They Have Superfood Status
Forget avocados and goji berries – nuts and seeds are one of the food world’s unsung nutritional heroes. As Kathryn Danzey, wellness expert and founder of Rejuvenated explains: “Nuts are superfoods packed with fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. They’re a key element in the Mediterranean diet and according to research by Harvard University, just one serving of nuts per day is associated with a 30% lower risk of heart disease compared with having one serving of red meat per day.” Registered dietitian Louise Bula agrees, adding both nuts and seeds can prolong your life, with studies showing they can lower cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure and improve blood sugar control.
They Can Balance Your Hormones
You may have heard the term ‘seed cycling’ used in a wellness context. The concept behind it is that loading your diet with certain seeds, at specific times of the month, can benefit the inner-workings of your body. As Kathryn explains: “Seed cycling is an age-old solution and is based on the fact that some seeds naturally support hormone levels. Ground pumpkin and flaxseeds should be taken from the first day of your period until ovulation. Once you have ovulated, switch to eating ground sesame and sunflower seeds until the first day of your next period.” If seed cycling isn’t for you, Louise recommends eating plenty of Brazil nuts, pine nuts, walnuts, cashews and macadamia nuts, all of which are known to be beneficial for women’s hormones.
Just Remember To Perfect Your Portion
“A small handful of mixed nuts (around 30g) is the perfect portion size, providing around 180 calories,” says Kathryn. “The percentage of fat will differ slightly according to the nut – for example, most nuts have predominantly unsaturated fats but Brazil nuts, cashews and macadamias are higher in saturated fat. Too much of this type of fat can lead to raised cholesterol levels,” she says. “To get a diverse range of nutrients, the ideal combination of nuts for a snack would contain some almonds (rich in protein, vitamin E and magnesium), peanuts (high in protein and folate), walnuts (for omega-3s) and a couple of Brazil nuts, one of the richest sources of selenium.”
A Daily Dose Can Help With Weight Loss
Numerous studies show eating a daily portion of nuts may prevent you from gaining weight as you age. “Nuts are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which naturally target fat around the midriff,” Kathryn explains. “The best nuts for weight loss are those low in calories and high in fibre. The gingko nut is a good example. It isn’t easily available in the UK, but you can buy it in powder form to add to your morning smoothie. Walnuts and chestnuts can also help keep your appetite under control.”
They Can Support Muscle Growth, Too
Both nuts and seeds are widely praised for their high protein content, but not all of them are created equal. “Hemp seeds come top of the pile when it comes to protein (32%), closely followed by pumpkin seeds (30%), which is why you’ll often find these in protein powders. Peanuts are third on the list, followed by almonds and pistachios. When compared to a steak at 25% protein and salmon at 20% protein, they rank surprisingly highly,” Kathryn adds. If you are vegan, just be wary of relying solely on nuts and seeds for protein, as they aren’t complete proteins. “Nuts and seeds don’t contain all nine essential amino acids so it’s important for those on a plant-based diet to combine these with vegetables, beans or lentils,” says Kathryn.
It's Important To Know What You’re Buying
Avoid dry roasted, salted, flavoured or honey roasted nuts, which often contain added salt and sugar and are loaded with calories. Kathryn also recommends buying organic nuts if your budget stretches, although if it doesn’t, consider just buying cashews, pistachios and peanuts organically, as these have been flagged as having a higher pesticide load than others. Nut butters are also a great way to get your daily dose. “Opt for brands that don’t have any added sugar or additives – Pip & Nut and Meridian are good examples,” Louise recommends.
Soaking Them Helps With Digestion
If you have IBS or struggle with your digestion, it could be worth soaking nuts before you eat them. “While nuts are packed with nutrition, they also contain phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. These are naturally occurring chemicals, which can have an impact on how our body can absorb nutrients and reduce our ability to take up the goodness from minerals. Phytic acid binds to some minerals within nuts in the digestive tract to prevent proper absorption, which can cause problems. Soaking nuts in salted water for a few hours will activate the enzymes to neutralize the enzyme inhibitors. Simply add a pinch of salt to enough water to cover the nuts and leave for a few hours,” Kathryn advises.
Stocking Up On The Basics Is A Good Idea
Keen to eat more nuts and seeds but not sure where you should start? Louise says you can’t go wrong with upping your intake of almonds and flaxseeds. “These are the most nutrient-dense varieties. A 28g serving of almonds contains 14g healthy fats, 3.5g of fibre, 37% of your RDI for vitamin E and 19% of the RDI for magnesium. At the same time, a 28g serving of flaxseeds contains an impressive 7.8g of fibre, 5g of protein, 35% of the RDI for manganese, 31% of the RDI for thiamine (vitamin B1) and 28% of the RDI for magnesium. Almonds are delicious sprinkled on your favourite salad or bowl of porridge, while flaxseeds are great in a smoothie or as a topping for soup.”
Finally, Get Creative
Your daily dose of nuts and seeds can be so much more than a mere handful. “Nuts and seeds can be consumed whole, chopped, flaked or ground so the options are endless,” Kathryn says. “From topping cereals and salads to combining in curries and cakes, they can add texture or used ground become thickeners for dips and sauces. You can even use ground flaxseeds mixed with water to replace an egg in baking.”
Louise Bula is a registered dietician specializing in diabetes and weight management; she also freelances for nutrition communications agency HRS Communications. For more information on Rejuvenated and Kathryn Danzey visit Rejuvenated.com
*Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programmes.