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!