Nuts and seeds are truly one of natures bounties. These delicious little morsels are packed full of good nutrients which make them the perfect snack. They are full of protein, fiber and healthy fats from which we derive great benefit. Did I also mention how delicious they are?
What are nuts and seeds?
A nut is a simple dry fruit consisting of one or two edible kernels inside a hard shell. Examples include almonds, Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. Although peanuts are legumes, they are considered nuts due to their similar characteristics to tree nuts.
The nutrient profiles of seeds are very similar to those of nuts. Commonly consumed seeds include pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, psyllium seeds and chia seeds.
Overall, nuts have very similar macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate and fat) profiles, but different types of nuts may have slightly different micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) content. The benefits derived from eating nuts and seeds are:
- high in monounsaturated fats (most nut types) and polyunsaturated fats (mainly walnuts)
- low in saturated fats
- good sources of dietary protein, hence a good alternative to animal proteins. Some nuts are also high in the amino acid arginine, which keeps blood vessels healthy
- free of dietary cholesterol
- high in dietary fiber
- rich in phytochemicals that act as antioxidants
- rich in vitamins E, B6, niacin and folate; and they provide minerals such as magnesium, zinc, plant iron, calcium, copper, selenium, phosphorus and potassium.
Like nuts, most seeds are rich in protein, healthy fats, fiber, minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, plant iron and zinc, and contain vitamins B1,B2, B3 and vitamin E. Oily seeds also contain antioxidants that stop the fats from going rancid too quickly.
The unique nutrient profiles of nuts and seeds provide several health benefits, including:
Helping with weight regulation.
Reducing risk for heart disease.
Reducing risk for diabetes.
Sprinkle nuts or seeds into salads, sauces, vegetables, or whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa. Make a cashew or pine nut pesto. Add nuts or seeds to hot cereal or yogurt. Put nuts and seeds in a stir-fry. Or include some nut flour in baking recipes
Research has shown that regular nut consumption as part of a healthy diet does not promote weight gain, and can protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes . However, you can overdo it when it comes to nut and seeds consumption. If you eat more than one or two handfuls of nuts per day, you could add too many extra calories. Think in terms of small portions. Have a handful of nuts or seeds for a snack. Or add a few nuts and seeds to meals throughout the day.
Let your imagination flow free in how you incorporate nuts into your diet!
Does it matter what kind of nuts you eat?
The type of nuts you choose to eat doesn’t matter much. Nuts are generally a quite healthy food source, though some may have more heart-healthy nutrients than others. For example, walnuts contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts and pecans also appear to be quite heart healthy.
Remember, you could end up canceling out the heart-healthy benefits of nuts if they’re covered with chocolate, sugar or salt.
Are peanuts actually a nut?
Peanuts are not actually nuts, they are a legume with many of the same characteristics of nuts. They are an excellent snack too, but you must pay attention to the brand and type you consume. For instance, Planters Dry Roast are not actually a good choice. Dry-roasted peanuts are often spiked with salt, sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin. That’s not what you thought you were signing up for when you bought that container, was it? What’s more, an ounce of plain peanuts is practically sodium-free, while these nuts are anything but. Though the amount of salt per ounce may not seem too high, few people wind up sticking to a single serving, so you’re apt to take in two or three times the amount listed on the nutrition panel.