Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.
Nuts are a great way to get a dose of heart-healthy fat, as well as a mix of valuable vitamins and minerals. The National Center for Biomedical Information states that “by virtue of their unique composition, they are likely to beneficially impact health outcomes.” Research suggest that regular nut consumption is unlikely to contribute to obesity and may even help in weight loss! But that doesn’t mean that you should eat handful after handful. Instead (like most things), moderation is key. Ideally, a serving should be about the size of a golf ball.
All nuts are not created equal.
Many are high in fat content. They are one of the natural plant foods richest in fat. Nuts are beneficial because their saturated fatty acid is low and most fats included in nuts are the healthy kind. In addition to healthy fats, nuts contain essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and a great source of plant-based protein.
Here is a breakdown of some of the characteristics and nutritional information about some popular nuts for snacking and cooking:
- Almonds: contain calcium, vitamin E, and flavonoids (good for protecting the heart).
- Brazil nuts: good for thyroid function because they contain the mineral selenium.
- Cashews: high in protein, contains iron, zinc and magnesium.
- Hazelnuts: good source of folate, which can help with conditions like Parkinson’s disease.
- Pecans: help lower cholesterol levels, a great source of vitamin B3, are rich in oleic acid, antioxidants and healthy fats found in olives and avocados.
- Pistachios: Rich in vitamin B6, which is important for keeping hormones balanced. Also good for the eyes. Contain potassium and fiber.
- Walnuts: Strong in antioxidants, which can help fight cancer. Rich in omega-3’s and can help reduce LDL, a form of “bad” cholesterol.
Now that we know the good reasons, let’s explore some of the bad ones. Many nuts sold on the shelves of our favorite grocery stores are fried at high temperatures in unhealthy oils such as cottonseed oil or soybean oil. These oils typically come from GMO (genetically modified) seed and are NOT the type of fats you want to be putting into your body. I looked up the ingredients on a few popular brands and found the following contain unhealthy oils.
- Planters mixed nuts – peanut and/or cottonseed oil
- Planters NUT-rition Enery Mix – soybean oil
- Archer Farms Tex Mex Trail Mix – cottonseed and partially hydrogenated soybean oil
- Kirkland Signature Extra Fancy Deluxe Mixed Nuts – peanut oil (not as bad)
- Back to Nature Cashew Almond Pistachio Mix – contains no added oils
Please read the ingredient labels on the nuts that you are buying.
Try and avoid unhealthy ingredients like cottonseed and soybean oil. Rather, look for other alternatives that simply contain nuts.
Another option is to roast your own at home. You can roast them at a low temperature (I do 200 degrees) so that you help preserve the nutritional benefits. You can also control the sodium content when you roast your own, as many commercially produced nuts contain high amounts of processed salt. Try to use sea salt when roasting your own nuts.
One way I like to roast my own nuts was inspired by a roasted cashew recipe from Ina Garten. I have adjusted the cooking temperature and ingredients to make it healthier.
1 pound raw cashews
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
½ teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon grass-fed butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Mix cashews and other ingredients in a bowl and then spread on a sheet pan. Sprinkle with your desired amount of sea salt, to taste. Roast cashews in the oven until they brown and butter absorbed, about an hour.
These cashews are delicious warm, and stay fresh for up to two weeks properly stored in an air-tight jar or container.