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Nuts and Seeds

by in Superfoods 23/10/2012

There is too much information on nuts and seeds that would plant the seeds for one to go nutty.

Luckily, most of it is of course, good news.nut assortment

Nuts can do everything from being the ideal energy boost to boosting your brainpower. Everything from the most common nuts to the more exotic seeds and nuts can clear up that “brain fog” and enable you to think clearer and be happier than you ever imagined. Personally, they are a great time saving tool. They’re easy to consume and snack on and are loaded with nutrients. But like most things, they aren’t all created equally!

In this article, we’ll mull over a few of the ones you just aren’t getting enough of!

WALNUTS

Let’s start with Walnuts. Walnuts are a “brain food” (and it just so happens they look remarkably like a shrunken brain). They are made up of 15 to 20 percent protein and contain linoleic (omega-6 fatty acids) and alpha-linoleic acids (omega-3 fatty acids), vitamin E and vitamin B6, making them an excellent source of nourishment for your nervous system. They are a great mood-stabilizer, but then again- so are many other types of nuts.

Walnuts are arguably considered the king of nuts for itsu health benefits, with a combination of more healthful and higher quality antioxidants, U.S. researchers say.

According to Joe Vinson from the University of Scranton, “Walnuts rank above peanuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios and other nuts. A handful of walnuts contains almost twice as much antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other commonly consumed nut. But unfortunately, people don’t eat a lot of them. This study suggests that consumers should eat more walnuts as part of a healthy diet.”

They contain plenty of high quality protein and an unsual mix of vitamins and minerals. Vinson continued in the study to say that it takes only about seven walnuts a day to get the potential health benefits.

Research has also found that antioxidants in walnuts were two to 15 times as potent as vitamin E — renowned for its powerful antioxidant effects, which protect the body against damaging natural chemicals involved in causing disease, Vinson says.

In addition to being loaded with protein and fiber, walnuts are a good source of the healthy fat ALPHA-LINOLEIC ACID (ALA). Several recent studies have linked a higher intake of ALA to a reduced risk of heart disease and heart attack in men. One-quarter cup of walnuts provides all the ALA you need in a day.

FLAX SEEDS

Flaxseed is one of the most concentrated plant sources of omega-3 fats. Because of this it can help lower blood cholesterol and blood pressure Flaxseeds contain 50 to 60 per cent omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha linolenic acid. Flaxseeds are also rich in antioxidants, B vitamins, dietary fibre, a group of phytoestrogens called lignans, protein and potassium They are also a good source of thiamin and manganese.

Flaxseeds are an ideal way for vegetarians  to ensure they get enough omega-3. Ideally, buy the seeds whole and grind them in a blender to make the meal. Flaxseed meal can also be used as a binder or egg substitute in baked goods for people who are allergic to eggs. The seeds can be sprinkled just about on everything from fruit, vegies, cereal and yoghurt, while flaxseed meal can be used in baking or to bulk out meat dishes. This way you increase your omega-3 levels and fibre intake at the same time.

Gandhi praised flax seeds as a wonder food, and many nutritionists and health food fans everywhere agree. Flax seeds are an excellent source for omega-3s, making them a viable source for those who don’t like to eat fish, the most common source of omega-3s. Like walnuts, flax seeds may offer an alternative to antidepressant pharmaceuticals, which are often loaded with side effects. Whether in the form of flaxseed oil or flaxseeds, this plant gives you a good amount of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid that lowers blood pressure and your risk for stroke.

BRAZIL NUTS

Brazil nuts are an extremely good source of selenium, with 774% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) per 6 nuts. Selenium is an extremely important nutrient that’s lacking in many people’s diet. It’s a crucial antioxidant and is very important for the well functioning of the thyroid gland. Selenium is so important that it could be wise to eat a few brazil nuts regularly even though they are high in total PUFA. Keep in mind however that selenium becomes toxic in high amounts and that 2 or 3 brazil nuts per day should be more than enough. They are also a good source of magnesium and copper.

CASHEWS

Now when you’re in the nut aisle shopping for walnuts, and flaxseeds, be sure to stop and say hi to Cashews. Cashews can help maintain your body’s balance of minerals needed for optimum health, as they are high in mineral content, with copper being the most abundant. Copper is needed by your body for the production of hemoglobin, collagen, elastin and the protection of nerve fibers.

Cashews are high in magnesium, which can “open up” the blood vessels in your body, including those in your brain. When more oxygen-rich blood nourishes your brain, like any organ, it operates better. By providing your body with phenylalanine, adding almonds to your diet can do wonders for your mental and neurological health. Cashews are high in antioxidants and have a lower fat content than most other nuts; additionally, 75 percent of their fat is unsaturated fatty acids. Cashews are also a good source of monounsaturated fats, copper, and a good source of magnesium and phosphorous. Eating cashews promotes good cardiovascular health, even in individuals with diabetes

ALMONDS

Almonds are a good source of manganese, copper, magnesium, vitamin E and riboflavin. Wild almonds are highly toxic with a compound that breaks down to cyanide, but modern domesticated almonds don’t contain that compound. Almonds are king of the nut family and taste great. Raw almonds are relatively easy to digest and can be soaked in pure water 4-8 hours for a unique treat.

Almonds are also the only alkaline nut; all other nuts are acid forming in the body. From the FDA’s website: “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as Almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease”.

