Nuts and seeds are amazing foods, rich in protein and good fats as well as many vitamins and minerals. Nuts and seeds are the part of the plant that has all the nutrients to grow the next plant. Nuts can be quite high in calories, due to their fat content so it’s important to have them in small portions. Most nuts grow on trees and are the fruit or seed produced when the tree is blossoming. You find them in a hard shell which protects them from birds and insects and stops the oils from becoming rancid. When storing nuts that are out of their shells, make sure you keep them in an air tight container, or in the fridge to retain their freshness.
Watch out for roasted or salted nuts and seeds. We can do without the extra salt and the roasting process destroys a lot of the nutrients. Raw nuts are definitely best. All nuts and seeds have slightly different nutrient contents and benefits; see below for a breakdown of these.
Almonds make a great snack because of their protein content. If you are dairy intolerant, you can make almond milk as an alternative. See below for the recipe
Fresh Almond Milk
1 cup organic raw almonds soaked for 12 hours
2 - 3 cups of purified water
Place the raw almonds in a glass bowl or dish with filtered water and 1 teaspoon of sea salt, and cover. Leave for 12 hours
Rinse the nuts several times and then put them in your blender with the water. Blend on high until the nuts are completely pulverised.
You can either drink the milk like this, or if you would like a smoother consistency, strain the milk through a nut bag or fine mesh strainer, making sure to squeeze the cloth fully to get all the milk out.
Brazil nuts are best known for their selenium content. Eating just 25 grams of Brazil nuts per day will give you your recommended daily amount. Selenium has many benefits in the body. It’s needed for a healthy immune system, proper thyroid gland functioning, to reduce oxidative stress in the body and in contributes to the maintenance of normal skin and hair. Try adding two to three Brazil nuts into your daily diet to reap the benefits of selenium.
Of all the nuts, Hazelnuts have the highest source of Vitamin E and are an excellent source. They also contain B3, B5, B6 and folate and calcium and magnesium. You often find hazelnuts in desserts and confectionary, like Nutella as they are almost 65% fat and add a creamy texture. If you want to make a healthier, more nutrient dense hazelnut and chocolate spread try this recipe
Choc Hazelnut spread
1 cup hazelnuts, soaked for 8-10 hours
¼ cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ cup raw cacao powder
2-4 tbsp almond milk
Drain the hazelnuts and process them in a blender until smooth. Once the hazelnuts have a buttery consistency, add the cacao, vanilla, salt and maple syrup until smooth. Add the almond milk slowly until you get a nice consistency.
Cashews are a sweet nut that contain magnesium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus biotin and folate. They are lower in fat than a lot of other nuts and have higher carbohydrate content. Cashews are a great addition to stir fries, and having cashew nut butter on rice or oat cakes is a delicious protein filled snack.
Walnuts are a great nut. They are known as brain food and if you look at a shelled nut, they do look a lot like the human brain. Like almonds, they are high in omega 3 fats, which are protective against inflammation in the body. Walnuts are delicious in baked goods. You can also buy walnut oil which is lovely to drizzle over salads.
Did you know that peanuts are not a true nut, and instead belong to the legume family. They are a good source of protein and the B vitamin content is higher than most other nuts. Peanuts do have a tendency to become mouldy easily which is something to be mindful of. Try to keep shelled peanuts and peanut butter to avoid them becoming rancid.
As you can see nuts can be a good source of nutrients and a tasty addition to the diet, just be mindful that you watch your portion sizes and avoid nuts that have been roasted and salted.
Sesame seeds add a nutty taste and a delicate crunch to whatever you’re making. They’re also used to make sesame paste or tahini, which can be spread on crackers or toast and often used in Middle Eastern dishes to make hummus and falafel. These powerhouse seeds provide calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, B vitamins, and dietary fibre.
How to eat: Add them to salads, stir-frys, coatings for fish or chicken, or sprinkle them on breads or steamed vegetables. You can also try using tahini paste instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches and wraps.
The pumpkin plant, along with its seeds, has been used in the traditional medicine of many countries, including India and Mexico. Pumpkin seeds are subtly sweet and nutty with a somewhat chewy texture, pumpkin seeds are lower in fat than other seeds and offer essential minerals like iron, magnesium, and potassium. Pumpkin seeds also contain protective compounds called phytosterols, which are thought to contribute to heart health benefits. While available year round, they are freshest in the summer when pumpkins are in season.
How to eat: Enjoy pumpkin seeds on top of salads or cereal, add to your favourite baked goods, or eat a handful for a nutritious and tasty snack.
Chia comes from a desert plant in Mexico called Salvia hispanica and is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, dietary fibre antioxidants, and calcium. These tiny black and white seeds were used long ago by Mayan and Aztec cultures to boost energy. Because they have a mild, nutty flavour, chia seeds are easy to add to a variety of foods and drinks. When mixed with water they create a gel that is often eaten as a dessert. They swell up to 12 times their weight!
Chia seeds are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and fibre. They are also a source of B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc. There is actually no nutritional difference between the black seeds and the white seeds, they just come from different plants.