By Leslie Wall
Why are dietitians so crazy about nuts and seeds?! Nuts and seeds are morsels of heart healthy fats that can be added to meals and snacks or eaten alone. They pack a nutrient-dense punch of vitamins, minerals, and heart healthy fats that can lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation. They are also an excellent source of protein and fiber that help us feel full and satisfied, and add texture and flavor to many dishes.
Nuts and seeds vary in shape and size, and can be prepared in a variety of ways including toasted, roasted, raw, blanched, and salted. Aim to add a variety of nuts and seeds in their most natural form to your diet—raw or dry roasted are great choices. A serving of nuts is 1 ounce (about a palm full). Try mixing it up, as each variety of nuts and seeds contain different vitamins and minerals.
The MVPs of Nuts and Seeds – Here is a list of our favorites.
1. Almonds: Available year round, these nuts are rich in calcium, vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, copper, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and phosphorus.
2. Cashews: High in antioxidants. Has a buttery taste when pureed, and often used to replace cheese sauces in vegan dishes. Chop and sprinkle on pizza for a meaty, flavorful texture.
3. Pecans: Buttery and slightly bittersweet, they’re typically used in pies, quick breads, cakes, cookies, candies and ice cream.
4. Pine Nuts: The edible seeds of pine trees, pine nuts are the key ingredient in fresh pesto and are out of this world sprinkled over salads, pasta, and pizza.
5. Flax Seeds: The richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. Add to breads, cookies, pancake mix, yogurt, and smoothies or sprinkle on cereal and salads.
6. Pumpkin Seeds (a.k.a. Pepitas): A great source of potassium, zinc and vitamin K. Roasted pumpkin seeds can be eaten alone as a snack, or and in salads and breads.
7. Sunflower Seeds: Sunflowers belong to the daisy family and are native to North America. The seeds are high in selenium, vitamin E and magnesium. Shelled seeds are delicious eaten raw or toasted, added to cakes and breads or sprinkled on salads or cereals.
Tips for Toasting: While nuts and seeds are certainly delicious eaten raw, toasting them on the stove or in the oven enhances their flavor.
- On the stove: Place nuts in a skillet and toast for 5 to 10 minutes over medium heat. Shake and stir nuts until they’re golden brown and fragrant, then remove from the pan immediately and allow to cool.
- In the oven: Arrange a single layer of nuts or seeds in a shallow baking pan and toast in a 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Homemade Granola Bars ~ FitDay
Perfect for hiking, camping, and snacking.
(Post content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services)