March 7, 2014

Let’s All Go a Little Bit Nuts!



*Update via The New York Times: “Clinical trials found that adding lots of nuts to one’s diet had a limited effect on body weight. But more important, participants in studies that included nuts in a weight-loss regimen lost more weight and ended up with a smaller waist and less body fat than participants who did not eat nuts.“ Read the full article.


I’m not necessarily advising we go wild and nutty in a rhetorical out-there sense (although that spirit tends to drive my insides on a daily basis), but to add different types of healthy raw nuts to our nutrition and lifestyle.

Whether we’re vegan, carnivore or vegetarian, nuts add variety to meals in so many healthful ways.

My latest passion is adding nuts to salads and smoothies immediately following a muscle workout, yoga session or a strong run. They provide the substance, the crunch, the protein, the fat and the carbohydrates that keep my blood sugar sustained for longer periods of time than some random sugar-laden bar or just one solid piece of fruit.

After sweating, I tend to crave a balance of salt and some fat; it’s the sugary foods that cause me to bonk sooner than later.

This isn’t the case for everyone, but I have found that certain nut sources—even mixed with low-glycemic fruits—hold my energy way more than one absent of the other. Tree nuts provide all that and more. They are high in calories and can add palatability to foods or eaten alone, but when eaten in moderation they provide the type of caloric input that will level out  blood sugar.

So yes, let’s all get a little bit nutty, both in food and in the outside world.

Not only will our insides thank us post workout, but we will help the farmers and the bee population thrive! Here is a rundown of the most beneficial tree nuts and how they can be of help to your overall eating plan:

1. Walnuts

These are the powerhouse nuts possessing Omega 3-s and cholesterol-lowering nutrition. When consumed in whole form, they not only taste great, but are an excellent source of Vitamin E, Copper and Manganese. Their rich source of monounsaturated fats makes them one of the most sought-after nuts for aiding in heart health.

We only need about seven to 10 whole walnuts in total daily to redeem their benefits, otherwise there is a risk of higher than normal caloric intake. Walnut oil is a favorite in cold salad dressings versus used for food preparation, as it doesn’t perform well at high temperatures. Keep it cool and the nutrition remains intact.

2. Brazil nuts

This large tree nut provides the richest source of selenium on the planet. Selenium, an essential mineral, aids in the prevention of breast and prostate cancers. Although the name is deceiving, the Brazil nut actually originates in Bolivia, and when consumed in whole form, it is wise to err on the side of “less is more” with this nut.

Since they are so large and filling, packing about 18 percent protein, 13 percent carbohydrates, and 69 percent fat, eating about six raw Brazil nuts in a single meal is adequate to provide the selenium requirements needed.

3. Pistachios

As part of a balanced diet, pistachio nuts have been known to help with weight control.

Cracking them straight from the shell versus eating already shelled handfuls gives us more time to appreciate their taste and feel full without compromising our intake. It is the slow process of cracking the nut in the shell that aids in the weight management.

These slightly green and healthy nuts have quickly become one of the new super foods to help regulate blood glucose levels and enhance heart health. A one-ounce serving of pistachios only packs 160 calories, which is less than any other nut, so they are excellent to include in your daily nutrition. I have used them crushed raw on grilled salmon and added to salads.

4. Almonds

Rich in the amino acid, L-arginine, almonds are one of the most popular nuts with enough dietary fiber to promote wound healing, enhance immune function, and help with existing cardiovascular diseases. Because these nuts are a primary source for L-arginine, they also help with Type 2 diabetes, and are low on the glycemic index, which monitors blood sugar levels.

Almonds, similar to pistachios, are lower on the caloric range, and their uses vary from nut butters to milk to oils beneficial to the skin. It goes without saying that a dark chocolate covered almond is heaven on earth!

5. Cashews

This delicately flavored nut makes an especially great raw snack, used on salads and in dressings, and mixed in with stir fry dishes. Regarded as delicacies in Brazil and the Caribbean, this kidney-shaped nut is extremely high in copper, a nutrient responsible for the elimination of free radicals, the development of bone and connective tissue, and the production of the pigment for hair and skin called melanin.

Enjoying a handful of raw cashews or cashew nut butter (about four times per week) will help with strong bones, good hair and the prevention of coronary heart disease. With its wealth of essential fatty acids and magnesium, cashews can also effectively lower blood pressure and help relax nerve impulses.

Any satisfying nutrition regimen has to include nuts as often as possible.

Their healthy profile alone, consisting of quality over quantity, will raise the bar on any meal, providing the taste, satiety and help with many ailments which other true protein, fat and carbohydrate sources cannot do alone.

Going a little nuts every single day is always recommended nutritionally and figuratively speaking!


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Pauline Mak/Flickr

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