Making a case for including nuts, as well as seeds, in your healthy eating plan is a smart move. (Squirrels have this figured out but that’s another story.) Once thought of as a high calorie food, nuts and seeds are now recognized as an important source of good nutrition.
Nuts are seeds of flowering nut trees. Botanically nuts are classified as a fruit that has a single edible seed with a hard, inedible shell. Not all “nuts” are true nuts: for example, peanuts are legumes- members of the pea family. Pine nuts come from the pinyon pinecone. Edible seeds like sunflower, pumpkin, flax, and chia come from the flowers of those plants.
Fat: Although nuts and seeds are high in fat, they provide heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats with plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. Flax and chia seeds are especially good sources.
Protein: Nuts are a good source of protein with walnuts and pistachios containing all nine essential amino acids. Other nuts and seeds are excellent partners with other protein sources to complete the amino acid balance. An ounce of nuts or seeds has four grams of protein.
Vitamins – Minerals: Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, vitamin E, thiamine, copper, zinc, and selenium. To get a mix of these vitamins and minerals, have a variety of nuts and seeds. An extra nutrition bonus in both are the phytochemicals that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Carbohydrate: Nuts and seeds do not contain carbohydrates, but they do contain beneficial fiber. People with diabetes can safely eat nuts without impacting blood sugar.
Calories: Be mindful of portion sizes. An ounce (approximately 1/4 cup) of nuts or seeds is considered a portion. Roasted nuts are higher in calories and salt. Read labels to track calories per serving. Calorie value ranges from 204 calories per ounce for Macadamias to 138 calories for Chia seeds. Walnuts have the lowest nut calorie level at 146 calories per ounce.
Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Prevention. The PREDIMED study found that people who ate one serving of nuts per day with their Mediterranean plant-based diet, including olive oil, significantly reduced their risk of CVD and stroke.
Weight Loss: Eating nuts may help people feel less hungry because the fat and fiber content slow digestion providing a sense of fullness. Even though nut and seed consumption may contribute to healthier weight, they are high in calories.
Health Benefits: Data from studies show that a diet including a daily serving of nuts supports overall health and reduces the risk of some cancers, high blood pressure, obesity, and inflammation. Adding nuts and seeds to a plant-based, Mediterranean style diet sets you up for good health.
- Add nuts or toasted seeds such as pepitas (pumpkin seeds) to salads, oatmeal, yogurt, cookies, homemade breads.
- To a smoothie add a spoonful of chia seeds, hemp seeds, and pepitas to boost protein, fiber, and omega-3 intake.
- Trail mix with nuts and larger seeds like pepitas make a great snack for kids or for when you are on the run and may miss a meal.
- Instead of chocolate chips add nuts and or pumpkin seeds to your homemade cookies. Add nuts and seeds to homemade whole wheat bread for extra protein, flavor, and fun.
- Wondering where quinoa fits in? It is eaten as a seed but is technically a grain containing all nine essential amino acids. Garnishing a quinoa salad with nuts boosts protein value even more.
- California is the largest nut producing state covering 95% of the US nut production for walnuts, pistachios, pecans, and almonds.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are components of cell membranes and support functions of the heart, blood vessels, lungs, immune system and endocrine system. They are found in fish, nuts and seeds, some vegetable oils such as canola oil.
This recipe is fun, healthy, and excellent source of protein. Use a 12-ounce glass or jar to layer the berries and yogurt. You can make it ahead and carry it with you to work for a later breakfast or snack.
Berry Yogurt Breakfast Parfait
1 cup of fresh strawberries (cut in chunks) or mixed berries- frozen berries work well.
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 to 3/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
2-3 tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans or other preferred nut
Combine fruit and sugar. Place 1/3 of berries on the bottom of a 12-ounce glass top with half of the yogurt. Add another 1/3 of the berries, top with the rest of the yogurt. Finish the “parfait” with the rest of the berries and top with the chopped nuts.
Calories 315 Protein 20 g.
Written by: Mimi Cunningham MA, RDN, CDCES
Mimi is a registered dietitian-nutritionist and diabetes care specialist helping people learn to manage their diabetes and achieve good health. She believes food definitely is good culinary medicine.
Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil or Nuts: CLICK HERE
Source: The New England Journal of Medicine
National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements: CLICK HERE
Source: Harvard School of Public Health
Healthy Eating: CLICK HERE
Source: Smart Strategies for Successful Living