Nuts About Nuts – The Health Benefits of Nuts

Nuts About Nuts - The Health Benefits of Nuts and Other Nutty Stuff!

This blog is all about the health benefits of nuts, and gives you the nutritional low down on several types of nuts and seeds and some ways to enjoy them, along with other nutritional information and recipes. The health benefits of nuts and seeds are hard to ignore, but if too many are eaten they can cause havoc in your digestive system.  Always listen to your body and only eat what feels good for you - your body knows. 

Nuts are versatile and can help you to enjoy a plant based diet, supporting you in reducing your meat intake. You can eat them for breakfast and feel satisfied and full of energy all morning, you can add them to sauces, make desserts with them or use them to adorn or to change the texture of meals. Packed with protein, fiber, essential fats, vitamins and minerals, they provide a nutritious snack or meal.  Read on and learn about the health benefits of nuts in this nutty review....

Nuts are healthy Gorgeous Hearts

The health benefits of nuts are many, but apart from their nutritious value, they are delicious. To get the best out of nuts and to make them more digestible, soak them for about 12 hours in filtered water with a tablespoon of salt.  Rinse them and put them on a dehydrator rack for about 24 hours at 40°C. This is to break down the phytic acid and to release the enzyme inhibitors that make nuts hard to digest for some people.  It may sound a bit laborious, but if you put some time aside at the weekend it's quite quick and painless. A fairly decent dehydrator will set you back about £35.00. Placing baking sheets on the racks stops the nuts and seeds from falling through the racks. If you don’t eat many nuts, or don’t have trouble digesting them, maybe it’s not worth the effort - your body will let you know!

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF NUTS - WALNUTS

The nut that looks like a brain is good for your brain! Walnuts contain omega-3.  They are rich in ingredients that act as antioxidants which health experts believe to be key in the prevention of certain cancers. They contain good monounsaturated fats which lower cholesterol (the bad kind) and are good for your heart too, so we could say that the health benefits of this nut are very valuable.

I particularly love walnuts with a few grapes as a snack but I also mix them into stir fries or mix them with lentil pasta (a favourite of mine).  Here is a dairy free version of Waldorf Salad for a fresh and light (although somewhat decadent) alternative to the mayonnaise version. I have used the American cup measure for ease but if you don’t use this type of measuring you can substitute half a glass or mug as an approximate measure for 1 cup.

Waldorf Salad

Ingredients

One organic apple of your choice: apples are rich in pectin, a soluble fiber that helps to lower cholesterol. They also contain antioxidants such as vitamin A and E.)

One cup of red grapes: Organic grapes are hard to find, but considering that grapes have been found to have residue of up to 50 different pesticides on them, it's worth looking around.  They contain powerful antioxidants called polyphenols which have been found to slow down the growth of certain cancers.

Two stalks of celery: Low in calories and teaming with antioxidants. Celery regulates the alkaline Ph balance of the body and reduces inflammation. It's a good source of vitamin A (good for eye health) and studies at the University of Illinois have revealed that the flavonoids in celery called luteolin can inhibit the growth of cancer cells in breast and pancreatic cancer.

Half a cup of chopped walnuts.
One cup of unsweetened coconut yoghurt

Coconut yoghurt is made by adding cultures, sweeteners and probiotics to coconut milk. It is creamy and delicious but contains a lower proportion of protein than dairy yoghurt. It's also higher in fat, but the healthy kind. It's rich in antioxidants, contains fiber and is delicious.

Lemon or lime juice to taste: Vitamin C is abundant in lemons. They also contain potassium which is very important for a healthy heart. Lemons also provide us with other vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Rich in flavonoids, the phytonutrients responsible for giving plants their colours, they contribute to reducing inflammation in the body which has a positive effect on your immune system. Even though lemons taste quite acidic, they have an alkalizing effect when digested so can help to balance an acidic diet. Your liver will benefit from lemons as they are a great way to detoxify.  Lemons really are a super-food and contain many anti-cancer and anti-bacterial properties.

Toasted sesame seeds: The health benefits of nuts and seeds is not complete without mentioning this super seed. Sesame seeds are full of vitamins and minerals, some of which are good for bone health. They include calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, vitamin B6, thiamine and folate. Sesame seeds may reduce blood pressure and help in the prevention of cancer due to phytates. Phytates work as an antioxidant, reducing the damaging effects of free radicals that are the cancer causing by-products of cellular metabolism. Although I've mentioned the benefits of soaking nuts and seeds to release some of the phytic acid which can cling to minerals and hinder their absorption in the gut, don't worry too much if this is not practical with this size of seed, as some phytic acid is good. It helps to reduce inflammation and has been shown to reduce the growth of cancer cells.  The magnesium that sesame seeds contain, can help to manage diabetes. Read more here.  An interesting fact about sesame seeds is the  sesamol it contains, which has been found to protect our DNA from harmful radiation, making these seeds a good choice for cancer patients who are being treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Walnuts in waldorf salad and coconut yoghurt

Method

  • Core and chop the apple (I leave the skin on as it’s healthier but if you prefer your apples without the skin by all means peel them) and place them in a bowl.

