Nuts and seeds are super healthy and an important addition to any health-conscious diet plan. They taste great and make a satisfying snack for both children and adults.
They are good for your overall health as they contain protein, fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E and many other minerals and antioxidants.
In addition, they contain a high amount of monounsaturated fats, the same fats found in olive oil. Monounsaturated fats are heart-healthy. Some of them are also great sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Eating nuts and seeds regularly plays a key role in managing high cholesterol, high blood pressure, digestive disorders, heart disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and dementia.
It’s easy to include nuts and seeds in your diet. Be sure to eat them raw to derive the nutritional value. When exposed to heat during cooking, most of the nutritional qualities are destroyed. You can eat them as is out of the jar or can, or enjoy them soaked, ground or mashed.
However, as most nuts are high in calories and fats, do not eat them in excess. You can incorporate small amounts of a combination of these nuts and seeds in your diet to enjoy their health benefits.
Though many people consider almonds to be nuts, they are technically the seeds of the almond tree. They are off-white in color, covered by a thin brownish skin and encased in a hard shell.
Both sweet and bitter almonds are readily available in the market. Usually, sweet almonds are edible, while bitter almonds are used to make almond oil.
These oval-shaped nuts contain fiber, protein, calcium, zinc, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, copper, iron and some B vitamins.
They are also high in many antioxidants, such as vitamin E and selenium. In addition, they are an excellent source of healthy monounsaturated fats.
Regular consumption of almonds can help lower cholesterol, improve cardiovascular health, boost brain power, prevent birth defects, fight constipation, strengthen bones and reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Almonds are also beneficial for your hair and skin.
A small handful of almonds are all you need to eat daily. You can eat the nuts in raw or roasted form, or you can add them as ingredients in salads, smoothies, soups and other dishes. You can even try almond flour, almond milk and almond butter.
Flaxseeds are available in the market in two basic varieties— brown and yellow or golden. These seeds feature a smooth, glossy surface and flat shape. They have a nutty yet pleasantly sweet taste.
The main health benefits of flaxseeds are due to their rich content of alpha-linolenic acid, fiber and lignans. They are also relatively high in protein, B vitamins, copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, selenium and phytochemicals.
The high fiber in flaxseeds promotes healthy bowel functioning, suppresses appetite and helps support weight loss.
Flaxseeds can even help ease the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), lower cholesterol, protect against heart disease, stabilize blood sugar and reduce the risk of cancer. They are equally good for maintaining healthy skin and hair.
The recommended serving size is 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds twice daily. Grind the seeds using a blender and add them to cereals, oatmeal and smoothies.
Another popular technique is to incorporate ground flaxseeds into muffin, cookie or bread recipes. Make sure to drink plenty of water when eating flaxseeds.
Note: Pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and people taking blood thinners should avoid eating ground flaxseeds or taking flaxseed supplements.
3. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are flat and asymmetrically oval. These dark green seeds have a malleable, chewy texture and a sweet, creamy, nutty flavor.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in protein and B vitamins, such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6 and folate.
They also contain vitamins E, K and C as well as omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, zinc, manganese, magnesium, iron and phosphorus. They also contain health-supportive phytosterols – beta-sitosterol, sitostanol and avenasterol. In addition, they are lower in fat than other nuts and seeds.
Regular consumption of these seeds helps boost immunity, lower bad cholesterol, control blood sugar, fight anxiety and depression, reduce arthritis pain, support prostate health, improve heart health, and reduce the risk of developing some types of cancer. They also help maintain healthy eyes, hair and skin.
You can eat a handful of sun-dried pumpkin seeds as a healthy snack. You can sprinkle them on soups, salads, smoothies, cereals and even yogurt. In addition, you can use pumpkin seeds in your baking.
Walnuts are edible kernels obtained from a tree in the genus Juglans. Technically, it is a drupe as it takes the form of a fruit enclosed by a fleshy outer layer with a seed inside.
Walnuts contain omega-3 fats and protein, along with high amounts of vitamin E, many important B-complex vitamins, copper, manganese, biotin, amino acids, zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium and selenium.
As compared to other nuts, walnuts contain a high amount of monounsaturated fats, primarily polyunsaturated fatty acids, as well as a significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid.
Regular consumption of walnuts can help reduce the risk of prostate and breast cancer, lower high blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, aid in weight control, boost brain health and manage diabetes. They are equally good for your skin and hair.
By eating just 1 ounce of walnuts daily (7 shelled walnuts), you can enjoy many of the health benefits. Walnuts make a delicious snack. You can add chopped walnuts to add extra nutrition, flavor and crunch to any dish, salad, soup or smoothie.
5. Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are tiny, flat, oval-shaped seeds that have a nutty and crunchy taste. They come in different colors, such as white, yellow, black and red. These seeds are highly valued for their oil, which is exceptionally resistant to rancidity.
These seeds contain manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, B vitamins (especially niacin and folate), zinc and fiber. In addition, they contain two unique substances – sesamin and sesamolin.
