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Nuts: The Perfect, Healthy, Versatile Snack

June 22, 2019

"Nuts are versatile, healthy, and an easy to grab when you’re on the go."

Our snack choices have a lot to do with both our energy levels and our waistlines. In today’s live show with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, we learn the guidelines to healthy snacking. Watch to find out Dr. Nancy’s top healthy snack options, and learn the number one thing we should grab first when the snack attack hits, to keep both satisfied and energized.

Video Highlights

  • 02:57: Nuts and fat
  • 04:20: Four types of fats
  • 07:29: What about Coconut Oil?
  • 10:20: Mono- and Polyunsaturated Fat
  • 11:50: Nutty facts
  • 18:20: Health benefits of nuts
  • 19:59: Almonds
  • 22:39: Almond milk recipe
  • 26:39: Almond butter recipe
  • 29:04: Brazil nuts
  • 31:06: Walnuts
  • 32:30: Cashews
  • 33:24: Macadamia nuts
  • 34:28: Hazelnuts
  • 35:39: Hazelnut pesto
  • 40:45: Pistachios
  • 41:53: Wrap-up

What is your go-to snack? What do you reach for when you’re hungry and need a little something? If you’re looking for a suggestion, nuts are a super healthy, convenient food that makes a great snack option. Today we are going to talk to you about the healthiest types of nuts, as well as give you a few of our favorite delicious nutty recipes.

Nuts and Fat

Nuts are high in fat, but low in carbs. If you watch Dr. Nancy’s show a lot, you might be scratching your head wondering, “Why is Dr. Nancy encouraging me to eat a high-fat food?”

Well, here’s why. Nuts are high in monounsatured fat. This is known as the healthy fat. There are four types of fat overall:

  • Monounsaturated fat
  • Polyunsaturated fat
  • Saturated fat
  • Trans fat

Now, the last two — saturated and trans fat — are unhealthy fats that it’s best to avoid, and trans fat is the worst of the two. Both saturated and trans fats are solid at room temperature. These are the fats that can lead to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, chronic inflammation, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. We encourage eliminating these types of fats from your life as much as possible. Saturated and trans fats can be found in fried foods, ice cream, cheese, margarine, processed foods like sausage and bacon, and a lot of foods containing refined sugars like cookies, donuts, and pastries. Although these foods are delicious, nutritionally, they do not lead anywhere good in terms of keeping you healthy.

What About Coconut Oil? 

Wait a minute! Avoid saturated fats? Dr. Nancy is always telling you to look for ways to get more coconut oil in your diet, and now you’re being told to eliminate saturated fats. So which is it?

Coconut oil is about 90% saturated fat; this is a higher percentage than butter, which is about 65% saturated fat, and even lard is about 40% saturated fat.

Too much saturated fat in the diet is unhealthy because it raises "bad" LDL cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease. So it would seem that coconut oil would be very bad news for our overall health. So is coconut oil good for us?

The answer is yes, it is good for us.The interesting thing about coconut oil is that while it is a saturated fat, it also gives "good" HDL cholesterol a boost. This is because coconut oil is high in fats called medium chain triglycerides, which are metabolized differently than most other saturated fats. These special fats are responsible for a lot of the health benefits of coconut oil, and they are what make coconut oil is the exception to the “no saturated fats” rule.

Mono- and Polyunsaturated Fat

Mono- and polyunsaturated fat are liquid at room temperature but could harden once the temperature drops. Monounsaturated fats, in particular, have the ability to lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of stroke, cancer, or heart attack. They can also promote weight loss and decrease inflammation in the body. These types of fats are found in eggs, avocados, healthy oils like olive and sesame oil, and in nuts.  

