Nuts and seeds are healthy, natural foods that are full of beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals. The myth that nuts and seeds are fattening and therefore unhealthy has persisted, but according to scientists, nuts are beneficial for weight loss. In any case, it’s not the fat content of a diet that makes it healthy, it’s the nutrient content. And based on their nutrient content, nuts are a health-promoting source of calories.
Nuts and seeds are nutrient-dense.
Nuts and seeds contain a spectrum of micronutrients including LDL-lowering phytosterols, circulation-promoting arginine, minerals – potassium, calcium, magnesium, selenium, and antioxidants including flavonoids, resveratrol, tocopherols (vitamin E), and carotenoids.
Eating nuts and seeds reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Epidemiological studies have consistently shown that nut consumption is beneficial for heart health. Eating five or more servings of nuts per week is estimated to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 35%. Eating nuts and seeds protects against sudden cardiac death and reduces cholesterol and inflammation.
Nuts aid weight loss.
Someone who is trying to lose weight should not be trying to omit all nuts from their diet – in obese individuals, adding nuts to the diet aided in weight loss and also improved insulin sensitivity, which could help in preventing and/or reversing diabetes. Nonetheless, nuts should not be eaten to excess. Nuts and seeds are high nutrients but also high in calories, so they should be eaten with consideration for one’s caloric needs.
Seeds are just like nuts, but even better.
Seeds are an excellent whole food fat source and are mineral-rich like nuts, but are higher in protein.
Each nut and seed has a unique nutritional profile that lends unique health benefits:
- Almonds are rich in antioxidants. In one study, people ate either almonds or a snack with a similar fat profile each day for 4 weeks, and the subjects who ate almonds showed reductions in markers of oxidative stress.
- Walnuts. Diabetics who ate walnuts daily for 8 weeks experienced an enhanced ability of the blood vessels to dilate, indicating better blood pressure regulation. There is also evidence that walnuts may protect against breast cancer.
- Pistachios and Mediterranean pine nuts have the highest plant sterol content of all the nuts – plant sterols are structurally similar to cholesterol, and help to lower cholesterol levels. Pistachios reduce inflammation and oxidative stress as well as cholesterol.
- Mediterranean pine nuts contain a specific type of fatty acid that has been shown to curb appetite by increasing hormones that produce satiety signals.
- Flax, hemp, and chia seeds are extremely rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids,and hempseeds are especially high in protein, making them a healthy food for athletes.
- Pumpkin seeds are rich in iron, calcium, and phytochemicals, and may help to prevent prostatecancer.
- Sesame seeds have the greatest amount of calcium of any food in the world, andprovide abundant amounts of vitamin E and contain a unique antioxidant called sesamin.
Nuts and seeds are best eaten raw or lightly toasted. Be careful not to over roast the nuts and seeds because this causes carcinogenic compounds called acrylamides, and reduces the amounts of minerals and amino acids they contain.
Eating nuts and seeds with leafy greens can enhance the body’s absorption of fat-soluble nutrients from the greens, so a blended salad dressing is an excellent way to enjoy your nuts and seeds:
Ginger Almond Dressing
Preparation Time: 6 minutes
- 1/4 cup raw almond butter or 1/2 cup raw almonds
- 1/4 cup unsweetened soy, hemp or almond milk
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons tahini or unhulled sesame seeds
- 3 dates, pitted
- 2 small cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
Blend all ingredients together in a high-powered blender until creamy. Add more water if a thinner dressing is desired.
P.S. From Alicia–
I love eating nuts—seriously, once they’re out, it’s hard to stop eating them. I’m just like my mom in that department! That said, I try to use them as meal “enhancers” rather than the main attraction. So instead of eating them by the handful—and I do love those handfuls—it’s better to have them sprinkled on salads, grains, and desserts. They add so much flavor and crunchy goodness. I make sure to lightly toast them first because it brings out their delicious, rich nuttiness and also makes their fat more digestible. When I do that instead of eating them raw, I find my skin less prone to breaking out.
Dr. Fuhrman is a best-selling author, nutritional researcher and board certified family physician specializing in nutritionalmedicine. Learn more by visiting his informative website at DrFuhrman.com and his blog at Diseaseproof.com, and following Dr. Fuhrman on Facebook and Twitter. And check out his previous posts on The Kind Life:
Preventing Osteoporosis with Excellent Nutrition
Incredible Cruciferous Veggies!
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