Health Benefits of Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are concentrated sources of protein, fats, B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, magnesium and other minerals. Some of them contain omega 3 fatty acids and as such can help to improve the balance of cholesterol and the blood lipid profile and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Almonds are very high in minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron.
Brazil nuts are rich in the sulfur containing amino acids and selenium. Selenium has an important function as an antioxidant and is involved in immunity.
Flaxseeds are the richest source of omega 3 fatty acids and thus help to improve immunity and reduce high cholesterol. When taken in the form of flaxseed meal they effectively prevent constipation and are a source of lignans – compounds that have antitumour and antioxidant properties. Flaxseeds also help to balance estrogen levels. Flax seeds are best eaten freshly ground. I purchased a small electric coffee bean grinder that I use to grind my flaxseed.
Hazelnuts are very rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, folic acid and vitamin E. Hazelnuts act as a general tonic and strengthen the stomach.
Macadamia nuts are very high in fat and can contribute to weight gain if consumed in excess. However in moderation they can help to improve the balance of cholesterol due to their abundance of monounsaturated fats. They are also very low in carbohydrates and as such are suitable for low carb diets.
Pistachio nuts are considered a tonic for the whole body in Ayurvedic medicine. They purify the blood, lubricate the intestines and can be used for constipation. Pistachios are one of my favorite snacks. I like to buy them from Sam's club in individual snack packages.
Pumpkin seeds are known for their effects against intestinal parasites especially roundworm and tapeworm. Their high zinc content may explain the value pumpkin seeds for the treatment of impotence and prostate enlargement.
Pumpkin seeds are also a valuable source of omega 3 fatty acids.
Sesame seeds are very high in calcium and are a good source of magnesium, niacin, vitamins A and E, protein and unsaturated fats. In the form of tahini (sesame seed paste) they provide the richest and most bioavailable source of calcium.
Sunflower seeds are high in protein, unsaturated fats, phosphorus, calcium, iron, fluorine, iodine, potassium, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, and vitamin E and are one of the rare plant sources of vitamin D.
Walnuts are high in protein, iron and contain omega 3 fatty acids. They can reduce inflammation and pain, lubricate the lungs and intestines, and nourish the brain and adrenal glands.
Portion Size- A Handful of Nuts
If you're nuts about nuts and want to assure getting your "handful," here is some additional information on measuring amounts. REMEMBER: The FDA recommendation suggests up to 1.5 ounces of nuts daily or one and a half times a "handful."
A handful equals about 1-ounce. This serving size corresponds to the the serving size listed on the "Nutrition Facts" panel on food labels. The Nutrition Facts label will also tell you how many 1-ounce servings there are per package.
On average, a 1.5 ounce serving is equivalent to about 1/3 cup of nuts according to Maureen Ternus, registered dietitian and nutrition coordinator for the International Tree Nut Council's Nutrition Research & Education Foundation (INC NREF).
The following table gives the approximate number of nuts per ounce and an overview of calories, protein and fat.
Nutrients in 1 Ounce (28 grams) of Shelled
per 1 oz./
|Almonds||20 - 24|
|Brazil nuts||6 - 8|
|Cashews||16 - 18|
|Hazelnuts||18 - 20|
|Macadamias||10 - 12|
|Pecans||18 - 20|
|Pistachios||45 - 47|
Source: Adapted from the International Tree Nut Council Research and Education Foundation publications, Nutrients in 1 Ounce of Tree Nuts and Peanuts, January 2003<www.nuthealth.org/nutrition/nutrient1oz.html> and Nutrition in Every Handful, August 2002, <www.nuthealth.org/inside.pdf>.
Feel Like a Nut?
It's easy to nibble on nuts. Here are three quick ideas plus links to lots more. Store shelled or unshelled nuts in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 6 months or for a year in your freezer for best quality.
1. It's in the Bag!
You don't have to fire up the stove or get out your cookbook to enjoy nuts. Your handful of nuts may be enjoyed -- simply -- out of hand.
Divide a container of nuts into small snack bags for easy snacking at home, office or on the road, advises Ternus, INC NREF. Simply count, measure a third cup, weigh 1 to 1.5 ounces of nuts on a kitchen scale or grab a handful and store in each snack bag. Keep in the refrigerator until you're ready to enjoy! A handful of nuts may help you resist that gooey sweet roll in the breakroom at work.
2. Just a SprinkleSprinkle nuts into these foods:
3. Toasting Nuts in Your Microwave
For added richness of flavor, try this quick (takes about 5 minutes!) recipe for microwave-toasted nuts.
Here's a quick and cool way (with minimal cleanup) to toast nuts, based on information from Linda Gossett, MPA, CFCS, Extension Educator - EFNEP, University of Idaho.
This method works well for amounts ranging from a tablespoon to 1/2 cup. With larger amounts, some are likely to turn dark quicker than others. The time will vary depending on the size, type and temperature of the nuts/seeds, and also may be influenced by the type of microwave.