Most people feel they need to follow a “low-fat, low calorie” diet for optimum health and opt to exclude nuts and seeds from their diet. In actual fact nuts and seeds hold many wonderful benefits and studies in the medical world are starting to agree with what nutritionist and complementary medical practitioners have known for decades. One study in 2002, by the Physician’s Health Study found that men who consumed nuts 2 or more times per week had a lower risk of sudden cardiac death.
Some of the benefits of nuts include:
- High content of fiber
- High protein content
- Vitamin E
- Essential omega 3 and 6 fatty acids (which the body CANNOT produce on its own)
Nuts are high in fat (which is a deterrent for most people) however, it is in the form of polyunsaturated fats (the good kind!) These fats have many benefits, including lowering LDL cholesterol and having an anti-inflammatory effect in the body.
Nuts also contain the amino acids arginine and tryptophan. Arginine assists with the prevention and treatment of erectile dysfunction in men, boosts immunity and lowers elevated blood pressure. Tryptophan stimulates the production of serotonin in your brain, which treats depression and promotes a relaxed state of mind.
While nuts are healthy, one must not be mistaken into thinking they can be eaten in unlimited amounts without any weight gain. It is best to limit intake to one handful per day of your favourite nuts (Brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts and pecan nuts being the best). They can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, such as on toast in the form of nut butters, mixed with some dried fruit or added to smoothies.
Seeds have many of the same properties of nuts and are just as healthy. Some of the common and most beneficial seeds include flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and Chia seeds.
People who want to focus on consuming the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, should eat flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and Chia seeds. Those who have an allergy to dairy and need to consume foods with calcium should eat sesame seeds. Tahini – a sesame seed paste- may be spread onto toast.
Seeds should always be enjoyed raw and never roasted. Their volatile oils are easily damaged by heat and these damages fats add an extra burden of free radicals to the body and increase the need for anti-oxidants.
Seeds can be added to smoothies, eaten together with nuts and dried fruit as a healthy snack and added to salads.