How often do you eat nuts and seeds? If you’re not in the habit of eating them regularly, you’re definitely missing out. Nuts and seeds are full of heart healthy fats, plant sterols and antioxidants, which can have some great benefits for your health.
Here are 5 big reasons to make nuts and seeds a key part of your food strategy from now on.
1. They keep your heart healthy
Nuts are packed with “good” unsaturated fats that are great for keeping your heart healthy. This helps to reduce your levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol. You can snack on almonds for this, and walnuts have also been shown to reduce cholesterol.
Blood pressure is another marker that can be reduced through seeds, especially flax seed.
According to research from the Louisiana State University, people who eat tree nuts are less likely to get cardiovascular disease (and diabetes too). Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews and macadamias are all examples of tree nuts you can snack on to cut your risk of these type of conditions.
A 30-year study from Harvard University involving 119,000 people found that those who ate nuts regularly were 20% less likely to die while the study was in progress compared to those who weren’t eating any nuts at all. One of the things they seemed to be protected from was cardiovascular disease. They were almost 30% less likely to develop heart disease.
If you already have arteries that aren’t as healthy as they can be, studies on rabbits have suggested that flax seed can help to reduce plaque buildup by as much as 40%. It’s not clear at the moment whether this can be also true for humans and more research needs to be done before this can be confirmed one way or the other but there’s no harm in adding more flax seed to your diet anyway.
2. They can reduce oxidative stress
Sunflower seeds are a really good choice as they contain vitamin E, which is known for being able to reduce oxidative stress in the body. If this is left unchecked, it can set the scene of a lot of serious health problems, including cancer. The 30 year Harvard study also found that people eating nuts on a regular basis cut their cancer risk by 11%.
According to studies, walnuts contain a whole host of compounds that may be able to reduce your breast cancer risk.
3. They can keep your brain healthy
The omega 3 fatty acids in nuts and seeds can help to keep your brain functioning well. Flax seeds are a great source of fatty acids, with a tablespoon offering over 1.5g. Chia seeds in particular are full of EPA, a fatty acid that is linked to lots of health benefits, including for your brain.
4. They can keep you ‘regular’
Struggle to go to the bathroom sometimes? The fiber content in nuts and seeds could be just what you need to keep your bowel movements regular. An ounce of flax seeds gives you over 7g of fiber or you can go for the same amount of sunflower seeds and almonds and get over 3g.
5. They can keep your weight under control
Another bonus finding from the Harvard study involves weight control. The nut eaters tended to be a healthier weight compared to the people who never ate nuts. Researchers aren’t totally sure whether this is to do with the nutrients found in nuts or if people who eat a lot of nuts also have healthier eating habits in general. Other studies have also shown that eating tree nuts can prevent obesity.
Chia seeds can play an important role in weight loss, especially if you have metabolic syndrome. Even better, including chia seeds in your diet can trigger the production of adiponectin, a hormone that reduces the risk of obesity.
How much to eat?
The health benefits from the Harvard study involved people who were eating nuts at least 7 times in the average week. On the other hand, the findings from the Adventist Health Study were based on eating nuts 5 times per week and they were even more impressive than the Harvard study.
It is safe to say that enjoying a tablespoon or two of nuts or seeds every day can be beneficial for your overall health.
What about nut butters?
Are nut butters as healthy as whole nuts? They can be a good source of protein, but keep an eye on the nutrition label for added oils and sugar. Processed nut butters can be pretty unhealthy and whole nuts and seeds are definitely a better bet in comparison.
That said, unprocessed nut butters can be added to smoothies and used in cooking, for example. They’re a great protein boost and also include lots of the nutrients that whole nuts have.
Roasted or Raw?
The nutritional profile of nuts and seeds does not change dramatically with the roasting process. However, roasted nuts tend to be easier to digest for some people. This may be due to the decrease in phytic acid that comes with heating the nuts.
Pay attention if you are buying roasted nuts and seeds! Often times they are roasted using highly inflammatory oils or trans fats and can contain other additives. So be diligent and read the label.
If you like the crunchiness of roasted nuts, it is easy to do at home. I suggest soaking raw nuts and seeds overnight and then letting them dehydrate. This added step not only makes the nutrients in nuts more available, you get the crunch without the inflammation!
I recommend soaking 1 type of nut or seed at a time. For every 2 cups of nuts you will need 4 cups of warm filtered water and 1 tablespoon of sea salt. The nuts should be submerged in the water.
Leave uncovered to soak overnight on the counter. In the morning drain and rinse the nuts. The place them on a sheet pan and put them in the oven at the lowest temperature (150 degrees F is optimal). Bake until they are completely dry. This can sometimes take up to 24 hours. This is an important step to prohibit the development and growth of mold.
Maybe it’s time to up your nut and seed intake. Even just one handful a day will have a big impact.
Remember, your health and longevity are an investment! If you’d like to learn more about the foundations of a healthy diet and what to include and what to avoid, call me - we can create a health plan tailored to you and your individual needs!
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