Trying to eat healthier and need life hacks to develop those better eating habits? Here’s how: eat nuts and seeds and use 7 easy tips to make them a part of your diet. Though nuts can be high in fat and calories, eating nuts and seeds daily can lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease and may even lengthen your life. Nuts have also been shown to do the following:
- Improve cholesterol. The unsaturated fat in nuts helps to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol.
- Prevent arrhythmias. One type of unsaturated fat — omega-3 fatty acids — appears to prevent the development of erratic heart rhythms.
- Reduce blood clotting. There is some evidence that omega-3s may work much the same way as aspirin does to keep blood from clotting.
- Relax blood vessels. Nuts are rich in arginine, an amino acid needed to make a molecule called nitric oxide that relaxes constricted blood vessels and eases blood flow.
- Raise levels of glucagon-like peptide 1. This hormone helps to control glucose levels and to lower insulin levels in people with prediabetes.
- Contribute to satiety. Nuts are rich in fat, fiber, and protein, all of which are more likely than foods high in carbohydrates to make you feel full. For that reason, people who eat nuts regularly — especially those who substitute nuts for animal fats like butter and bacon — are less likely to be obese than those who don’t.
- Contain vitamins E, B6, niacin and folate
- Contain minerals such as magnesium, zinc, plant iron, calcium, copper, selenium, phosphorus and potassium.
While seeds might be eaten in small quantities, they are nutrient dense. Most seeds are rich in protein, healthy fats, fiber, minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, plant iron and zinc while being naturally low in sodium. They also contain vitamins B1,B2, B3 and some are rich in vitamin E. Little is known of their antioxidant content but in general seeds contain antioxidants to stop the fats from going rancid too quickly.
As you can see, nuts and seeds come with a lot of health benefits. Serving sizes are small – you only need a handful a day which works out roughly to a quarter cup. That’s not hard to do but it’s not always easy to remember or implement.
Here are 5 easy ways to get nuts and seeds into your diet on a daily basis.
#1 – Take Them to Work
If you are like most people, you spend most of your waking hours at work. Buy your favorite nuts and seeds to take and leave at work. This way they are available to snack on or add to other meals during your day. If you’re worried about calories from eating too many, do yourself a favor and divide them into servings using snack bags or small containers.
#2 – Add Them to Your Breakfast Foods
It’s easy to up your seed and nut intake if you think of them as ingredients rather than simply a snack item. They go great not just in granola but stirred into oatmeal, cereal, smoothies or yogurt. Making muffins or pancakes? Add them in. They are versatile and add flavor and texture to foods along with their nutritional boost.
#3 – Add Them to Salads
Nuts like pecans, walnuts, pine nuts and pistachios go well in most leafy salads. So do sunflower seeds. Walnuts or pecans are fantastic tossed with beets and a crumbly cheese like feta or blue cheese with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
#4 – Cook With Nut Butters
When it comes to nut butters most people think peanut butter but with peanuts being a legume and so many people allergic to them, why not explore the other nut butters like almond butter, tahini, or cashew butter?
Nut butters aren’t just for sandwiches. You can add them to curries or use them as dips and in salad dressings. I’m a big fan of tahini not just in my hummus but as a dip by itself or mixed with miso.
#5 – Dress Up Dinner and Dessert
Nuts and seeds make wonderful ingredients in a variety of dishes. I love tossing a handful in with my rice or quinoa dishes, particularly pecans and sunflower seeds. Check out my Dressed Up Brussels Sprouts and Pecan recipe.
For dessert, nuts and seeds go well into cookies and other baked goods – not just pecan pies and cobblers. They’re great in ice cream or as a dessert by themselves when coated in chocolate or added to homemade chocolate bars. Various nut butters work well in dessert recipes like chocolate no bake cookies. If you’re going to be naughty, you might as well throw in a delicious serving of daily nut or seed nutrition along with it.
#6 – Bake With Nut Flours
Having gluten issues means that I have to be more creative in my cooking. Maybe you’re in the same boat or just want to cut out wheat flour. These days I use blends of flours like half almond flour and half rice flour for my sporadic cooking of muffins, pancakes, etc. Almond flour is popular in vegan cooking, especially in their desserts. It’s definitely not just for macaroons!
#7 – Milks
While nuts and seeds are more nutritious whole, nut and seed milks are tasty drinks in themselves, used as creamers, or substituted in cooking that calls for milk or cream. They add nice flavor to smoothies too. While this probably won’t completely replace daily nut consumption, they can be nice substitution for less healthy or allergy-inducing foods. Just be careful to read the ingredients. Even almond milk these days in the dairy section comes packed with added sugars and other questionable substances.
They’re a Handful
Nuts and seeds are part of a whole foods diet – the healthiest diet in the world – and most of us don’t eat enough of them. Hopefully these 7 tips will get you including these versatile little treats into your daily food routine.
Worried about cost? While nuts and seeds may look pricy compared to other foods, you only need a handful so a bag or jar lasts a while. Keep an eye out for deals. Some, like sunflower seeds, are pretty cheap. You’ll almost always find one type of nut or another on sale. That’s how I like to buy my almonds, cashews, and pecans. This way I also don’t get tired of eating the same nut or seed from week to week since the deals change frequently. Don’t forget to compare prices in the nut aisle with the baking aisle either since you’ll find them in both.
For best nutrition, buy unsalted and raw. Nuts and seeds are flavorful enough by themselves and your body doesn’t need the added salt or sugar. This will also make cooking with them easier since you can add them to more recipes. And remember – you only have to grab a handful to gain their benefits!
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