THE BLOG
03/13/2013 05:04 EDT | Updated 05/13/2013 05:12 EDT

Nuts and Seeds: More Than They're Cracked Up to Be

I love nuts and seeds and eat them every day. If you enjoy them even half as much as I do, we are both lucky, since nuts happen to be highly nutritious powerfoods!

You don't have to gain weight from eating nuts! A Harvard Medical School study found that "men who ate nuts two or more times a week enjoyed a 47 per cent lower risk of sudden cardiac death and a 30 per cent lower risk of dying from all types of coronary artery disease than men who eschewed nuts."

2013-03-04-nutsHarrington.jpg

Five Benefits of Nuts and Seeds:

1. Best plant sources of protein. The American Cancer Association recommends a plant-based diet for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer. One ounce of nuts provides an average of 6 grams of protein.

2. Filled with heart-healthy fat. They contain healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats which are essential in managing inflammation and maintaining the normal structure of every cell in the body. People who consumed nuts five times a week had a 35 per cent reduction in heart disease risk. British Medical Journal study, 1998.

3. High Energy foods. They are filled with lots of calories; 1 ounce of almonds contains about 165 calories; 1 ounce of Brazil nuts contains about 190 calories. Do not eat too many or you will gain weight.

4. Powerful Minerals. They contain magnesium, zinc, calcium and phosphorus needed for bone development, immunity and energy production. Researchers have found a correlation between low dietary intake of zinc, low blood levels of the trace mineral and osteoporosis at the hip and spine. Study of almost 400 men (ages 45-92) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

5. Needed Vitamins. They are great sources of B Vitamins and Vitamin E

Proof of the Power of Nuts and Seeds

• Researchers found that those who replaced half the fat in their daily diet with almonds for six weeks had their bad cholesterol go down by 6 per cent and good cholesterol went up 6 per cent. Also, blood fat dropped 14 per cent. Study in Journal of Nutrition, April 2002

• Eating heart-healthy foods, including almonds, can help reduce LDL, or the "bad" cholesterol levels, as much as a first-line "statin" drug says Research at the University of Toronto

• The flavonoids in almond skins work in synergy with the vitamin E to protect artery walls from damage reducing the risk of heart disease. "We have identified a unique combination of flavonoids in almonds," said Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., senior scientist and director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University. "Further blood tests demonstrated that eating almonds with their skins significantly increases both flavonoids and vitamin E in the body. This could have significant health implications, especially as people age."

2013-03-04-squirrel_Harrington.jpg

Are Raw Nuts and Seeds Good for You? Ask the Squirrel!

If you give a squirrel a raw nut, it will always bury it. The squirrel will only dig it up when the nut has sprouted. They have found sensors in squirrels' noses that can identify a sprouted nut. Raw, unsprouted nuts have digestive enzyme inhibitors that prevent animals from digesting it easily. Only when it sprouts are these inhibitors deactivated. Smart squirrels!

These enzyme inhibitors can give raw nuts or seeds a bitter taste. Soaking removes the enzyme inhibitors and thus gives a sweeter taste.

High heat from roasting will also remove the enzyme inhibitors but will destroy many of the nutrients.

The best way to get the most nutrients from nuts and seeds is to start the sprouting process by soaking them.

2013-03-04-seeds_Harrington.jpg

How to Get The Most Nutrients From Nuts and Seeds:

Soaking them makes them more nutritious and brings out the natural sweet flavour of the nuts and seeds. They become live foods. Learn how to sprout nuts and seeds.

Soaking also begins the digestion of the proteins and carbohydrates. A final bonus is that the soaking removes 30 per cent of the oil content making nuts and seeds easier on the liver and digestion and of course less calories.

The nuts and seeds are not actually sprouted, just soaked (3 to 12 hours) which starts the process of sprouting.

One of my favorite snacks is a piece of fresh fruit with a few soaked nuts and seeds anytime. They make a great snack because they provide protein, fiber and fat, a combination makes them satisfying as they are filling giving staying power.

2013-03-04-nuts2Harrington.jpg

A Few of My Favourite Nuts and Seeds:

Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids (just 1/4 cup provides 90.8 per cent of the daily value) and Dr. Oz says they are his favourite nut as long as they are soaked.

Almonds contain riboflavin and L-carnitine, nutrients that boost brain activity which may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. They are the only Alkaline forming nut. Learn how to make dairy-free Almond Milk.

Pumpkin Seeds are the only Alkalizing seed. They are an excellent source of tryptophan which is converted in to serotonin and niacin. Serotonin is a very helpful in helping us to have a good night's sleep.

For a yummy nut and seed meal, make a Nutritious Nut Loaf . This is baked so the soaking is not necessary.