  • Wash and chop the celery (it should be nice and crisp) wash and cut the grapes in half and add them to the bowl with the celery.

  • Put the walnuts in a freezer bag, and while they are on the chopping board, use a rolling pin or a pestle and lightly hit the bag so that the walnuts break up a bit.  You don’t want them to be too small so go easy. (not advisable after an argument!) add these to the bowl.

  • Add the coconut yoghurt to taste.  Squeeze a bit of lemon or lime juice over the top and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

I also like to add a bit of coriander to the finished dish. A strong taste and not loved by all (a bit of a marmite kind of thing) but of course, you can add parsley, basil or any other herb you fancy.

This dish is sweet and tangy and especially delicious on a summer evening. I love the mix of flavours and crunchiness and the health benefits of this dish are many.

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF NUTS - ALMONDS

The health benefits of these nuts are many as they are packed with healthy nutrients and are good for the heart.  Almonds are said to reduce the risk of Alzheimer disease and are linked to the amelioration of arthritis. I would however like to add that it is important to buy raw organic almonds.  This is because some almonds, especially those from the USA are pasteurised, which can inhibit their nutritional value. Almonds are high in protein, low in carbohydrates and are cholesterol free. They are also rich in vitamin E which which helps to reduce inflammation and boosts the immune system. Vitamin E is especially important for regulating chronic skin conditions.

You can bake cakes with ground almonds rather than use flour for gluten free cooking.  A gorgeous cake that I like from my time living in Spain is the `Tarta de Santiago` which is a mixture of eggs, almonds, sugar, lemon and orange.  If you don’t like the idea of eating refined sugar, it's possible to substitute for a sugar alternative such as xylitol or stevia. But, the recipe that I’m going to share with you is a tad healthier.  I've chosen a savoury dish inspired by my time in Andalusia, Spain:

Trout with almonds - great for your heart

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan oven) or 180°C/350°F Gas mark 4

  • Line the baking tray with a baking sheet and lay the fish on it. Score a couple of slits in the top of the fish and place a previously cut half slice of lemon in the cut. Season the fish and drizzle with some olive oil.  Pop the tray in the oven. It should take around 25 minutes to cook but the cooking time will depend on the size of the trout so keep your eye on it.

  • While the trout is cooking, put the almonds in a freezer bag and give them a little bash with the pestle or rolling pin – just to break them up a little. Some people use blanched flaked almonds but these will have lost some of their nutritional qualities and they cook too quickly so I use whole organic fresh raw almonds.  Pop them in a dry frying pan and toast them for a couple of minutes. Take them out and put them aside. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and a little fresh thyme to the frying pan and heat for a minute, add a little lemon juice and the toasted nuts with a pinch of salt. Remove this from the heat and save for later.

  • When in season (April/May) you can pick some lovely fresh garlic leaves, but if it’s out of season you can use baby spinach leaves. Chop up some garlic and gently fry in a pan with a pinch of salt.  Wash some spinach and add them to the garlic with a drizzle of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon until the leaf wilts. 

  • Take out the fish about 5 minutes before the end of its predicted cooking time which will depend on the size of the fish. At this stage you can add the almonds and thyme and put it back in the oven for 5 minutes.

  • Serve the fish and nuts with the wilted leaves.

Roasted Trout with almonds and pan wilted fresh garlic leaves

Ingredients

Two fresh rainbow trout: Trout is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and a great source of protein.  It is also rich in potassium helping to reduce blood pressure. More good news is that trout is a source of B-vitamin complex including B12 which regulates the levels of homocysteine in the blood.  Even slightly high levels of homocysteine have been linked with heart disease. Trout also contains selenium, a mineral that is good for the brain and the immune system.)

Half a cup of almonds See above

Olive oil: You can use another oil if you prefer but I love the Mediterranean flavour of this oil and if you use a good quality virgin oil, it is high in antioxidants and also helps to reduce inflammation.

Sea salt:  Many people tout the benefits of Himalayan sea salt because of its high mineral content.  It does contain many trace minerals but the fact that this salt is more natural doesn’t necessarily mean that it is healthier. It's healthier to use less salt, especially if you suffer from high blood pressure. You could try using flaked seaweed instead.  

Freshly cracked black pepper:  Pepper has an antibacterial effect, it can provide respiratory relief and aids digestion. Interestingly, black pepper enhances the bio-availability of other healthy foods, helping with the absorption and transportation of nutrients to the parts of the body that need them.

Fresh thyme to taste: Thyme is an anti-fungal, antioxidant herb.  It is said to aid heart, eye and immune health.  Rich in iron, it helps to oxygenate the body too.

