Hello and Welcome Everyone,
Today we will learn about adding nuts to our diet. Nuts are healthy, especially good for the heart and so flavorful. It’s worth experimenting and learning how to add different nuts to recipes and to have a variety ready for healthy snacks.
Note: Nuts are high in potassium which is one of the reasons why they are so heart healthy. However, if you are following a low potassium diet or are on dialysis, nuts are not usually allowed. Check with your doctor or dietitian.
Growing up we almost always had a bowl of nuts in the shell along with a nutcracker sitting on the counter for a snack. You will not usually over eat nuts this way. Cracking and separating the nut meats from the shell takes time. Today we have an abundance of nuts available that are already shelled and could easily be overeaten. Nuts are around 170-200 calories per ounce. They are satisfying, very nutritious, high in fiber and very flavorful.
How Many Of Us Eat Nuts?
Interesting fact: Most adults in the US have not discovered the health benefits of walnuts, or any tree nuts. (Peanuts don’t count here as they are not really a nut but a legume, a bean.) A recent study has shown that 94.5% of adults do not eat tree nuts of any kind. Not even pecans or almonds. That leaves only 5.5% of all adults (ages 19-50) that eat tree nuts! These numbers are pretty shocking, especially since there are so many documented health benefits of nuts from heart health to weight loss, just from eating about an ounce of tree nuts, 5 or more days a week.
You only need about a 1 ounce a day, one serving, to get health benefits. About a handful is enough. Walnuts would be about 7 whole or 14 halves. Try nuts as a snack, added to oatmeal, added to a salad or sprinkled on top of an entree or dessert. Use almond flour or almond meal as a flour to coat vegetables, fish or chicken for a nice, flavorful breading. Cashews or almonds can be soaked a few hours or overnight and blended to thicken creamy type soups or smoothies. Try cashew butter or almond butter. Usually these are found without salt or sugar. Try adding nuts like pecans to stuffings. Nuts are a great source of protein, so try a vegetarian savory nut loaf or patty. Learn about pine nuts used in pesto or walnuts blended as a base for a sauce. Adding nuts this way will add a lot of flavor and nutrition. Nuts are much more versatile than just the usual adding to sweet treats.
Nuts fell out of favor when low fat diets started becoming popular. Just like eggs and avocados, nuts were a no no because of their fat. Now nuts are ok again. Nuts have fat, but the good kind that helps the body. Every type of nut has its own flavor and nutrient profile. Although nuts in general have similar calories, fiber and nutrients, there is usually a benefit one has over another. I will briefly highlight some of the nutritional information I thought interesting. You will see why it is important to eat a variety of nuts. My focus will be on walnuts, as they are considered the most heart healthy of all nuts. Walnuts have the most omega 3 fatty acids and are a good source of vitamin E.
Interesting facts about nuts and their health benefits:
- Walnuts – are considered the king of all nuts especially in regards to heart healthy benefits. They have by far the most omega 3 fatty acids. They are also high in Vitamin E. The form of vitamin E found in walnuts is somewhat unusual, and particularly beneficial. Instead of having most of its vitamin E present in the alpha-tocopherol form, walnuts provide an unusually high level of vitamin E in the form of gamma-tocopherol. Studies on the cardiovascular health of men, found this form of vitamin E provides significant protection from heart problems. Some phytonutrients found in walnuts – for example, the quinone juglone – are found in virtually no other commonly-eaten foods. Other phytonutrients – like the tannin tellimagrandin or the flavonol morin – are also rare and valuable as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Ok, enough technical stuff.
- Almonds – are the best source of Vitamin E and one of the highest sources of fiber at 4 gm per serving. A quarter cup of almonds has almost as much calcium as a quarter cup of milk.
- Pecans – are an excellent source of over 19 vitamins and minerals, and are the most nutrient dense. Along with almonds and walnuts, pecans have the most antioxidants of any nut.
