The health benefits of introducing walnuts to your child include high supply of energy, good source of essential vitamins and minerals, high in omega 3 fats that help in speedy brain development, can help in getting better sleep and aides in maintaining optimum weight.
No doubt, walnuts are one of the great foods that you can have. But, there is a lot of confusion about whether or not walnuts can be given to babies or not. Walnuts come under the category of tree nuts. And other tree nuts include razil nuts, hazelnuts, cashew nuts, pistachio nuts, almonds, etc. These tree nuts have been a matter of controversy, at least when it comes to introducing them to babies. Most pediatricians say that introducing tree nuts to babies before 1 year of age is not a good idea because of the presence of allergens in tree nuts.
Speaking of walnuts, they are considered in general to be one of the best nuts in the world. There are two major types of walnuts. One is Persian or English walnut and the other is Black walnut. While Persian walnut originated in Persia, the Black walnut is believed to have originated in North America. Other types such as California Black walnut and Arizona walnut are also present, but Persian walnut is famous of all. Persian walnut is very popular all over the world because it is easy to cultivate and the process of hulling the walnut shell is relatively easier compared to the hulling process of Black walnuts. This is perhaps the reason why we don’t hear much about Black walnut.
Today, the highest producer of walnut is China, with over 1.65 million tonnes of being produced in China alone. This is about half of the world’s walnut production. This is followed by Iran, United States, Turkey, Ukraine, Mexico, Romania, India, France and Chile.
Nutrition found in Walnuts
According to the National Nutrient Database under United States Department of Agriculture, the nutrition found in walnuts include
|Nutrition Component||Value per 100 g||Nutrition Component||Value per 100 g|
|Water||4 g||Energy||654 kcal|
|Protein||15.2 g||Total Lipid||65.2 g|
|Carbohydrate||13.7 g||Fiber||6.7 g|
|Sugar||2.6 g||Calcium||98 mg|
|Iron||2.9 mg||Magnesium||158 mg|
|Phosphorous||346 mg||Potassium||441 mg|
|Sodium||2 mg||Zinc||3 mg|
|Vitamin C||1.3 mg||Thiamin||0.34 mg|
|Niacin||1.12 mg||Folate||98 ug|
|Vitamin A||20 IU||Vitamin E||0.7 mg|
|Vitamin K||2.7 ug|
Health benefits of walnuts for children
Here are some of the health benefits of giving walnuts to your baby regularly.
High energy nuts: Walnuts are full of energy. 100 g of walnut contain about 654 kcal of energy, which is quite high number. In other words, walnuts can supply with constant energy for longer durations.
Good source of minerals: Walnuts are also high in minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc. Each of these minerals plays an important role. For example, calcium and magnesium form the base elements of bone. Iron is responsible for hemoglobin production. Potassium is a better electrolytic alternative to sodium. Phosphorous helps in digestion, protein formation, cell repair and various biochemical reactions taking place in the body.
Good source of vitamins: Walnuts contain vitamins such as vitamin C, thiamin, niacin, folate, vitamin E, vitamin K and vitamin A. Each of these vitamins are crucial for the development of your child in many ways. For example, vitamin C helps to build immunity. Thiamin helps in converting various sugars into energy. Niacin is responsible for over 50 metabolic activities in the body.
Good for speedy brain development: Walnuts are a good source of healthy fats which include omega 3 fatty acids. These omega 3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain development and keep the brain healthy. It can be particularly important for children. Speedy brain development and brain strengthening can be very beneficial, especially in education. There is an old belief that the walnut shell and the two halves of walnut symbolize the human brain and hence walnuts are good for the brain. It seems the old belief is true to an extent.
Help in getting a good night’s sleep: Walnuts contain melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone which is a sleep inducer and sleep regulator. So, you could give walnuts to your child who doesn’t fall asleep that easily. Sleep is as important as any other physical activity.
Helps in maintaining the right weight: There is a risk of overweight for most children these days, perhaps due to less and less physical activity. The risk of being overweight can be reduced to an extent by giving your child walnut on a regular basis. Studies indicate that walnuts are useful in losing weight and for preventing weight gain.
Measures to be taken while giving walnuts to your baby
Here are some of the measures that you need to take while giving walnuts to your baby.
No walnuts until at least 1 year of age: As walnuts and other tree nuts have a risk of tree nut allergy, it is better to wait until your baby is at least 1 year of age. Some pediatricians also suggest you to wait until your baby is at least 2 or 2 ½ years before introducing tree nuts. While in some cases, food allergies appear during infancy and most children grow out of it, but some children retain it and they could allergic for many years to come. So, you need to be very careful while introducing walnuts and other nuts to your baby.
History of food allergies in family: If your family (from both, the mother and the father of the child) has a history of food allergy, then you must be extra careful while introducing foods which are known to cause allergies. When there is family history of food allergies, the risk of food allergies can be very high. The allergy causing genes might’ve come to your baby.
Consult your pediatrician: Your pediatrician can tell whether or not your baby is allergic to any food, with some blood tests. If you really want to be very sure, you could opt for those tests.