Health benefits of nuts and seeds
Know your nuts and seeds
The health benefits of nuts and seeds have been known for a while and the research backing these nuggets of nutrition keeps on growing. Example? A study recently carried out at Harvard University showed that regular nut eaters may live longer – talk about the ultimate health benefit! Plus, once considered to be a slimmer’s foe, nuts are well and truly back on the weight-loss menu. In both large population-based studies and clinical trials, nut consumption has been positively linked to weight management, particularly with the prevention of weight gain. In fact, a recent review found that consuming nuts is associated with an average reduction of 0.32% for weight, 0.67% for body mass index (BMI) and 0.84% for waist circumference, reinforcing the message that when nuts are consumed as part of a balanced eating plan, they don’t result in weight gain.
We’ve put the spotlight on some of the most popular nuts and seeds - here’s how to eat and enjoy them every day.
Incredibly versatile, almonds are available raw for snacking, ground for gluten-free baking, or in slivers and flakes for tossing into salads or over fruit salad and yoghurt. A 30g serving provides more than 70 per cent of your daily vitamin E requirements for heart health and antioxidant activity.
TIP: Sprinkle flaked almonds on fruit and no-fat Greek yoghurt. Yum!
From the heart of the Amazon rainforest, Brazil nuts are typically harvested from wild trees. They’re the richest dietary source of selenium – a powerful antioxidant important for the immune system. Just two Brazil nuts provide an adult’s recommended daily requirements. Get cracking!
TIP: To make ABC butter, blitz 145g each of unsalted almonds, Brazil nuts and cashews until smooth.
Trending for a while now, chia seeds have claimed their place in breakfast bowls through to desserts. While some of the health claims are too good to be true, chia seeds are a good source of omega-3s and soluble dietary fibre for blood glucose management.
TIP: Mix chia seeds with pureed mango and a little coconut milk, then allow to set in the fridge for brekkie or dessert.
Cashews are a seed grown on the cashew tree. With almost 50 per cent fat content, they’re rich in healthy monounsaturated fats. Eating a handful of nuts at least five times per week, including cashews, can reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 50 per cent.
TIP: Toss some cashews into your stir-fry for added crunch and a nutrient boost.
Made popular in the ’70s, these versatile seeds, also known as linseed, have been studied for their potential protection against various cancers. Flaxseed is rich in plant lignans which are high in antioxidants and fibre.
TIP: Whip up a batch of homemade granola with rolled oats, a little dried fruit and a spoonful of freshly ground flaxseeds (use a spice grinder and store in the fridge).
Buttery-flavoured macadamia nuts are a source of fibre and are rich in manganese, which is required for metabolism function and several enzyme systems in the body. Just 30g of these nuts provides more than 20 per cent of your daily manganese requirements.
TIP: Crush macadamias and mix with dukkah for a crunchy coating for fish or chicken.
Peanuts are classified as legumes rather than tree nuts. Strange but true! The unusual plant flowers above ground but the peanuts grow beneath the soil. Rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and protein, peanut butter isn’t a no-no when it comes to weight management.
TIP: Bypass the heavily salted beer snacks and choose unsalted peanuts and 100 per cent peanut butters.
These little gems give pesto its nutty taste. They have a proven effect on satiety and studies show nut eaters tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than non-nut eaters.
TIP: Mix toasted pine nuts with fresh basil for meatballs.
These beautiful greeny-red nuts are prized in Middle Eastern cooking and are now grown in Australia. Pistachios are one of the few nut sources of resveratrol, the antioxidant that’s also found in red wine.
TIP: Add pistachios to a Moroccan-spiced couscous with fresh orange segments and chopped coriander.
The edible green kernels from pumpkins, also called pepitas, are delicious roasted. Pumpkin seeds are a source of magnesium – an important bone mineral and enzyme cofactor essential for healthy protein metabolism.
TIP: Look for kernels that are bright-green, as brown seeds are a sign that the seeds are off.
With their brain-like shape, it’s no surprise that walnuts boost your mood and brain power. With high antioxidant activity, walnuts are rich in omega-3s and help combat inflammation. Daily walnut consumption has been linked with better cognitive function in adults.
TIP: Make a Waldorf salad with a twist – combine apple slices, celery, cos lettuce and walnuts. Drizzle with no-fat yoghurt and lemon juice.
Portion sizes of nuts
The 2011 Australian Health Survey found Aussies are eating just 6g of nuts a day on average – that’s well short of the 30g serving size recommended by the Australian Dietary Guidelines. So just how much is 30g of nuts? According to www.nutsforlife.com.au it is:
- 20 almonds
- 10 Brazil nuts
- 15 cashews
- 20 hazelnuts
- 15 macadamias
- 2 tbs pine nuts
- 30 pistachio kernels
- 9 walnuts or a small handful of mixed nuts.