions, funding four schools in Sacramento and Fresno.

What is the vision of this partnership from your perspective?

We are both organizations focused on communicating health and wellness messages and information. The California Walnut Board is proud to have supported HealthCorps for six years now. It is great to see that the education of the students is carried home, influencing their families as well. The coordinators have been extraordinarily talented in administering these programs, including showcasing walnuts in ways that are interesting to high school students.

Catch us up on what’s happening in the walnut industry and any exciting events, research, or happenings in 2015?

We’re thrilled to be in the business of walnuts. Global demand remains strong, and consumers throughout the world continue to appreciate the culinary versatility and health benefits that walnuts provide. In the year ahead, we are continuing to support the launch of California Walnuts as “The Hardest Working Nut” with a mobile experience that will visit several U.S. cities this summer. Our Scientific Advisory Council of researchers and health professionals from around the world will meet in July to discuss our health research program and new initiatives for the future. In fact, we have more than thirty research studies in progress and expect­­ six new papers to publish in 2015. You will continue to see more from prominent chefs and well-known health professionals as we continue to get the word about walnuts, the hardest working nut.

-Amy Hendel, PA/HealthCoach

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