For a convenient, nutritious and dangerously ‘moreish’ snack. And why not? Nuts and seeds have always been a staple food of homo sapiens until 20th-century fat phobia kicked in. In case you didn’t know there’s never been any evidence that eating nuts or seeds is anything but positively good for you.
Nuts are very diet-friendly and loaded with a ton of amazing nutrients, healthy fats, and protein. They are one of the best sources of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of heart-healthy omega-3. Omega-3s offer numerous health benefits from lowering cholesterol to disease prevention.
Studies suggest that consuming about 30 grams (a small handful) of nuts per day protects against heart disease.
Nuts are also a good source of dietary fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and glucose levels, and they provide a wide range of essential nutrients. These include several B group vitamins, and importantly, vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and necessary for proper immune function, healthy skin, and DNA repair.
Nuts are also a great source of minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium and magnesium, antioxidant minerals (selenium, manganese, and copper), plus other antioxidant compounds (such as flavonoids and resveratrol).
They are also rich in L-arginine, an amino acid that has been shown to boost immune function, promote wound healing, improve blood vessel function, and help manage cardiovascular disease.
Some of my favorites are almonds, walnuts, and brazil nuts. Try them in smoothies, nutrition bars, salads, trail mix, or alone. Nut butter is another delicious way to enjoy this nutrient-dense food.
Also, as I’m not a great fan of dairy (tough to find healthy, natural milk), I use Almond Milk on my cereal. It is sweet, healthy, and does the job correctly.
Is there a nutritional difference between raw and roasted nuts?
There seems to be little difference in the nutrient content of raw and roasted nuts. Roasting does reduce the water content of nuts, making the nutrients a little more concentrated. However, roasting may potentially reduce the concentration of several B group vitamins, which are not heat stable.
What you should watch out for, is many roasted nuts are salted (usually with ‘bad’ salt, not ‘good’ salt) and therefore have a higher sodium content than raw nuts. If you like the taste of roasted nuts, but want to reduce your salt intake, choose only unsalted roasted nuts.
Should I avoid nuts if I don’t want to put on any more weight?
It does seem strange that a portion of food very rich in fat might be suitable for people who want to lose weight. However, studies have shown that moderate intake of nuts (30–50 grams per day, a small handful) does not cause weight gain and may also help reduce the risk of obesity. Eating nuts also increases the release of ‘feel full’ hormones in the gut, thereby helping to control appetite.
For those who want to eat more nuts, it is essential to ensure that overall calorie intake does not increase. They should, therefore, take the place of less nutritious foods. For example, nuts could replace fatty and sugary snack foods.
What about diabetes? People say they are fattening, so do they affect Type 2 diabetes?
The situation seems to be similar for diabetes as for heart disease—nuts seem to be protective. A large study found that women who ate about 30 grams of nuts per day on five or more days of the week had approximately 30% less risk of developing diabetes compared with those who ate few or no nuts. This effect was attributed at least partly to the high levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in nuts, which (in addition to their positive impact on blood cholesterol) are believed to enhance insulin sensitivity.
Nuts can also be of benefit to those who already have diabetes. Nuts reduce the overall glycemic index of the diet. When added to meals rich in carbohydrate, nuts slow the passage of the meal through the gut and lower blood glucose levels following the meal.
Other health benefits associated with eating nuts?
Much research has revealed that nuts may play a role in:
- Lowering symptoms of metabolic syndrome
- Reducing the risk of gall stones
- Reducing age-related macular degeneration (which can lead to blindness)
- Maintaining bone health and
- Slowing brain aging
Seeds, like nuts, contain several heart-healthy properties. They offer beneficial fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein. Seeds are packed with health-promoting minerals such as magnesium, selenium, and zinc.
Some incredible seeds to include in your diet are flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Chia seeds, in particular, are considered a superfood due to their extremely high nutrient profile. They are super rich in omega-3s, even more than flax seeds. Plus, are loaded with powerful antioxidants, fiber, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, iron, and zinc.
Seeds are wonderful in smoothies, baked goods, nutrition bars, salads, trail mix, yogurt, and other foods.