I really do like nuts and seeds. I eat a variety of them every day. They are satisfying, taste great, provide texture to other foods, are a great source of heart healthy fats, protein, fiber, B Vitamins, Vitamin E, many minerals and many antioxidants. What is there to not like about nuts and seeds? I often add them to my smoothies at the end and just blend them a little. I like having the crunchy texture this adds.
A study of more than 34,000 Seventh-Day Adventists, showed that those who consumed nuts at least five times a week had half the rate of heart attack as those who had seldom ate nuts, and those who ate nuts only once a week still had a 25 percent lower risk of heart disease than those that ate few nuts and seeds. Similarly, the Nurses’ Health Study, involving over 86,000 women, reported a lower rate of heart disease among frequent nut eaters.
Most nuts and seeds contain more than 60% monounsaturated fats which are they same fats found in olive oil. Monounsaturated fats are heart healthy. Some nuts and seeds are also great providers of Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3’s from nuts and seeds are our focus today.
Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and are protective of our joints, blood vessels and brain. However the American diet is full of unhealthy inflammatory fats. Most of these come from processed foods that are rich in omega 6 fatty acids and hydrogenated fats (also know as trans fats). One of natures answer to this problem are nuts and seeds. We need to include in our daily diet the nuts and seeds providing the highest levels of omega 3 fatty acids. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18751910
This link provides a list of 61 health benefits from omega 3 fatty acids!
Lets get one nut out of the way that really is not a nut at all; and that is the most famous peanut. Peanuts along with other nuts and seeds were included in the studies mention above. The peanut is actually a legume which includes, beans, peas and lintels. Like nuts and seeds peanuts have many health benefits and are rich in heart healthy monounsaturated oils, B Vitamins, Vitamin E, resveratrol, and many minerals. However, be careful when buying peanut butter or peanuts. The commercial processing of peanut butter can taint them with molds and other unhealthy ingredients. Many peanut butters have added sugars and other ingredients that make it less healthy. Most peanuts are roasted and salted and may also contain MSG. Just be careful when buying any nut, seed or peanuts. Choose organic if possible.
I suggest you consume all nuts and seeds raw. Some people are sensitive to the phytic acid and enzyme coating that protects raw nuts and seeds from being digested. If you have problems digesting raw nuts (you get bloating, cramping, gas) then you should soak them overnight and then rinse them well. This will remove the phytic acid coating. Instructions for soaking are at the end of this article. The one downside to soaking is that they will not retain as much of their natural crunchiness. They are going to be a little softer than they would raw but still very healthy!
Seeds tend to have less calories per ounce than nuts because of less fat content but they can contain more protein than found in some nuts.
This is my go to list of nuts and seeds for highest health and Omega 3 intake.
- Ground flax seeds (very high in omega 3’s and rich in many nutrients and soluble fiber)
- Sacha Inchi seeds (very high in omega 3’s and protein)
- Chia seeds (very high in omega 3’s loaded with many nutrients)
- Black seeds (has over 1600 healing compounds, may help with many adverse health conditions)
- Pumpkin seeds (great source of zinc and magnesium which helps us relax and many other nutrients, is great for men’s health)
- Walnuts (good source of omega 3’s, has the ability to reduce c-reactive protein making it very heart protective) http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/news/20101006/walnuts-reduce-stress
- Pecans (pecans have the highest antioxidant power of all nuts and rich in many nutrients)
- Cashews (helps improve our mood from its magnesium and tryptophan content)
- Almonds (protects our brain from dementia and help with neuron activity)
Nuts and seeds may potentially improve;
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Digestive disorders
- Heart disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Alzheimer’s and dementia
This is a great chart you can refer to comparing nutrition facts with foods traditionally known for their Omega 3 content including seeds, nuts and fish. As you can see these seeds tend to be higher in Omega 3’s than nuts.
|1 ounce of…||Sacha Inchi||Chia||Flax||Hemp||Almonds||Walnuts||Pecans||Salmon||Herring||Mackerel|
|Omega 3 (mg)||7000||4915||6388||2400||2||2542||276||565||488||748|
Nuts are rich in protein, vitamins, minerals and fat; while seeds are rich in protein, vitamin B, minerals, fat and dietary fibers.
If you want to maximize the nutrients you get from nuts, soak them in distilled or purified water overnight. This helps neutralize enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid both of which may affect digestion and absorption of the nutrients in seeds and nuts. It can also help reduce the amount of pesticides on them if they are not organically grown.
Simple Soaking Directions: Place 4 cups of nuts in a bowl with enough distilled water to cover the nuts completely. Add a tablespoon of Himalayan sea salt. The salt helps neutralize enzyme inhibitors. Soaking times can vary so the easiest rule of thumb to remember is to let them soak 7 hours (overnight). You many or may not like the taste of soggy nuts, so you’ll need to let them dry naturally or dehydrate them in a dehydrator. And because this is essentially a 24 hour process it makes sense to do several big batches at a time. Afterward compare the flavor of the soaked and dried nuts versus the non-soaked nuts. You might be surprised to find you like them better, depending on the nut and your taste.
One exception: Cashews should soak 6 hours or less and need to dry out quickly at 200-250 degrees or they can get funky.
Go Nuts for health!
Wally Bishop C.N.C.
The contents of this blog are not and should not be considered medical advice. This blog is for informational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor before making any dietary or lifestyle changes. Never quit taking prescription medications unless advised to do so by your doctor.