Expert Guidance on Nuts and Seeds for Good Health and Weight
Are nuts driving you crazy? Are you aware of the distinction between a seed and a nut? Are all nuts created equal? We’re often hearing about the health benefits of nuts and seeds, and being told to include them in smoothies, salad dressings, and cereal for breakfast. However, why?
To begin with, a seed is simply the beginning of a plant. Endosperm, a rich supply of nutrients for the plant that will emerge, is found inside seeds.
Numerous nuts, such as hazelnuts, acorns, and chestnuts, are actually the edible fruit kernels—yes, we realize it can be confusing—whose flesh we throw away.
However, not all nuts are actually nuts; cashews, almonds, and Brazil nuts are actually fruit seeds.
To further complicate matters, peanuts belong to the legume family, which puts them closer to peas than to, say, hazelnuts.
All of these mouthwatering treats—seeds, fruits, and legumes—are healthy for humans. Sandra Carvajal, a holistic nutritionist in Hong Kong, cites a number of reasons for this:
- Nuts are high in nutrients and help us feel satiated for extended periods of time.
- They include a lot of minerals, which are vital to our daily activities.
- They are a great source of heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which are beneficial for heart health.
- Their strong antioxidant content aids in the fight against inflammation.
- A small handful of nuts or seeds, rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, calcium, and omega-3 oils, can pack a big nutritional punch.
According to Carvajal, the macronutrient content of nuts and seeds is similar (protein, carbohydrate, and fat), but the micronutrient content is different (minerals and vitamins).
Pistachios are high in vitamin A, cashews in vitamin B, almonds in vitamin B2, and peanuts and almonds higher in vitamin C and B3.
Almonds, cashews, and pine nuts have more magnesium than other nuts, according to Carvajal; pistachios, almonds, chestnuts, hazelnuts, and peanuts have more potassium; and chia and flax seeds have more iron than other seeds.
Because of this, she suggests combining nuts and seeds in a container so that each handful provides a variety of nutrients and advantages.
As long as they are consumed in moderation and in the proper quantities, Carvajal claims that despite nuts’ high calorie content, it is untrue that they cause weight gain.
Indeed, raw nuts—especially peanuts—have been linked to improved heart health and weight loss, according to Carvajal.
Some theories explain why this is the case, such as the fact that they satisfy our hunger more than other snacks, that they pass through our digestive system without fully absorbing their nutrients when they are not chewed enough, which happens frequently, and that they are an excellent source of fiber, which is associated with a lower risk of weight gain.
A handful of nuts or seeds contains roughly 30 grams of nuts and/or seeds, which is the recommended daily intake.
It’s easy to transform a nutritious raw nut into something highly processed: coat it in chocolate, yogurt, honey, or salt.
According to Carvajal, the issue with commercially available “fancy nuts” is that they frequently include added ingredients that are rich in sugar or sodium, both of which can be harmful to health.
“What people don’t understand is that processed nuts, like other ultra processed foods, can make you gain weight and mess up your metabolism because of added unhealthy fats, sugars, preservatives and artificial flavourings,” she says.
How therefore should we consume seeds and nuts? The ideal state is unprocessed, in its entirety or as nut or seed butter. To improve their flavor, you may also soak and bake them (roasting them without oil is better).
Carvajal finds another way to savor her favorite nut, cashews.
“Cashews make yummy nut milk, and you can use the leftover pulp to make soft cheese.”
She also like flax seeds since they are high in fiber and good fats, both of which are excellent for a healthy digestive system.
Carvajal uses a jar full of assorted seeds, including sesame, chia, flax, pumpkin, and sunflower, to top salads, soups, and fresh fruit. She also incorporates them into yogurt, cereal bowls, and smoothies.
“Sometimes I just have a handful as a snack. I love rotating nuts, as each of them has a very particular flavour – cashews, almonds, macadamias, walnuts, pecans, peanuts.”
She keeps nut butter in her refrigerator at all times. She had discovered pumpkin nut butter recently.
Another way to consume nuts is in pesto sauces; to switch it up, use other greens and nuts, such as pine nuts and basil.
The top five healthiest seeds and nuts
Seeds of hemp
Hemp seeds are derived from a cannabis plant strain, however they have very little to none of the psychotropic ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Nine grams of plant protein may be obtained from three tablespoons of hemp seeds, and more than 25% of their total calories are derived from high-quality protein—much more than from flaxseed and chia seeds.
Hemp seeds contain 30% fat as well, but it’s healthy fat, including important omega-3 and omega-6.
Pumpkin seeds are strong in tryptophan and magnesium, and they provide eight grams of protein per ounce (one ounce is about 28 grams), which may help with sleep.
They are also quite effective at reducing inflammation.
In rats with arthritis, one study found that using pumpkin seed oil decreased inflammation without having the negative side effects of anti-inflammatory medications.
Related to beans and peas, peanuts have been shown in a 2020 study to reduce blood pressure, triglycerides (a blood fat type), and bad cholesterol.
Additionally, they contain a lot of protein, particularly arachin and conarachin, which can be fatal allergies for certain individuals.
Additionally, they include phytosterols, which aid in preventing the absorption of cholesterol.
Almonds are great for our cardiovascular health because they are high in healthy fats and one of the top sources of vitamin E.
For those who are gluten intolerant, almond flour is a great substitute for wheat flour.
About 160 calories, about 6 grams of carbs, and about 3.5 grams of fiber can be found in a modest handful of almonds.
Almonds’ concentrated potent antioxidants are found in their skin, therefore it’s best to eat them raw rather than blanched.
Seeds of sunflowers
A single sunflower can yield up to 2,000 seeds. Sunflower seeds are extracted from the head of the plant.
They are rich in nutrients, such as zinc, vitamin E, and folate—the latter of which is particularly crucial for expectant mothers since it shields the fetus from diseases like spina bifida and other conditions.
Unless they are packed and sold as a snack, sunflower seeds have essentially little sodium. However, a modest number of sunflower seeds can provide 70% of your daily sodium intake.
When purchasing nuts and seeds, always keep an eye out for any extras, and keep in mind that they make a great, nutritious snack on their own.