They can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, protect against liver damage, promote bone health and reduce PMS symptoms. They can even prevent diseases like arthritis, asthma, migraine headaches, osteoporosis and certain cancers.
You can eat 3 tablespoons of sesame seeds daily. They go well in breads, crackers and other baked products. You can also sprinkle them on stir-fry dishes, soups, salads and more. You can even make tahini, a popular dip.
Note: Excessive consumption of sesame seeds may trigger migraines and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms in people who are sensitive to nuts and seeds.
6. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are small, oval seeds that are mottle-colored with brown, gray, black and white. The seeds are hydrophilic and can absorb up to 12 times their weight when soaked in water or other liquids.
These seeds are rich in vitamin C, protein, iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. They also contain fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
Consumption of chia seeds on a regular basis can help reduce joint pain, keep the digestive system healthy, aid weight loss, deliver an energy boost, improve brain health, reduce depression, fight arthritis and protect against diabetes, liver disease and heart disease.
The recommended serving size is 1 to 2 tablespoons daily. Do not consume these seeds in dry, raw form. Before eating the seeds, mix them in enough liquid to allow them to expand.
You can sprinkle soaked chia seeds on top of salads or toast. You can also add them to smoothies, porridges, soups, puddings or baked goods.
Note: Do not consume chia seeds in excess as it may increase the risk of prostate cancer.
7. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are the gift of the beautiful sunflowers. Each sunflower head may contain several hundred edible seeds that have a conical shape and a smooth surface.
Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant. They are also a good source of healthy fats, fiber, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, B vitamins, iron, calcium, zinc, folate, selenium and copper.
Regular consumption of these seeds can help reduce the severity of asthma, lower high blood pressure, prevent migraine headaches, reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, calm the nerves, reduce arthritis pain and lower cholesterol. In addition, they can help prevent heart disease and cancer.
The recommended serving size is ¼ cup daily. These seeds are delicious, having a nutty and crunchy flavor. You can eat them as a healthy snack, use them to garnish dishes and sprinkle them over hot or cold cereal or salads. You can even grind them to make your own sunflower seed butter.
Cashews are not actually nuts. They are the kidney-shaped seeds that adhere to the bottom of the cashew apple, the fruit of the cashew tree.
They are cream and white in color with a firm yet delicate texture and a smooth surface with a curvy, pointed tip. They have a delicately sweet yet crunchy taste.
These nuts are a good source of copper, magnesium, zinc, biotin, potassium, folate, iron, protein as well as vitamins A, K and E.
They have low sodium content and a high concentration of oleic acid and fiber. They are a good source of monounsaturated fat (healthy fat).
The several nutrients in cashews can provide energy, improve cardiovascular health, lower cholesterol, help in the production of hemoglobin, manage Type 2 diabetes, reduce PMS symptoms, and help maintain healthy eyes, hair and skin.
Eat a small handful of raw cashews daily. You can add them to both sweet and savory dishes. You can even add them to baked goods and smoothies.
Note: Cancer patients should avoid eating cashews.
9. Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are technically seeds, but people call them nuts due to their brown nut-like outer covering. These seeds come from the Bertholletia excelsa tree. They develop inside a large shell, which strongly resembles a coconut. When cut open, the shell reveals a number of nuts.
Brazil nuts are one of the richest sources of the essential mineral selenium. They are also high in protein, fiber, vitamin E, several B-complex vitamins, magnesium, iron, copper, niacin, calcium and zinc. In addition, they are a good source of monounsaturated fat, and they contain no gluten protein.
These nuts help in the prevention of breast and other cancers, cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease and premature aging.
They can also improve cardiovascular health, manage Type 2 diabetes, reduce arthritis symptoms, protect skin from sun damage, lower bad cholesterol, and fight anemia.
Eat 1 or 2 Brazil nuts each day. The rich, creamy flavor goes well with an assortment of dishes.
10. Pine Nuts
Although used as nuts in the culinary world, in the botanical world, pine nuts (also known as cedar nuts) are the edible seeds of pine trees.
They feature a tough, dark brown outer coat or shell with an edible cream white kernel that has a delicate buttery flavor and sweet taste.
They have vitamins A, B, D and E, and provide 70 percent of your body’s daily requirement of amino acids. They contain the highest amount of proteins found in any nut.
They are also the nuts with the highest concentration of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat. In addition, they contain iron, magnesium, manganese, calcium, zinc, potassium and a little fiber.
The high antioxidants help protect against free radicals. These nuts help improve heart health, reduce bad cholesterol, protect the arteries from damage, suppress appetite, boost energy and improve vision health. They also help increase the blood’s hemoglobin level and relieve fatigue and tension.
They make a healthy, low-calorie snack. The recommended serving is 2 to 3 tablespoons daily. The nutty and mild flavor goes well with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. These nuts also make a great addition to baked foods.
- As nuts and seeds are common food allergens, eat them only if you are certain you are not allergic to them.
- Always opt for the recommended daily serving and avoid overeating.
- Always store nuts and seeds in airtight containers. This will help prevent the oil in them from going rancid.
- Careful handling is important to prevent them from being exposed to harmful bacteria.