The more you hear about the dangers of a diet high in saturated fats (think red meat and full-fat dairy foods), the more you may think about changing your eating plan. But products labeled “fat-free” often replace the fats with sweeteners, so they’re no help.
Perhaps you’ve been scared away from nuts because you’ve heard they are high in fat. That’s true: Nuts contain up to 80 percent fat. But they have the right kinds of fats: polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, the ones that help your body lower LDL, or bad, cholesterol.
Seeds for Health
Like nuts, seeds are nutrition powerhouses, full of protein, B vitamins, and minerals. Flaxseed, chia seeds, and hemp seeds are all high in fiber, which contributes to blood sugar stability and weight control. Be sure to drink six to eight cups of water daily when you start adding seeds to your diet to avoid bloating and feelings of discomfort.
Flaxseed provides alpha linolenic acid, which converts into DHA and EPA omega 3s in the body. If you stock up, refrigerate your supply to keep the oil fresh. For digestive benefits, whole flaxseed has laxative properties. If you are adding flaxseed to smoothies, baked goods, or other foods, grind it first to release the nutrients. Ground flaxseed may help reduce mild menopausal symptoms such as night sweats and hot flashes. Daily ground flaxseed consumption also seems to improve insulin sensitivity in overweight people with pre-diabetes. Both flaxseed and flaxseed oil can contribute to lowering cholesterol.
Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants, calcium, protein, and fiber, and are “the only plant food that is higher in omega-3 fatty acids than flaxseeds,” according to registered dietitian Rachel Dickens. The seeds can be stored for a long time without going rancid. Seeds can be sprinkled on yogurt or salad. People who don’t eat eggs can use soaked chia seeds as a replacement. Before use, seeds must be soaked in water for a minimum of 10 minutes and then stirred.
Hemp seed is the seed with the most protein, with about 10 grams per serving. Hemp is not marijuana: It is the nondrug type of the species Cannabis Sativa L. It provides all the essential amino acids as well as omega 3s, polyunsaturated fatty acids, iron, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin E. People who are allergic to nuts can enjoy the light, nutty taste and texture of hemp seeds, which can be added to cereals, smoothies, salads, and breads.
While nuts are relatively high in calories, they are also high in protein, which helps stabilize blood sugar, and fiber, which makes you feel full longer than empty-calorie snacks.
Almonds provide the most vitamin E of all nuts (one serving provides more than 100 percent of the daily value requirement), and are an excellent source of calcium, for which dairy-avoiders can be grateful. They are also a good source of magnesium.
Walnuts are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the brain as well as the cardiovascular system and cholesterol levels.
Dietitians recommend eating unsalted nuts in moderation.
“Chia Seeds, Flaxseeds, Hemp Seeds—Which One Is for You?” by Rachel Dickens, www.theconsciousdietitian.com, 9/20/14
“Daily Flaxseed Consumption Improves Glycemic Control in Obese Men and Women with Pre-Diabetes: A Randomized Study” by A.M. Hutchins et al., Nutr Res, 5/13
“Flaxseed Oil Intake Reduces Serum Small Dense Low-Density Lipoprotein Concentrations in Japanese Men: A Randomized, Double Blind, Crossover Study” by Y. Kawakami et al., Nutr J, 4/21/15
“Nuts and Your Heart: Eating Nuts for Heart Health,” www.MayoClinic.org, 2/19/14
“Flaxseed,” 2014; “Nuts & Your Health: What to Know” by Kathleen Doheny, 9/10/14, www.WebMD.com
Super Seeds by Kim Lutz ($14.95, Sterling, 2014) n Ultimate Nutrition for Health by Manfred Urs Koch ($22.95, Hunter House, 2014)