Nuts and seeds are packed with concentrated nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, protein, essential fatty acids, and amino acids. These staples are a much healthier choice than their oils, and actually aid in weight loss because they can reduce the saturated fat and calories in your overall diet; however it is important to understand that they must be eaten in moderation. The same high levels of ‘good’ saturated fats that nuts contain can possibly raise cholesterol levels if nuts are consumed in large quantities. There are widely varied interpretations of what moderation means, so if you want to get the highest benefit from nuts, follow these simple rules:
THE RULES FOR NUTS
1. Exercise moderation. Generally, one portion (for an adult) equals 1 oz of nuts, and that is barely a handful. The portion size is less for children, to the tune of 3 walnuts.
2. If you recently swapped out your dairy milk for nut milk, remember it is still important to moderate your intake of nuts and their milks. While nut milks such as almond milk are also excellent sources of nutrients, keep your serving of milk per day to about 5 oz. This is about equal to the milk in either one bowl of cereal, one small glass of milk, or 1 serving of almond yogurt. You don’t want to have cereal with milk for breakfast, another glass for a snack, a yogurt for lunch, and a frozen yogurt for dessert. That is too much nut milk for one day.
3. Some nuts especially, such as Brazil nuts, should absolutely not be consumed in quantity because they are not only fattening, they contain the trace mineral selenium; while selenium is an important antioxidant, consuming it in excess is dangerous to your health. Overdosing on selenium can cause a toxic condition known as selenosis causing all kinds of symptoms from hair loss, nausea and vomiting to nerve damage and kidney failure. Be careful if using these nuts to make a “spread” because most folks tend to over-eat their portion sizes.
4. Aim to buy your nuts unsalted, and toast them lightly to release their essential oils and flavors.
5. Did you know that peanuts actually belong in the legume family along with peas, beans and lentils? Buy only “natural” peanut butter because it does not contain hydrogenated oil. Natural peanut butter has to be mixed because the natural peanut oil rises to the top of the jar from sitting on the shelf at your grocery store. This is normal. Simply dump the entire jar into a large mixing bowl (scrape it all out with a spatula) whisk it together, and pour it back in the jar. You’ll be surprised how long it keeps before it actually begins to separate, and you’ll be amazed at how fresh it tastes compared to peanut butter that contains hydrogenated oil.
6. It’s pumpkin season, don’t throw those seeds away. Scoop them out and remove all the stringy pumpkin, rinse, and toast them. They can be eaten alone or sprinkled in a salad.
7. Flax Seeds are a staple in vegan baking because when they are ground and mixed with water, they act as a binder. Be sure to grind your whole flax seeds fresh because the binding properties are only released when they are freshly ground. Flax seed meal isn’t as effective.
Click here to view a printable chart showing the concentrations of protein, fat, and carbohydrates in the different varieties of nuts and seeds.