The last time somebody called me a nut, I took it as a compliment! Why? Personally, I love a good nut! My own journey started with gigantic roasted pecans at my grandfather's house in Louisiana. From there, I graduated to melt-in-my-mouth miraculous macadamias in Honolulu, and since then I have run the gamut of affairs with none other than walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pine nuts and my ever-versatile all star, the almond.
Good thing for me "fat" is no longer a four-letter word! In fact, when it comes to nuts, it's hard to beat the delicious taste and "heart-y" health benefits. For example, did you know that eating nuts (a moderate amount, don't forget!) on a regular basis can help keep your heart in top shape? It's true! When you eat a variety of nuts, you get these benefits:
- Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils in an unprocessed form (no junk food here!). Compared to other nuts, walnuts deliver high amounts of omega 3s.
- Most nuts are packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fat - the same kind of fat you find in olive oil.
- You'll find plenty of L-arginine in nuts. It's an amino acid that may help keep blood vessels strong and flexible.
- Some nuts contain excellent quantities of Vitamin E, including hazelnuts and almonds.
- They've got fiber.
- Nuts may help keep cholesterol levels healthy.
- Nuts may protect the lining of your arteries.
Oh yeah, and there's the great taste, the versatility, the vegetarian protein source and the minimal carbohydrates - perfect if you are watching your carb intake!
Having said all of this, let's not forget that nuts are still high in calories. Because they are so nutrient-dense, you don't need the whole can of cashews! I say go with a small handful. That can be anywhere from two to six tablespoons, or about ½ to 1½ ounces daily. Can't stop at that? Here's an idea: Place ¼ cup nuts in several small snack bags and freeze. Take one out each day. Take them to work, to school, or leave out for a snack.
Here are some of my favorite ways to eat nuts:
- Add some to cereal, hot or cold for breakfast
- Add nuts to a salad at lunch or dinner - my favorites: almonds, walnuts and pine nuts. Try this Apple, Pear and Candied Pecan Salad.
- "Add nuts to cookies, brownies, pancakes, waffles, cakes and muffins. And while you're doing that, cut back on some of the sugar, too. Try these Whole Grain Morning Glory Muffins.
- Sprinkle nuts such as pecans and walnuts over sweet potatoes or baked winter squash. These savory Toasted Walnuts are an excellent choice.
- Use ground almonds to coat fish or chicken before cooking.
- Make a simple trail mix with high fiber cereal, dried fruit and mixed nuts.
- Sprinkle nuts over plain or flavored yogurt.
- Go nuts for dessert serving nut-topped ice cream, frozen yogurt or other frozen treat.
- Mix two tablespoons of nuts with one tablespoon of dark chocolate chips and eat as a dessert snack!
- Add nuts to curry or rice dishes. For this, I love cashews! Try this Lentil Curry with Cashews.
- Use a sprinkling of nuts in place of croutons on salads and in soups.
- Add nuts to popcorn for a yummy snack.
- Sprinkle nuts over steamed or sautéed veggies.
- Add nuts to chicken or tuna salad. Here's a Kid Friendly Tuna Salad with Almonds and Raisins.
- Add nuts to fruit salad.
- Mix nuts into dips and spreads. Try mixing finely chopped walnuts into cream cheese. Add some garlic, chives, and a little sea salt.
You can learn more about all the varieties in our Guide to Nuts
Before I let you go, bear in mind a few extra tips:
- Be sure to check the sodium content of the nuts you buy. Many packaged nuts can have too much added salt. Better to buy unsalted and add a little salt yourself.
- Remember that raw nuts can be difficult to digest for many people. It is a good idea to either soak nuts overnight or lightly toast them. I do this at about 250°F for anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the nut.
- If you are so inclined, and you want the added nutrition, soak and sprout nuts such as almonds and sunflower seeds. They make great additions to salads. This can be a simple and fun project. Soaking nuts helps neutralize their natural enzyme inhibitors, and makes the nuts higher in vitamins and easier to digest.
Are you a nut lover too? Got some tips or ideas? I'd love to hear!