Fresh garlic leaves or baby spinach: Both of these leaves are full of such healthy nutrients Garlic has allicin which may prevent hypertension, hardening of arteries and blood clots. Spinach is great for eye health due to lutein and zeaxanthin that act as antioxidants. Anotherbenefit is that the phytonutrients and pigments in the spinach leaf can protect the skin when ingested, protecting us from the harmful UV rays of the sun, however, it's important to be responsible with the amount of sun you expose yourself too and I don't suggest rubbing spinach into your skin on the beach!

Freshly squeezed lemon juice:  See previous information.

CASHEW NUTS

Cashew nuts are sweet and versatile. They have a whole host of health benefiting minerals such as copper, phosphorous, manganese, magnesium and zinc. Copper has a positive effect on our immune systems and is important for lovely skin and hair.  Cashews are high in monounsaturated fats, which is good news for gorgeous hearts.

What I particularly love about the cashew is its versatility.  If you soak some cashew nuts and whiz them up in the blender with some vanilla extract, you´ll have a lovely nutty cream that you can serve with fruit salad.  for a savoury dish, you can just throw some cashews into a stir fry. It's important that if you wish to roast nuts, to do so slowly and gently in order to preserve the health benefiting oils that they contain. This is true to maintain the health benefits of nuts in general.

MACADAMIA NUTS

Macadamia nuts are truly delicious, crunchy, delicate and buttery; they are deemed as being the world’s loveliest nuts.  As far as the health benefits of this nut, they are rich in vitamins, have a whole entourage of minerals and antioxidants and are very low in sodium. They are also a great food for beauty (hair, nails and skin) and the fat content satiates your appetite quickly so you can avoid snacking unhealthily.  They are a source of palmitoleic acid which speeds up the body´s metabolism reducing fat storage. The flavonoids that they contain convert into antioxidants.

Because of their delicious taste, macadamia nuts are a great addition to deserts.  Roasted macadamia nuts with baked pears topped with coconut yoghurt and sweetened with coconut nectar is a lovely dessert, or why not try this savoury dip of macademia nut pesto?

pesto

Method

Blend all the dry ingredients together in a food processor/blender then add the rest of the ingredients and blend until medium smooth (it should have some texture) eat as a side dish or add to pasta, an omelette or any dish you want to zest up a bit.

Macadamia Nut Pesto

Ingredients

½ cup of raw macadamia nuts

1 bunch of fresh basil leaves: Basil contains (E)-beta-caryophylene or BCP which is said to have a positive effect in the treatment of arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases. According to research conducted at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Basil is also rich in antioxidants and has antibacterial properties.

1 clove of garlic

Great for the heart and for the immune system and one of the best foods for reducing inflammation.

1 fresh chili, deseeded: I love chili in absolutely everything but just leave this out if it isn’t for you. Chilies contain a chemical called Capsaicin which has been found to lower blood sugar levels and also to speed up metabolism.  Chili is also great for your circulation and respiration)

Juice of half a lemon
1/3 of a cup of olive oil

SUNFLOWER SEEDS

Full of vitamin E and copper, these nutty little seeds are a great addition to your stir-fies,  salads and rice dishes.  Toasted gently in a dry pan to give them extra flavour and crunch, you can add them to just about any meal. Vitamin E produces anti-inflammatory effects on the body and has been shown to reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma as well as reducing the amount of hot flushes in women who suffering these perimenopausal/menopausal symptoms.  They are rich in magnesium which is necessary for healthy bones and also help to regulate nerve and muscle tone. They are also rich in selenium which helps with DNA repair and reduces the incidence of apoptosis or cellular suicide. Try them sprinkled on top of scrambled eggs.

PUMPKIN SEEDS

Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc.  Studies at the Technical University of Munich have found that deficiencies in zinc can have a negative impact on digestion.  Low levels of zinc are also linked to loss of taste, poor immune response, lack of concentration and slow metabolism so snack a few pumpkin seeds and make sure you’re getting enough zinc and pop some pumpkin seeds on your breakfast muesli, your salads and soups and mix with Quinoa or rice for added texture.

As with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds are versatile and can be added to any meal. I love to add them to  sautéed vegetables to add another texture and taste, or you could roast them (do this at a low temperature 160°C for example and no longer than 20 minutes to get all the health benefits and to ensure that there are no chemical changes to the oils in the seeds. 

LOOKING AFTER YOUR BODY EQUATES TO A HEALTHY MIND AND EXPRESSION

Gorgeous Hearts offers a creative and effective combination of self-care strategies, connective vocal/musical exercises and confidence coaching to support you to express in your power and in full confidence.  Self-care leads to wellbeing which leads to self-confidence and a relationship of respect, responsibility and love for yourself and everyone else. It all begins in the body!

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