Monday, May 2, 2011

Week # 5 Nutty Challenge

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    Our challenge for this week is to eat a hand full (about 1-1.5 ounces) of healthy nuts each day. I think sometimes we get a big overly-focused on the bottom line of calories in- energy out. If we tally up our at the end of the day and we have not gone over our calorie count we feel good about our health. But the truth is we need to seek after and include a variety of healthy foods in our diets in order to fight disease and maintain good health.

    For every day this week that you include 1-1.5 ounces of healthy nuts and seeds in your diet you earn the 5 bonus points. Nut butters can be included only if they are freshly ground with no additives. Good luck and have a nutty week! To get the right amount of nuts you should be eating: 45 pistachios, 21 hazel nuts, 8 cashews, 14 walnut halves, 23 almonds, 19 pecan halves, or 12 macadamia nuts. Don't forget to include flax, pumpkin or sesame seeds as well. You want to eat them in their freshest state- never cooked in grease and salted- raw if possible in the shell is even better.

    And yes I realize that nuts are calorie dense. But the truth is your health would greatly benefit if you resist the empty calorie snack and wisely spend your calories on those foods that give you the greatest nutritional benefit.

    Here are just some of the advantages of eating nuts:

    Almonds – Known to improve your eyesight, hair and skin quality, memory retention power, lowering your bad cholesterol and having anti carcinogenic properties, almonds are a great source of minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron and Vitamin E. They are rich in protein too. Try and consume these with their skin on for maximum benefits.

  • Cashew nutsStore house of antioxidants, minerals such as copper, magnesium and phosphorous and good fats, cashews are known for their heart friendly attributes.
  • Hazelnuts Great for strengthening the stomach, these are rich in vitamins and minerals.
  • Groundnuts or peanutsoffer a host of health benefits such as lowering your cholesterol, preventing diseases such as cancer, stroke, Alzheimer. They are naturally rich in fatty acids which help you look young and keep your organs young too.
  • Pistachio nuts are often recommended as tonic for the whole body and could be a part of some natural medicines as these promote the wellness of the digestive system.
  • Walnuts promote cardiovascular and adrenaline health. Are great for lowering cholesterol, promoting bone and brain health and prevent gall stones.
  • Flaxseeds – Rich in fatty acids, fibre and ‘good fat’, flaxseeds are great for building immunity, strengthening your bones, ensuring proper bowel movement and lowering your cholesterol. They should be coarsely ground to provide maximum nutritional benefit.
  • Pumpkin seeds – Great for protecting enlarged prostate and bones in men due to their high zinc content, these should be consumed in their green form, hulled. They are also great for preventing worms in the intestines.
  • Sesame seedsare liberally used as is and in oil form to promote cardio vascular and respiratory health in any individual. They are known to have anti carcinogenic and anti oxidant properties. They also are great for promoting bone health as they are very rich in calcium.
  • Sunflower seeds provide similar benefits as sesame seeds, apart from providing fibre, essential for proper bowel movement.

How much to consume and how to include them in your day to day diet?

Excess of anything is bad and this would hold very true for nuts and seeds. Had in moderation, this food category is great for promoting overall health, however as these are rich in natural oils, they are very high in calories and if the quantity you consume goes unchecked, you could end up gaining weight.

  • Usually a handful of mixed nuts and seeds is a good measure of providing with you the benefits, however keeping the calories in check. Research suggests that consuming about 1-1.5 oz. nuts or about 30-40 grams of nuts daily is okay, if the person is healthy and not suffering from any disease.
  • You could have these as a mid morning or evening snack – plain or toasted lightly, replacing an unhealthy choice of fried potato wafers or cookies.
  • You could add these to your breakfast cereal and include more fibre in your diet, while reaping other nutritional benefits.
  • Sprinkle them on your deli sandwich, salad or bake cookies and cakes with these to make the food more nutritious and add some extra crunch.

How to store them and other precautions?

  • While it is best to buy nuts and seeds from trusted sources, it is best to buy them with their shells when possible. When the shell is removed, the nutrients tend to quickly deplete.
  • Store the nuts that you have bought in a cool dark place and consume within a few weeks of buying these to make sure you get maximum benefits.
  • Some people with delicate digestive systems may find it difficult to digest nuts and seeds. If such is the case, it will be wise to soak them after rinsing them in clean running water. Soaking also starts the germination process of nuts and seeds and increases the nutritional value of the product manifold. Normally, it is recommended to soak nuts and seeds from anywhere between 2 to 24 hours, depending upon the time that the nuts take individually to germinate.
  • Despite their innumerable health benefits, nuts and seeds are known to trigger an allergic reaction in a lot of people and hence do check on this before introducing a new nut or seed in your diet.

Go ‘nuts’ about nuts and seeds as they surely are the new super food with so many health benefits!

1 comment:

  1. I love this challenge! I've actually been using nuts a lot lately for random recipes. Here's one I found that I thought you might like, Sandee:

    Cocoa Jingle Balls

    3/4 cup raw walnuts
    5 large dates, pitted and roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
    1/4 cup raisins
    2 tbs. unsweetened, good quality cocoa powder

    In a food processor fitted with the S-blade, grind walnuts until they are a grainy powder. Add dates and raisins. Process 20-25 seconds, or until combined and very finely chopped. Add cocoa powder and process until incorporated and the mixture holds together when you pinch it with your fingers.

    Shape the date-nut mixture into bite-sized balls, placing in candy cups if desired. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1 week. Serve at room temperature.

    No sugar but oh so tasty!