Almonds are a great source of protein for vegans, and they also contain vitamin E, mono unsaturated fatty acids, calcium, folate magnesium and zinc. A cup of almonds contain as much calcium as a cup of milk (but without the acidity which milk contains). Almonds have a cholesterol lowering effect and a study from the Health Research and StudiesCenter has found almonds are even better than olive oil in lowering LDL cholesterol.

OTHER HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

Macadamia nuts. Macadamia’s are a good source of thiamine, copper and manganese. Macadamia nuts are also very low in antinutrients like phytic acid. They are healthy even in higher amounts.

Pistachios. Pistachios are a good source of copper, thiamine, manganese and vitamin B6.

Walnuts. Are often praised for their high omega-3 content, but are way too high in total PUFA and still have a bad omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. They are a good source of magnesium. manganese and copper.

Pine nuts. Pine nuts are a good source of manganese, copper and magnesium.

Pumpkin seeds. They are a very good source of magnesium, a mineral that lacking in most people’s diet. They are also a good source of copper, manganese, iron and phosphorus.

Sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds are a good source of vitamin E, thiamin, magnesium, copper, manganese and selenium.

WHAT ABOUT PEANUTS?

Poor peanuts. They’re always singled out. Peanuts are really a legume.

[showmyads] Now lets look at peanuts from a commonsensical perspective. When most people eat them they are salt-ridden. That’s one way to slowly kill your body. Also peanuts have become one of the most prolifically manufactured foods around the world (thanks to their versatile use). Therefore, anything that causes mass manufacture will create different levels of healthy peanuts. The smart thing to do when choosing peanuts it to avoid buying the generic, salted brands and stick with small, local companies.

Peanuts are a good source of heart-healthy monosaturated fat, flavonoid (resveratrol), antioxidants, phytosterols, phytic acid (inositol hexaphosphate), and folic acid, making them heart-healthy, a good way to reduce your risk of stroke, and possibly even cancer. They are also a good source of vitamin B3 (niacin), folate, copper, manganese, and protein, and are a significant source of resveratrol, a chemical studied for potential anti-aging effects.

Peanuts and peanut butter may also help prevent gallstones and protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

It is wise however to ensure that peanuts, especially raw ones, are stored in a cool, dry, environment (such as a refrigerator or freezer), as an extremely toxic and highly dangerous fungus (aflatoxin) can easily grow on peanuts when the temperature is between 86-96°F (30-36°C) and humidity is high. They are one of the most common food allergen and contain antiinutrients, a high lectins content and are a source of aflatoxin, a known carcinogen

TO SOAK OR NOT TO SOAK…

Although eating nuts and seeds, even when roasted, can be very healthy, it may be beneficial to purchase your nuts and seeds raw and then soak them in clean water for a few hours before eating them. Soaking raw nuts and seeds stimulates the process of germination, which increases the vitamin C, B, and carotenes (pre-vitamin A) content. It may also neutralize phytic acid, a substance present in the bran of all grains and seeds that can inhibit some absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc. Raw nuts and seeds also contain enzyme inhibitors that are neutralized by germination.soak

One terrific reason to soak nuts is that many nuts, especially walnuts and almonds, have a much more appealing taste after they are soaked and rinsed. As you will see if you try it yourself, after as little as 20 minutes the soak water is brown. After a couple hours, much of the dust, residue and tannins from the skins are released into the water and the nut emerges with a smoother, more palatable flavor. You’ll notice that soaked walnuts do not have that astringent, mouth-puckering taste to them. This is because when soaking walnuts, the tannins are rinsed away, leaving behind a softer, more buttery nut. The soak water from nuts and seeds should always be discarded and never used as water in a recipe.

Many raw foodists will keep a variety of nuts and seeds soaking in their refrigerators at all times to have handy. If you do this, you’ll want to change the soak water every couple of days so that the food doesn’t spoil.

If you want to learn more about soaking your nuts, have a read of Mina’s article over at Wake Up World.

DOWNSIDE OF NUTS

The other problem when it comes to most nuts and seeds is the high amount of polyunsaturated fat (PUFA), especially the omega-6 polyunsaturated fat.

Along with access fructose and consumption of toxic grains and legumes, excess omega-6 and total PUFA intake strongly contribute to today’s chronic and metabolic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Nuts or seeds that contain appreciable levels of omega-3 fat are not necessarely a good source of omega-3 because the form of omega-3 found in plants, nuts and seeds is alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA), which isn’t useful for the body. When we talk about omega-3 fats being essential for the body, we’re talking about the long-chain EPAs and DHAs. ALA can be elongated to EPA and DHA, but the process is very inefficient.

 

HOW TO GET MORE

  • Graze on them. Instead of eating a handful of nuts at once, spread them out during the day.
  • Eat them for breakfast. Instead of cereal, mix a handful of crushed walnuts and honey with plain low-fat yogurt.
  • Sneak them into side dishes. Sprinkle chopped walnuts on cereal, low-fat ice cream, sauteed vegetables, and salads.
  • Add them to a smoothie. Blend them into just about any type of smoothie you are making.
  • Munch on them while watching TV. Snack on some nuts when you’re doing medial tasks. It will help maintain your appitite.
  • Dip them. If you have guests coming over, use nuts as the dipper. You can mix them up and use them in place of fatty cream-based dips.

CONCLUSION

So as you can see, not all nuts are created equally. Hopefully this article has made you realise how you consume your nuts. Soaking can be a good idea, but like most things, it requires an extra step for us who live just don’t get enough time in the day. The important take away fact here is that out of the hundreds of choices you have about nuts, there are a few key players to consider. So increase your intake, vary your range and let me know your thoughts.

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