Nutty Trivia

  • A serving of almonds is 22 almonds, while a serving of brazil nuts is only 8. 12 Hazelnuts is a serving, and a serving of walnuts is 14. A serving of cashews is 16, peanuts is 28, and pistachios is 45.
  • If you love almonds, make sure you thank the bumblebees! Almonds can’t grow on their own. They need bees to help them pollinate. So save the bees and save our almonds!
  • Walnuts are the oldest known tree food — they date all the way back to 10,000 BC.
  • The shell of the cashew is toxic and can’t be eaten. Cashews are in the same plant family as poison ivy and poison sumac and their itchy oil is primarily contained in their shell.
  • Because of it’s split shell, the pistachio is known as the “smiling nut” in Iran and the “happy nut” in China because when it’s in the shell it looks like it’s smiling at you.
  • Macadamia nuts are never picked. They are harvested from the ground after they fall off the tree. They also have the hardest shell of any nut, taking over 300 PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) of pressure to crack it open.
  • Brazil nuts are among the most difficult nuts to grow. Located solely in the rain forests — They require a specific type of bee in order to be pollinated and can take as long as 10 to 30 years to mature.  In addition, The actual fruit of the Brazil nut tree is a big seed pod that looks like a coconut and can weigh up to five pounds. Inside each of these pods are 10 to 25 seeds, what we call Brazil nuts, arranged in a sphere like segments of an orange.
  • Peanuts aren’t actually nuts – they’re legumes.
  • Ancient Greeks believed hazelnuts could treat coughing and baldness.
  • Pistachios are actually the seeds of a grape-like fruit, and share similarities with kale and spinach. They get their green color from chlorophyll, the same pigment that makes kale green.
  • Like pistachios, cashews are also considered a fruit.
  • Humans consume more nuts than any other mammals, but raccoons, pigs, crocodiles, and snakes all eat nuts, as do herbivores like rabbits, monkeys, and chipmunks, and omnivores such as deer, bears, ducks, and wild turkey. But carnivorous predators such as lions, hawks, owls, and tigers do not eat nuts.

Health Benefits of Nuts 

In addition to having lots of those healthy monounsaturated fats, nuts are also high in protein and fiber. This means they help you feel fuller more quickly, so you will be less likely to be looking for another snack fifteen minutes later. They are also high in key vitamins and minerals like vitamin E, magnesium, iron, calcium, and several of the B vitamins. But all nuts are not created equal! Some are better than others. Today, we’ll take a look at the nuts that yield the most nutrients, highest healthy fats, and most health benefits.

Almonds

Almonds are fantastic when you need a little snack. They’re crunchy, which makes them an excellent alternative to snacks like crackers, chips, or pretzels. Almonds are also high in vitamin E and magnesium. Studies have shown that people who integrate a lot of almonds into their diet, which includes almonds by themselves, almond milk, and almond butter, saw a reduction in their bad cholesterol.

Another study ­showed that people who ate a handful of almonds during one of their meals throughout the day saw less of a spike in blood sugar that typically occurs following a meal; this was especially true in people with diabetes. Lastly, almonds are a great prebiotic that supports gut and digestive health by increasing levels of beneficial gut bacteria.

Try popping a few almonds before an exercise session — they contain amino acids, and are also a great source of energy that can help you burn more fat and carbs during your workout.  

Almonds are extremely versatile. You can eat them raw, roast them, chop them up and add them to a salad, you can crush them up and use them in place of breadcrumbs on fish or chicken, you can add them to your morning smoothie, and you can make your own almond milk.

Almond Milk Recipe 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw, organic almonds
  • 2 cups water
  • Raw organic honey or pure maple syrup, but that’s optional
  • Vanilla extract (optional)

Soak your almonds overnight, by placing them in a bowl and covering it with about one inch of water. They can stand at room temperature or you can put them in the fridge to soak. This makes the almonds more bioavailable, and they yield a higher protein content when sprouted. They also contain more activated enzymes this way, making them easier to digest. Once they’ve soaked, rinse them with cold water.

Put the almonds in a food processor or blender, add the 2 cups of water and a little vanilla extract, and blend on high for about 4 minutes, scraping down the almond bits if they start to collect on the side. You’ll start to see the water take on a white, opaque color — that’s what you want. Once you’re done blending, strain the almonds using a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Make sure you do this over a bowl or a measuring cup. You want to make sure you collect all that yummy, nutrient-rich liquid. You can do this by gently pressing on the almond meal in the strainer.  Voila! You’ve got yourself some fresh, homemade almond milk! It tastes delicious unsweetened, but feel free to add a little honey or maple syrup to sweeten it up a little bit.

