A man is what he eats. Good nutrition is the foundation stone for a healthy body. We all already know the basic facts and would perhaps be doing all that we can to eat healthy. Eating nuts and seeds is one step in the same direction as they are loaded with the health benefits and are easily available too.
What are nuts and seeds?
Nuts could have different meanings botanically and in the culinary field. As per what we consume, nuts originate from the plant and normally are protected inside a hard shell. This definition also includes seeds and a lot of times what we call nuts are really seeds of a plant for example, cashew nuts, pistachios and pine nuts are all commonly known as nuts; however in the true botanical sense are seeds of their respective plants.
Without confusing the matter anymore and with reference to this article, it would be wise to say that most edible nuts and seeds are products of a plant, usually protected by a hard shell. The hard shell protects the main nutritional storehouse of natural edible oil and nuts and seeds are by far, one of the richest sources of proteins, essential fatty acids, minerals and vitamins from a plant origin.
Kinds of nuts / seeds and their health benefits
Nuts and seeds are the new super foods as consuming even small amounts of these provides the body with wholesome nutrition, which very few food categories can. In general, they are known for promoting overall well being, with special benefits to the cardiovascular, digestive, bone and adrenaline health. They also prevent a host of diseases. They also help you feeling full for a longer period of time due to their low glycemic index, and can actually help you in your aim of weight loss if had in the right quantities. Not surprisingly, they are a great food choice for vegetarians.
While there is a large variety of nuts and seeds, the most common kinds of nuts and seeds that are available and their health benefits are as follows:
- 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 nuts – Store 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 peanuts – offer 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 seeds – are 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!