- Hazelnuts – are high in protein and fiber and good source of iron. A cup of chopped hazelnuts has seventeen grams of protein and eleven grams of fiber and a third of the daily iron requirements. Also, along with almonds are the best source of Vitamin E.
- Pistachios – are the highest in potassium (good for the heart) of all nuts, high in thiamine, B-6, phosphorus, beta carotene and lutein (for the eyes)
- Pine Nuts – are nature’s only source of pinoleic acid, which stimulates hormones and helps diminish your appetite. Pine nuts have the highest concentration of oleic acid (found in olive oil). That’s a monounsaturated fat that aids the liver in eliminating harmful triglycerides from our body. Which helps protect the heart.
- Macadamia Nuts – are one of the very few plants that contain palmitoleic acid, also known as omega 7, a monounsaturated fatty acid that works to lower cholesterol, reducing your risk of heart disease.
- Brazil Nuts – are the highest natural source of selenium. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that works to neutralize dangerous free radicals.
- Cashews – are lower in fat than most nuts, and 65 percent of this fat is unsaturated fatty acids. Of this, 90 percent is oleic acid, the heart-healthy fat found in olive oil.
Unfortunately, many of you who enjoy eating nuts, only eat salted nuts. Most likely eating nuts for the salt and not really for the nut itself. Learn to like them unsalted. In time you will find a favorite, as every nut has its own flavor. Keep a variety of nuts on hand.
How To Buy And Store Nuts
It’s important to buy nuts fresh and store them properly. They don’t keep forever.
Because of their high fat content, nuts can easily go rancid. Store them in the freezer or at least in the refrigerator. Heat, light, and moisture help nuts spoil faster. Nuts are best stored in sealed plastic or glass containers in a cool, dark, dry place. The freezer is ideal, and freezing doesn’t harm the nuts at all. You can use the nuts immediately. Also, nuts can absorb odors, which is another good reason for storing them in the freezer.
Walnuts and pecans are the most perishable, while almonds and cashews are among the least perishable. Nuts will keep for approximately twice as long in the shell as when they are shelled. A good guideline is that a fresh nut will keep around six months in the refrigerator and about a year in the freezer. You usually have no idea how fresh the nuts are you are buying, so buy from a store that sells a lot of them. Some stores will let you taste one before you buy, you can ask. Nuts that have gone rancid will ruin anything you put them with, so make sure to taste one first.
Buying Tip: Buy nuts in their shell that are heavy for their size, their shells are whole and intact, not broken or with stains which can mean mold is present. Smell them. They should smell like nuts, not old, rancid or moldy. Most of you will be buying nuts that are already shelled, just be sure to store them properly.
New Recipe: Garlic Walnut Sauce
Simple, very flavorful, no cook sauce especially good with vegetables or pasta
- 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)
- 1 clove garlic, peeled (more or less to your taste)
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian Flat Leaf Parsley (no stems)
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, (from ½ lemon), or more to taste
- 2 tsp fresh lemon zest, fine shreds
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp #103 Table Tasty salt substitute
- Freshly ground black pepper
- hot pasta water to thin for pasta sauce
- 1 pound pasta (fresh or dried) like fettuccine, tagliatelle, spaghetti, or spaghetti squash
In a blender or food processor, grind walnuts, garlic, parsley, lemon juice, and lemon zest until a thick paste forms. Slowly add olive oil for a thick sauce or a granular mayonnaise consistency. Spread this on bread or serve like a dip with vegetables or spoon a thinner sauce over vegetables, fish or chicken. For pasta: spoon sauce over hot drained (but still wet) pasta and stir to let the sauce lightly cover the pasta. Add a little hot pasta water to thin the sauce to lightly coat the pasta, if needed. Sprinkle more Table Tasty salt substitute, to taste. Serves 4.
I hope this information is helpful to you and that you will start including more nuts in your heart healthy diet.
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Remember, fresh seasonings are very important for good aroma and flavor.