As a bonus, you’ve also got all this left over almond meal. You can add it to your smoothies, or you can stick it in the oven spread thin on a baking sheet for an hour on low to dry it out. It should keep for several months if you store it in the freezer. Use almond meal in baked goods, smoothies, oatmeal…the possibilities are endless!

Almond Butter Recipe

Add sprouted almonds to a blender or nutribullet, and add just a little bit of water if you need to. Don’t use salted and roasted nuts, as these will be dry and will dull the blades of your blender. Blend for about 15 seconds, then stir with a spoon and add a little water, before blending again. Repeat until it’s smooth and creamy. You can add himalayan sea salt if you like, or maple syrup, or vanilla, depending on your preferences. Keep in mind that this will spoil faster than store-bought nut butters, but stored in the refrigerator, it should last a week. 

Brazil nuts

Brazil nuts are even higher in magnesium than almonds. They’re also loaded with selenium, an antioxidant that helps keep your kidneys in top working order, helps prevent cancer, boosts immunity, and promotes thyroid health. Selenium also supports prostate health, especially when it comes from dietary sources. 

Brazil nuts are also an anti-inflammatory food and can help lower bad cholesterol. They’re big, so a few go along way. Shoot for eating only about 4 or 5 a day since too much selenium can prove harmful. Eat Brazil nuts raw, or roast them for about 10 minutes and then sprinkle them with some pure maple syrup and salt. It’s a yummy salty/sweet treat!

Walnuts

Walnuts are an enigma. Like coconut oil, walnuts are high in fat, but it’s the good kind — polyunsaturated fat. They are also high in calories, but they’re low in carbohydrates and lower in mineral content than a lot of other nuts. However, walnuts are an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, making them a great option for vegetarians and those who don’t eat fish. They can help lower cholesterol, improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and even promote better sleep, because walnuts are also high in melatonin!

Cashews

Cashews are another nut that’s great to grab on the go or when you need a little snack. They’ve got a wonderful buttery taste that can leave you feeling full after just a handful. They’re high in zinc, which is a great immune-booster, and they’re high in iron and magnesium, which are great for delivering oxygen to your blood and improving memory, respectively. Bonus: cashews can boost energy, so consider throwing a little cashew butter in your morning smoothie to get your day started off right.

Macadamia Nuts

A lot of times, when we think of macadamia nuts, we think of Hawaii and then we maybe think about how expensive they are. But macadamia nuts are worth every penny. They’re extremely high in monounsaturated fat, which makes them the poster-nut for heart health. A few macadamia nuts a day are a great way to support your heart and cardio health.

Hazelnuts

Nutritionally speaking, hazelnuts are similar to walnuts. They’re high in protein and fat. But if you’re someone who always needs something sweet, hazelnuts are for you. That’s why hazelnuts so often make an appearance in desserts. They can be used in savory dishes, too, such as pesto.

Hazelnut Pesto Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup hazelnuts, lightly roasted and the skins peeled off
  • 2 cups (approximately 1 large bunch) fresh flat-leafed parsley or basil, packed
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 fresh lemon
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and fresh ground cracked pepper to taste

All you need to do to make delicious Hazelnut Pesto is combine all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth. That’s it! This pesto will taste great on fish and meat dishes or you can use it as a veggie dip!

Pistachios 

Pistachios are great not only because they’re super high in fiber and promote heart health and weight loss, reduce inflammation, and regulate blood sugar. Pistachios are also great because they make you work for it. When you snack on pistachios in the shell, it takes a little time and effort to get to them. Therefore, you’re likely to eat less, meaning you’ll snack less and consume fewer calories. But be careful, it’s super easy to eat 60, 70, or even 100 at a time! Remember, about 50 pistachios in a one-ounce serving — that has about 150 calories, 12 grams of fat (most is healthy fat) and 6 grams of protein.

Wrap Up

Today’s show was all about the best nuts to integrate into your diet. These include: Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Walnuts, Cashews, Macadamia Nuts, Hazelnuts, and Pistachios.

Each nut has its own health benefits, but almost all of them promote heart health, lower cholesterol, and decrease inflammation. They’re high in monounsaturated fat, which is considered the good fat, and they’re an excellent source of vitamins and minerals like vitamin E, iron, and magnesium. Nuts are versatile, healthy, and an easy to grab when you’re on the go, so, get snacking and go nuts!

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