Edible seeds and nuts are not only nutritious but can add a nice crunch to yogurt, cereal, salads and casseroles. Most have a mild, and slightly nutty flavor. They are rich in polyunsaturated fats, fiber, anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin E and magnesium—but they also add calories. Dieters beware—a few tablespoons here and there of nuts and seeds from the salad bar can add another 200 to 400 calories!
Flax is a source of health protective ALA omega-3 fats. You need to grind the seed or else it will passwhole through your digestive tract.
Chia, like flax, is a source of ALA omega-3 fats. ALA is not as effective as fish and animal sources of omega-3, but any omega-3 is better for your health than nothing. When soaked in water for 10 minutes, chia seeds create a gel that can be used as a thickener for smoothies and as an alternative to eggs and oils in some recipes.
Sunflower seeds have a pleasing taste when added to a salad, muffins, or cereal. Sunflower butter is a popular alternative to peanut butter, and is rich in healht-healthy polyunsaturated fats
Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, have a nutrient profile similar to other seeds.
Hemp contains all the essential amino acids, adding aboost to vegan diets.
Sesame seeds have a gentle flavor. They make a nice coating for sauteed or baked chicken breasts (in place of—or in addition to—bread crumbs).
Here is how their nutritional value compares. Note how the calories can add up quickly. They offer some protein, but for a vegan athlete who may need at least 60 to 90 grams of protein per day, they are not a strong protein source. The same goes for calcium and iron; nuts and seeds are a source of those nutrients, but generally not a strong source -- unless you happen to enjoy lots of sesame seeds (for calcium) and chia (for iron)!
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, you might be looking for a tasty munchie to bring to the festivities. This snack has everything your taste buds could possibly want: sweet, spicy, salty, and crunchy. Plus, nuts are very health-protective. The fat in nuts has an anti-inflammatory effect; it helps heal the tiny injuries that occur during exercise.
Despite popular belief, nuts are not inherently fattening. That is, nut eaters are not fatter than people who avoid nuts. I happen to consider nuts to be a good snack for dieters because nuts are satiating and keep you feeling full for a while. Better than yet-another pretzel!
If you are thinking about making some food gifts for the holidays, this recipe works well. Toast up a batch, put them in jars, tie on ribbons. Voila, a gift worth fighting over!
The recipe is reprinted with permission from: No WhineWith Dinner bythe Meal Makeover Moms, aka Janice Bissex RD and Liz Weiss RD. (www.MealMakeoverMoms.com). Enjoy!
Sugar and Spice Pecans
1 egg white
1 teaspoon water
1 pound pecan halves (about 4 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. Whisk together the egg white and water in a large bowl until well blended. Add the pecans and toss to coat evenly.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and spices, then sprinkle it over the nuts. Toss until well coated.
4. Spread the pecans in a single layer on the baking sheet, and bake until the glaze is crisp and golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
16 servings (1/4 cup) Total calories: 3,500
220 calories per serving, 10 g Carb, 3 g Pro, 20 g (healthy) fat
Fear not. Nut-eaters are not fatter than people who avoid nuts. Rather, nut–eaters might be healthier. Nuts offer health-protective phytochemicals that reduce inflammation. People who eat nuts and nut-butters (such as peanut butter and almond butter) more than five times a week reduce their risk of heart disease. Consuming 2 ounces (two handfuls) of nuts a day can reduce blood cholesterol by 5%.
The more nuts you eat, the better heart-health response you will get, as long as you stay within your calorie budget. Walnuts are particularly good fro heart-health because they contain ALA, an omega-3 fat. For more information about the health protective properties of nuts, go to www.nutstudies.org.
Here's a tip for how to enjoy more walnuts:
Line a baking sheet with foil. Sprinkle on a layer of walnuts. Drizzle the walnuts with honey or maple syrup. Bake at 325-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the nuts are smell aromatic and look toasted. Occasionally stir the nuts during that time. Cool, store in an airtight container, and enjoy a handful for snacks or sprinkle them on top of cereal or yogurt.
Almondsand all nuts, for that matterare a positive addition to a sports diet according to research presented at this years annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine. For four weeks, elite cyclists enjoyed about 60 almonds a day (~450 calories) prior to meals. They increased their anti-oxidant capacity 43% after a time trial as compared to the group who ate an equal number of calories from cookies. They also improved their time trial distance by 5% compared to the cookie group. The bottom line message is: Food Works!!!
Too often I talk with athletes who are on the see food diet. They see food and they eat it. They pay no attention to the quality of the calories, but just to the pleasure. While eating whatever you want may seem a nice reward for hard workouts, the reality is food has a strong impact on both health and performance. The trick is to find quality foods that you totally enjoy. Almonds, anyone? Better yet, slivered almonds mixed with (dried) fruits (apricots, blueberries, pineapple, etc.) and yogurt for a protein-carb combination that both fuels and builds muscles.