Boost your energy with healthy super foods
Although energy dense and therefore high in calories, nuts and seeds can in fact be beneficial for weight loss. Both of these foods are high in fibre and protein making them a filling snack option that will keep you satiated for a long time. Not only this, but nuts and seeds are packed full of nutrients, making them a health super food, and hugely more nutritious than other popular snack foods.
Due to the high calorie content, it is important to keep portion sizes small if weight loss is your goal. A small handful per day is sufficient to provide you with nutritional benefits and fight off hunger, without consuming too many calories.
Health benefits of nuts and seeds
Rich in fibre and protein
Nuts and seeds are not only rich in fibre and protein, but also in numerous other nutrients. They contain high levels of mono and polyunsaturated fats, which are important for heart health and can lower cholesterol levels. Some also contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have substantial benefits for the heart, cells and nervous system, as well as to reduce inflammation. The American Heart Foundation recommends including some nuts and seeds daily for the apparent benefits to heart health.
Loaded with Vitamins and minerals
Nuts and seeds are also rich in a multitude of antioxidants including vitamin E, folate, manganese, and selenium. These substances are important in the body as they help fight damage causing free-radicals and thus are thought to protect against cancers. Nuts are also a good source of minerals such as zinc and magnesium and B vitamins which are essential for energy.
The Best Nuts and Seeds
Choose raw and unsalted nuts
For weight loss and nutrition value its best to choose raw, unsalted nuts. Salt can contribute to increases in blood pressure as well as making nuts more addictive, meaning it is hard to stop at a small amount.
Avoid coated or roasted
Avoid nuts that are coated or roasted in other oils, as these are often unhealthy hydrogenated or saturated fats, such as palm oil. Oil coated nuts will also be higher in fat and calories and therefore less suitable for weight loss.
Avoid sugar coated nuts
Sugar coated nuts should also be avoided, as these are again much higher in calories. Try toasting nuts yourself under a grill and seasoning with herbs or spices for a healthier alternative with more flavour than plain nuts.
Calorie content of nuts and seeds
In terms of calorie and fat content, there is not a huge amount of difference between plain nuts. Peanuts, almonds, pistachios and cashew nuts are the lowest in calories with around 160 calories per ounce, whilst brazil nuts, walnuts, pine nuts and pecans contain around 180 calories per ounce. Seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame contain around 150-180 calories per ounce, but are usually consumed in smaller quantities than nuts.
According to the George Mateljan Foundation’s list of the world’s healthiest foods, the healthiest nuts include:
- Almonds: High in vitamin E, magnesium, copper, vitamin B2 and phosphorus and concentrated in protein. The majority of fat in almonds is heart healthy mono-unsaturated fat.
- Cashews: High in antioxidants, mono-unsaturated fats and phosphorus and with a lower fat content than many other nuts.
- Flaxseeds (Linseed): High in omega-3 fatty acids, beneficial for anti-inflammatory properties, as well as vitamin B6, fibre and manganese.
- Peanuts: High in mono-unsaturated fats, flavonoids, antioxidants, and folic acid. They are also high in vitamin B3 and are thought to contain an antioxidant known as resveratrol, which is thought to have anti-aging effects.
- Pumpkin Seeds: High in essential fatty acids, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin K, these may be beneficial for arthritis and help lower cholesterol.
- Sesame Seeds: Good source of Vitamin B1, mono-unsaturated fats, and phytosterols which inhibit cholesterol production.
- Sunflower seeds: High in linoleic acid, fibre, magnesium and phytosterols.
- Walnuts: High in omega 3 fatty acids, manganese and copper. They also contain an essential amino acids used by the body to make nitric oxide, which is required for keeping blood vessels flexible.
Chia seeds, super foods or scam?
One of the more recent ‘super-food’ crazes to take hold, chia seeds are being dubbed as the dieters dream food and a nutritional miracle. Whilst it is certainly true that these seeds are high in omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants, fibre, protein and minerals, (as are many nuts and seeds), it is unclear as yet how many of the supposed benefits can be verified scientifically. Studies have shown that when used in conjunction with a healthy diet, chia seeds may help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
How to add nuts and seeds to your diet
Apart from a handful of nuts as a snack there are many ways to add nuts and seeds to your diet to increase nutrition and assist with weight loss by adding protein and fibre to keep you fuller for longer.
Add them to your breakfast menu
Try adding a sprinkle of nuts or seeds on breakfast cereal or yogurt, or use spreads such as tahini or peanut butter (with no added fats or sugar). See more healthy breakfast ideas
Add them as cooking ingredients to your recipes
When baking, throw in a handful of chopped nuts or sprinkle seeds on top of bread.
Also, try to choose products made with added seeds such as grain or nut bread.
Add them to your salads
A handful of nuts also make a great addition to a salad or pasta dish for a bit of crunch and toasted sesame seeds add extra texture to an Asian stir-fry. Nut milks and butters are also a good way to get the nutritional benefits and can often be lower in saturated fats than alternatives from animal sources.