The nutrient density in nuts and seeds is why Good Decisions recommends consuming them daily. We often associate these little nuggets with a hearty dose of protein and fat, but they also contain complex carbohydrates. They are wonderful for on-the-go snacks, to toss into salads, or to add into a breakfast grain for added flavor and nutrition. Eating an array of nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and sesame seeds are all Good Decisions!
Why Sprouted/Soaked Nuts are a Better Choice
Alike legumes, nuts and seeds contain phytates and enzyme inhibitors that keep us from fully absorbing minerals and digesting our food. Sprouting or soaking them before consumption greatly improves their nutrient value and will be of great benefit to a weakened digestive system.
You can simply soak your nuts by placing them in a bowl of warm water with a small spoonful of an acidic substance such as yogurt, lemon juice or whey. After a minimum of seven hours, they are good to go! You can eat them as they are or dehydrate them in the oven.
While sprouting is also another process you can do at home, they are now widely available in health food stores. Living Nutz is also a great online resource for sprouted and raw nuts and seeds. Visit their website at www.livingnutz.com.
(Tip: Keep nuts refrigerated, as they can go rancid easily. )
How Many Should I Be Eating?
The amount you consume depends on your size, activity level, protein and fat needs, as well as other factors. If weight loss is your desired goal and you are consuming a lot of vegetables, legumes, and fruits, then you can easily eat nuts in small amounts throughout the day to curb your appetite and prevent binging. Eating a little protein, such as nuts and seeds every two hours in the beginning, will help regulate blood sugar levels, and can be very helpful for those trying to get off the blood sugar roller coaster ride.
The protein and fat in nuts can be very filling, so an ounce here and there will be very satisfying and keep you away from the donut that may be taunting you from the break room. Nuts often get a bad rap because they tend to be high in fat, which means more calories. This is not necessarily a bad thing when you eat consciously and follow the guidance of your own body.
It is important to emphasize that the primary concept of the Good Decisions…Most of the Time way of life is that a person must learn to be in tune with his or her body and practice eating only until he or she is full. In addition, it is not about limiting fat, but excluding “poor fats” and incorporating healthy essential fats.
Nutrients Found in Popular Nuts and Seeds
Aside from fantastic fat and precious protein, one ounce of almonds provides roughly 36 percent of your Daily Value (DV) of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects cell membranes from the destructive effects of free radicals. This explains why it is used to achieve younger looking skin. One ounce of almonds also provides 20 percent of your DV of magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that many naturopaths look at when their clients’ muscles are “tight” or constipation may be an issue. This is because magnesium relaxes muscles and nerves, making it essential for muscle function and heart health. Almonds are also a good source of manganese, an antioxidant enzyme nutrient that plays an integral role in eliminating environmental toxins and free radicals. It also helps the body form connective tissue, bones, and sex hormones. Manganese is necessary for normal brain and nerve function, and also plays a role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, and blood sugar regulation. Whew! That’s a lot of nutrients in one nut!
This is my favorite nuts. When I can find an All-Star food that provides a huge amount of nutrients in a very small portion, I get very excited! Therefore, the Brazil nut really does it for me, with one nut providing 137 percent of your daily value of selenium. Selenium helps regulate thyroid function, and incorporating selenium-rich foods with iodine-rich foods may be very beneficial to thyroid health. Selenium is also important for vitamin C metabolism, enhancing immune function, and slowing the aging process. That’s right, one Brazil nut a day could help to slow the aging process! Sounds much better than a facial peel or Botox®.
Hazelnuts or Filberts
Also rich in Vitamin E, one ounce of these tasty treats provides a whopping 86 percent of your DV of manganese, 11 percent magnesium, 8 percent phosphorus, and 7 percent of your daily iron needs, as well as small amounts of B vitamins. Because the majority of the calories from nuts comes from fat, nuts are perfect carriers for fat soluble vitamins A, E, and K.
Again, manganese is the highlight of the macadamia nut, with thiamine coming in second. Thiamine is important for energy production and plays an essential role in the body’s ability to convert food into energy. When it is not consumed in sufficient amounts, thiamin and other B vitamins can leave you feeling very tired. Symptoms of thiamine deficiency include muscles that become very easily fatigued, loss of muscle tone, and heaviness in arms or legs.
Pecans are also a good source of thiamine, but their real claim to fame is manganese. Clearly, many nuts are a phenomenal source of manganese, that antioxidant enzyme that plays a role in eliminating environmental toxins and free radicals. Calcium, magnesium, and potassium are also often found in pecans.
These nifty nuggets are a phenomenal source of B6. One ounce will provide you with roughly 24 percent of your DV of this vitamin. Without B6, your body cannot make amino acids, thus all 20 amino acids would be considered essential. B6 also helps break down homocysteine (the amino acid associated with cardiovascular disease and hardening of the arteries) in the body. High homocysteine levels are associated with low B6 and B12 levels. So increasing foods rich in B6 lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and osteoporosis. Pistachios are also good sources of thiamine, copper, manganese, and phosphorus with small amounts of magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, and selenium.
This is another favorite nut because one ounce contains 2542 mg Omega-3 fatty acids. To put this in perspective, two capsules of fish oil in supplement form typically contain anywhere from 500 to 1000 milligrams, making walnuts an All-Star food for vegetarians and carnivores alike. Walnuts are also a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, and iron, with small amounts of selenium and B vitamins.
Don’t you just love knowing you can get a huge amount of nutrients in such a small portion?
Now I’m really getting excited! While all of the nuts above are known for being a great source of one or more nutrients, sunflower seeds are a great source of many nutrients. This tiny happy kernels provides a very high quality protein that is ideal for vegetarians. Almost a complete source of essential amino acids, one ounce of sunflower seeds will provide you with roughly:
47% of your daily value of Vitamin E
19% vitamin B6
Between pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, vegetarians can have their protein/essential amino acid bases pretty well covered. When combined, these seeds lack only one essential amino acid– lysine. Lysine can be found in brewer’s yeast, seaweed, and spirulina. Pumpkin seeds’ main claim to fame is the amount of iron they contain (1 ounce provides 23 percent of your DV of iron). They are also rich in manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. (Zinc is a trace mineral that helps with digestion.)
Technically, peanuts are not nuts, but legumes! While peanuts are a great source of protein, B vitamins and minerals, the health benefits may not outweigh the concerns. Peanuts, unfortunately, have a tendency to mold, which can contribute to toxicity caused by a nasty mold called aflotoxin, which is more toxic than DDT. They also contain oxalates, substances that can crystalize and cause kidney or gallbladder problems. While peanuts are now being handled more carefully to prevent aflotoxin growth, and oxalate concerns don’t seem to be high, the inflammatory nature of peanuts is something to keep in mind. For the peanut butter lovers out there, trying switching to almond butter!
So when you’re looking for a quick food source rich in minerals, healthy essential fats and protein, go nuts!
Have you ever tried almond milk? It's a delicious and nutritious replacement for dairy if you have an allergy. Try making this simple recipe right in your own kitchen!