Nuts and Seeds

We are please to bring you week 2 of our superfood articles. We hope you enjoyed last weeks article on cruciferous vegetables and their amazing health benefits, as well as the nutrition available from broccoli sprouts and hope you enjoy this article just as much. This week we are looking at Nuts and Seeds. 

This food group is an essential inclusion in our diet and we take this opportunity to extend our sympathies to those with allergies to this food group. Rich in proteins, healthy fats, omegas and fibre Nuts and Seeds provide valuable nutrition to our diets and benefit our health in so many ways. Firstly let's visit with Nuts.

Possibly the most beneficial nut of all time would have to be Almonds. They are not only high in protein and nutritional content, but they make a great appetite suppressant when eaten prior to a meal (try about 12), and are filling just as a snack (again, just a handful), but they are also alkalising, and can be used to make a healthy milk - check out our recipe section for Almond Milk! You can soften them too by blanching for inclusion in cakes or energy bar slices.

Nuts are high in mono-unsaturated fats, the same type of health-promoting fats as found in olive oil, which have been associated with reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. They also contain polyunsaturated fats, healthy saturated fats, and linoleic acid, another healthy fat that the body uses as an essential fatty acids. In addition to their cholesterol-lowering effects, the nut's ability to reduce heart disease risk may also be partly due to the antioxidant action of the vitamin E found, as well as to the LDL-lowering effect of mono-unsaturated fats.

In addition to healthy fats and vitamin E, a quarter-cup of Almonds contains almost 99 mg of magnesium plus 257 mg of potassium, an important electrolyte involved in nerve transmission and is essential for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function.

As we learnt in last weeks news on cruciferous vegetables, magnesium is a fantastic and essential mineral that relaxes veins and arteries which lessens muscle resistance and improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Studies show that a deficiency of magnesium is not only associated with heart attack, but a lack of sufficient magnesium can promote free radical injury to the heart immediately following a heart attack. Due to their rich magnesium content we should consume Almonds on a daily basis, particularly if we workout because muscles need Almond's bioavailable and ready sources of magnesium for active recovery.

Cashews also have high levels of tryptophan, a feel good chemical that aids in raising moods. It has been claimed that 2 handfuls of cashews offers the same anti-depressive results as one Prozac pill. Being that depression could affect one in three of us to varying levels, regular consumption of cashews may help us with preventing or minimising this. A healthy nut is a far better option than a toxic pill if it can possibly be avoided. Cashews are also known for their high iron content which is needed to make hemoglobin - the red pigment in the blood.

Macadamia, the gourmet of nuts, is the highest in fat (but still healthy fats). Walnuts, Brazil nuts and Pine nuts also have additional health benefits because they're rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Even though peanuts are technically a legume, they provide the most complete protein. Many other nuts are missing the amino acid lysine.

Walnuts, Pecans, and Chestnuts have the highest antioxidant content of the tree nuts, with Walnuts topping out the others in antioxidant content. As with all nuts, they are much better for us when eaten raw, as opposed to roasted or salted. Polyunsaturated fats are unstable and become inflammatory to your body when they’ve been exposed to heat, so roasted nuts are not the best option. To avoid rancid nuts, eat them as fresh as possible. Walnuts are quick to oxidise and therefore should ideally be freshly shelled and eaten promptly.

Nuts are full of other minerals too, such as copper, iron, manganese, zinc and selenium. Iron helps your blood deliver oxygen to your muscles and brain, while zinc helps boost your immune system and brain function. Selenium is a potent cancer fighting mineral, and aids the thyroid gland, which regulates metabolism and fat-burning in the body.

So can we now say that nuts are a high-fat food that's good for your health and helps you lose weight? Absolutely yes! Put them at the top of your list of healthy lean-body snacks! Several studies have shown that dieters who include reasonable amounts of nuts in their diet actually lost more weight than those who did not eat nuts. Since nuts have no sugars, they do not promote an insulin response, which means they are more likely to be used as energy and they will not stimulate your appetite like a starchy or sweet food will, so you essentially eat less calories overall, even though you're consuming a high-fat food.

The list of health benefits attached to each individual nut is endless, and while all nuts are healthy, there a few other superstars. Brazil nuts contain a very high amount of selenium: about 70 to 90 micrograms per nut. So only 3-4 Brazil nuts will provide you with ample amounts of this essential nutrient. Pistachios help to reduce the risk of macular degeneration, a common cause of visual loss in older individuals, and contain two important carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, compounds which help prevent this common eye condition. Carotenoids are also strong antioxidants that help to offset cell injury and damage. A daily snack of pistachios could be a tasty and effective way to protect one of your most important senses - your vision. Pistachios are also high in protein, making a satisfying snack. Pecans, mentioned previously, are also said to be effective in preventing prostate enlargement and prostate cancer in men.

Try making your own almond butter, cashew butter, pecan butter, or macadamia butter to add variety to your diet and make it easier to get more of the quality nutrition of nuts into your diet. Simply blend nuts with some coconut or olive oil to make a nut paste.

Here’s a blood sugar balancing, heart-healthy, delicious way to include nuts and seeds in your diet and have a healthy snack. These are great fuel for a workout! Eat these instead of an energy bar.

Nutty Energy Superfoods Snack

  • ½ cup almond butter 
  • ½ cup ground flaxseeds 
  • ½ tahini paste 
  • ¼ cup pea protein powder 
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds 
  • ¼ cup amber agave syrup 

Combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl, or you can use a food processor. Roll into balls about the size of a small walnut. Refrigerate. You may prefer to roll the balls in shredded coconut, or add dried fruit, chia seed and/or LSA to the mix. If you do add some or all of these additional ingredients, you will need to add a little more wet ingredients/syrups to combine mix. You can also experiment with your favorite nuts and nut butters for more varieties of this high powered snack.

