Good news for nut lovers: Nuts do more than add texture and flavor to meatless meals such as salads, veggie burgers, and pilafs—they also add nutrients. Nuts have protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber. They also have excellent array of phytonutrients and some are very high in omega 3 essential fatty acids. Nuts have been shown to lower the risk of many common diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, inflammation and some cancers.
Some nuts of note: Chestnuts are actually low in calories and contain some very special probiotics. Hazelnuts have high levels of phytonutrients especially if the skin is eaten with the nut. Pistachios are a good choice for those looking for extra fiber as they contain as much fiber as oatmeal. Walnuts are an excellent source of Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Just one ounce of walnuts contain a full day’s requirement. Cashews are a good source for zinc, one of the harder to find minerals. Almonds are a good choice for vitamin E and calcium.
A little goes a long way when it comes to nuts. A one ounce serving five to seven times a week is all that is needed to reap the benefits. Beware of nut spoilers! Many nuts are sold fried in oil and heavily salted. This is a shame because it spoils to some extent the health value of nuts and overshadows their desirable natural nutty taste. Instead choose dry roasted unsalted nuts. When shopping, buy whole nuts and chop them yourself; small chopped pieces are more vulnerable to oxidation (exposure to air, which can make them stale). Store nuts in a cool place to help keep them fresh.
When considering the crunch factor, don’t forget about seeds. Chia seeds and flaxseeds are excellent choices for omega 3 essential fatty acids. Hemp seeds are a good choice for fiber and protein. Sesame seeds are a good choice for those looking for some extra calcium in their diet. Pumpkin seeds have a generous amount of zinc.
Just as with nuts, a little goes a long way. Seeds need only be eaten in moderation for the best health benefit. Also beware of seeds fried in oil and then salted. Look for dry roasted unsalted whole seeds for both best flavor and health. For storage and best shelf life only chop or grind seeds just before you use them.
Nuts provide an almost endless variety of scrumptious culinary uses. We recommend The Nut Gourmet by Zel Allen, a cookbook that features 150 plant-based recipes that put nuts at center stage.