The more time we spend learning about what foods are good for our bodies, the more we hear about plants.
Are we eating enough plants to fuel our body and provide all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy?
The answer is probably no.
Research indicates most adults do not eat enough plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and grains.
In fact, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2009–2010 found that only about 40% of adults consumed nuts on a given day.
It seems, based on that survey, the older you are the more nuts you choose to eat.
One fun and highly nutritious way to get more nutrients and health benefits, while following a plant-based, diet is by incorporating more sources of nuts into our daily routine.
Nuts are Powerhouses
Nuts are packed with nutrition and good sources of the following nutrients:
- Oil, which provides energy in the form of unsaturated and monounsaturated fat and omega 3 fatty acids
- Vitamin E and B vitamins
- Minerals including potassium, magnesium, copper, selenium, phosphorus, folate, calcium
- Protein including essential amino acids
Health Benefits of Nuts
Nuts not only are packed with nutrition but have also been shown to provide protective benefits to our overall health.
- Studies have shown that consuming nuts can reduce the incidence of heart disease and help lower LDL (also called “bad”) cholesterol
- Antioxidants not only help with heart health but also reduce inflammation, help with cancer prevalence and delay decline in cognition
- Walnuts were found to help reduce inflammation in the arteries after eating a fatty meal
- Folate has been indicated as a nutrient that is brain healthy by protecting against cognitive decline
- Selenium has been linked to prostate health
- Some studies have shown that eating nuts could help control blood sugar in diabetics likely because of the protein content
Even though they are packed with nutrition, be aware that portion control is key with nuts because they are also packed with calories in the form of fat, albeit good fat. About 1 ounce or a handful is the correct portion size.
Overindulging on healthy nuts will quickly send your energy balance out of whack and lead to weight gain!
It is best to use nuts that are raw or dry roasted instead of those roasted with oil that will add more calories to your daily total. Also be aware of the amount of sodium that salted nuts add to your diet.
Ways to Enjoy Nuts
There are many different kinds of nuts, as well as textures, that allow you to enjoy nuts and not get bored. You can eat them whole, from the shell, slivered, sliced, chopped or creamed in butter spread form. There are almonds, pecans, walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, chestnuts, peanuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, or pistachios.
**Flavored with a variety of seasonings such as wasabi, lime, sriracha, chipotle, sugared, cinnamon, cayenne, cumin, chocolate dusting or herbs such as rosemary
**Mixes including mixed nuts, trail mix and popcorn
**On top of salads
**In yogurt or breakfast cereals, pancakes or waffles
**In quick breads, muffins, cookies, bars
**Snack mix with cereal, pretzels and dried fruit
**In stir fry recipes, vegetables, over protein foods, or casseroles
**Nut butter spreads on sandwiches, sauces, crackers, tortilla, bagels and toast
**From the shell as a snack or on game day
**Right from your hand!
It is important to read the label when buying nuts with seasonings, added sugar and salt. Some can be giving you more sodium and sugar than you intend when you pick nuts for a healthy snack.
You can make your own versions, which are healthier than pre-packaged snacks and will allow you to control the ingredients.
Spread the raw nut of your choice in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast in oven at 325 degrees for 5-10 minutes, based on amounts of nuts used. At the halfway point, stir nuts to roast evenly. Allow to cool thoroughly before chopping or adding to recipes.
Enjoying nuts in the right portion not only gives your meals a kick up in nutrition but also some added crunch!
Adding nuts for fun and nutrition can spice up the variety your meals – – and has the added bonus of being good for your health!