Which brings us to Seeds.

Nuts and seeds pretty much go hand in hand. They are similar in protein and fibre content to nuts, often come mixed in with nuts in prepacked or homemade blends, and have the same use in weightloss, offering amazing nutritional properties as well as satisfying your appetite due to their protein, fibre and healthy fats content.

Some of the most popular and commonly used seeds are Flaxseed, Pepitas (Pumpkin), Chia, Sesame, Sunflower, and Linseed. Another great combination of nuts and seeds is LSA; Linseed Sunflower and Almond ground meal. This is so rich in protein, versatile and healthy, it can be easily incorporated into most meals; salads, veggies, baking, snacks, yoghurt, toasted topping, cereals, smoothies, fruit salad, really the list is endless for breakfast lunch and dinner. It has a great texture and taste and mixes just as well with savoury as sweet foods. It is best stored in the fridge to protect the active enzymes and reduce oxidisation.

Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil has attracted a lot of attention for their nutritional benefits and contain high levels of lignans and Omega-3 fatty acids. Lignans are phytoestrogens, or estrogen-like chemicals that also act as antioxidants. Lignans in flaxseed possess anti-cancer properties and studies performed on mice found that flaxseed extract reduced growth of specific types of tumours. Other studies suggest that flaxseed taken in the diet may benefit individuals with certain types of breast and prostate cancers.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids because they are essential to human health but cannot be manufactured by the body — they must be obtained from food. There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Flaxseed contains alpha linolenic acid (ALA). The body can convert ALA to EPA and DHA, but cannot make ALA making it an essential one for diet inclusion. EPA and DHA are the two types of omega-3 fatty acids more readily used by the body and these two types of omega-3 fatty acids are also found in high concentrations in quality fish oils. There is mixed debate on which is better, Fish or Flaxseed Oil, and so far appear similar, each offering varying qualities and benefits with no definitive answer on which is best.

Flaxseed Oil is available as Certified Organic Cold Pressed Extra Virgin (high quality) and is more affordable than fish oil, which unless is of the best quality often contains contaminants and inferior quality fish fats rather than active oils. Flaxseed Oil is also more palatable and can be easily mixed in with dressings, yoghurts, smoothies etc. Due to the high omega oils content, it has been used for aiding behavioural or mental difficulties in children.

Clinical studies show that omega-3 fatty acids are also helpful in treating a variety of health conditions including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, and by controlling sugar levels and blood cholesterol, it is beneficial in promoting weight loss and for maintaining healthy skin.

In addition to the high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed contains an important lignan called secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG), which is converted into enterodiol and enterolactone in the colon. There is evidence that enterolactone, may have a beneficial effect on bone health, breast health, heart health, hair loss, acne, inflammation, prostate and menopause health, and is an antioxidant. Flaxseed lignans have also been linked to reducing the risk of breast cancer for pre-menopausal women by 78%.

Dietary supplement of flaxseed could also prove to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the lungs, as it has shown these benefits in animal tests. Another area where flaxseed is showing promising is hair loss. An trial that supplemented the diets of male subjects with 250 mg of an extract of flaxseed oil reported that 90 per cent of the volunteers showed improvements in their hair loss problem, and 50 per cent reported a decrease in oil secretion in the scalp.

Black and White Chia seeds (Salvia Hispanica) are the highest known plant source of Omega-3, with 8 times more than salmon! Unlike other sources of this important Essential Fatty Acid (eg. Flax or fish oil), it is in a highly stable form due to its powerful naturally occurring antioxidants. Chia is an easy way to add healthy nutrition to your daily diet, with Vitamins A, B12 and C, complete protein (18 Amino Acids), minerals including potassium, phosphorous, folate, zinc, iron, and calcium as well as bowel-regulating soluble and insoluble fibre.

  • 15 x more magnesium than broccoli 
  • 8 x more Omega-3 EFA's than salmon 
  • 7 x more Vitamin C than oranges 
  • 6 x more fibre than oat bran (soluble and insoluble fibre for bowel, cholesterol and blood sugar regulation) 
  • 5 x more calcium than milk 
  • 4 x higher ORAC value than blueberries 
  • 3 x more iron than spinach 
  • 2 x more potassium than bananas 
  • 18 amino acids 
  • Vitamin A and B12 
  • complete protein (23%) 

All in all it adds up to 100% healthy nutrition. Like many plants, there are different varieties each with their own unique properties, and the two-coloured Chia Seed mix is no different. It is thought that the black seed has more of the mineral boron (for bones) and that the white seed is slightly higher in Omegas. You can sprinkle these flavourless seeds on salads, muesli, oatmeal, stirfrys, smoothies, muffin or bread batter, or cereal. Optional: use a spice/coffee grinder to make a fine meal-like consistency.

For Chia Gel, mix 1 tbsp with 1 cup of water, wait 10 minutes until it swells. Consume 1 tsp – can refrigerate up to 3 weeks in airtight container. For Chia Water, add 1-2 tsp into your 1 Litre water bottle.

Well I hope you have enjoyed reading this article on the more common or popular nuts and seeds. Eat a variety of each on a daily basis, and incorporated into your diet to meet the needs you feel best supports your body and your individual nutritional deficiencies. Whether for nutrition, weightloss, energy, or your health in general, seeds and nuts are an essential part of our daily diets.

For more information on Flaxseed Oil or Chia Seed please feel welcome to visit Carole's website at http://www.energysuperfoods.com.

Next week we'll be taking a look at deliciously nutritious Super Fruits!

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