A handful of edible nuts and seeds can help you keep healthy and stay fit. Nuts are wonderfully delicious and crunchy, yet buttery and are gifts by Mother Nature to mankind. Nuts and seeds are easy to carry along with you anywhere without the risk of spoilage or contamination, have a long shelf life and are not easily perishable.
- They are rich in energy as they are excellent source of mono and polyunsaturated fatty-acids such as oleic and palmitoleic acids, which help to lower LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol and increase HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol.
- A rich source of all important omega-3 essential fatty acids that by virtue of their anti-inflammatory action help to reduce blood pressure, coronary artery disease, strokes, some cancers, and conditions like RA, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
- They are storehouse of poly-phenolic flavonoid antioxidants such as carotenes, lutein etc. which can offer protection against cancers, heart disease and viral/fungal infections.
- They contain minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus, manganese, fluoride, potassium etc. needed for developing immunity, bone mass and energy production. Copper and iron are required for red blood cells. Fluoride and calcium is important for bones and teeth and helps prevent dental caries. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure.
- They are good sources of vital B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 and folates required for optimum health and well-being. Also contain vitamin E, a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant required for maintaining the integrity of cell membranes protecting it from harmful oxygen-free radicals.
- Filled with fiber which aids in digestion, helps decrease cholesterol and fat absorption. An ounce of nuts and seeds provides 6g of protein.
Culinary uses of nuts and seeds:
Nuts and seeds should be preferably eaten in their natural state without oils and salt or sugar. They add to the nutritional value when sprinkled over desserts like sundaes, ice-cream and smoothies. They are also used in confectionery as an additive to breads, sweets, muffins and cakes. Many nuts are also used to make healthy butters and vegan cheese.
Here is a list of some healthy nuts and seeds:
Almonds and Brazil Nuts: contain calcium, magnesium and vitamin E, selenium and fiber to lower cholesterol and help prevent cancer.
Pecans: rich source of vitamins and minerals that help lower ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Walnuts: extremely good for your heart and brain as it contains ellagic acid, a cancer fighting antioxidant.
Cashews: a low fat nut with high concentration of oleic acid, like olive oil which is great for the heart. Cashews contain the amino acid tryptophan, which helps fight depression. Cashews are an important component of vegan cheese too.
Cedar/ Pine nuts: contain vitamins and 70% of the body’s required amino acids.
Flax seeds: are the best sources of omega-3s and lignans, super anti-oxidants to fight cancer. It also contains lot of fiber and can reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease and diabetes.
Hemp seeds: certified super food with cancer and heart disease prevention properties.
Sesame seeds: helps lower blood pressure and protect against liver damage. Sesame seeds can help prevent diseases like arthritis, migraine headaches, asthma, and osteoporosis and may even reduce PMS symptoms. Tahini is a ground sesame seed paste popular in Middle Eastern dishes.
Chia seeds: incredibly rich in omega-3 oils, calcium, fiber and protein.
Pumpkin and Sunflower seeds contain phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals that are great for the immune system and help prevent cancer and heart disease.