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Go Nuts!

tuna_almonds_and_raisins 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!

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CEHolmes says …

I use nuts in most of the ways you mentioned. I usually toss nuts into just about anything, in order to increase the protein to carb ratio. Additionally, I sometimes have used Tahini (raw or toasted sesame seeds) or cashew butter to make a salad dressing. It's equal parts of nut butter mixed with water then seasonings can be added, such as, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, ginger, etc.

Food Makes Fun Fuel says …

I love nut butters. In toast or oatmeal, they're just the best. Seed butters, too! I have a pumpkin/sunflower seed butter that's deliciously sweet

TG says …

I like to combine nuts, raisins, and banana slices for a quick breakfast. I use walnuts, cashews or almonds.

Adeline Sire says …

You suggest using ground almonds on this page and I am desperately looking for finely ground almonds for baking. I can't find them at my local WH (02140). Do you carry them anywhere? Thanks, A.S.

says …

Our product selection varies from store to store, so you'll need to check in with stores individually. Thanks! http://bit.ly/allstore

Patrick says …

Love the blog, I really like how you mention how fats are a good thing, not a four letter. Really like the ideas for using the nuts. I might even incorporate some of these points into cooking/nutritional demos I do for the students in PISD. You should check out my site, I need all the support I can get. Thank you. Chef Patrick

Paloma Hernandez says …

Hello, I have been buying the organic raw nuts (almonds, pistachios, cashews, Brazilian, walnuts, pecans) in bulk for a while now. However, I just started reading about how you should always soak them overnight (to remove any phytic acid). From what I read most stores/producers soak and dry raw nuts before selling them. I just wanted to confirm if this is true for Whole Foods or is this a step I should be doing when I bring them home. Any info on how the raw nuts (in the bulk section) are handled/processed would be very helpful. Thank you, ~Paloma

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@PALOMA - Since our bulk vendors will vary between stores, it would be best to check with your local store to see how their specific vendors process the bulk nuts.