Go Nuts!

This post is dedicated to all things nutty.  With numerous health benefits, nuts and seeds make a great addition to a whole foods diet.

Nuts are one of the best plant sources of protein, and they’re rich in fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants such as Vitamin E and selenium.  Nuts are also high in plant sterols and fat – but mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (omega 3 – healthy fats) which have all been shown to lower LDL cholesterol.  I’m all about any food that helps me control my weight, protect my heart and improves the health of my cells!

High in vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats, nuts and seeds are little powerhouses of nutrition.

Click below for detailed health information about some of the most popular nuts:

Walnuts

Almonds

Peanuts

Cashews

Pecans

The healthiest way to prepare and enjoy nuts:

Raw nuts contain enzyme inhibitors which help to protect the seed and keep it from germinating too early and dying off.  When introduced into the body, these enzyme inhibitors actually neutralize the enzymes in our own digestive tract exhausting the pancreas.  This explains why so many people say they have a hard time digesting nuts.  If you’ve had tummy trouble with nuts in the past, don’t give up on them just yet!

Soaking nuts is a simple way to make them more digestible.  In the soaking process, enzyme inhibitors are neutralized, phytic acid, which inhibits the absorption of vital minerals, is reduced and the amount of vitamins your body can absorb increases.

I buy large bags of raw nuts from the farmer’s market, and then soak them in room temperature water and 1 tablespoon of sea salt overnight.  I then dry them off and spread them out over a cookie sheet and roast them at 100-150F for about 8 hours (turning occasionally), or until they are nice and crunchy again (Some people use a food dehydrator instead of an oven.).  You want to make sure the nuts are completely dry before storing to prevent mold.

Soaking nuts brings out beneficial enzymes, making them much easier to digest.

When roasting your nuts, keep in mind that low and slow is best.  Roasting nuts at a temperature higher than 170F will cause a breakdown of their fats and the production of free radicals.  This is why we should avoid buying roasted nuts from the grocery store, and stick to raw.  When nuts roasted at the high temperatures are consumed, the free radicals they contain can cause lipid peroxidation (the oxidizing of fats in your bloodstream that can trigger tiny injuries in artery walls), a first step in the build up of plaque and cardiovascular disease.

Besides being a bit time-consuming, the only downside to preparing nuts in this way is that they do not stay good as long once the enzyme inhibitors are destroyed.  I suggest storing them in the refrigerator or freezer to maintain freshness as long as possible.

Nuts are great as a stand-alone snack, in salads, stir-fry or over yogurt.  I like to soak and roast almonds, walnuts and pecans all together, and then add coconut shavings, carob chips, raisins and other dried fruits to make a delicious and fresh trail mix that my husband and I can enjoy for the next week or so.  It’s easy to go a little overboard with trail mix, so I have to put small servings in individual baggies so I’ll eat a reasonable amount!

Okay, your turn!  Are nuts a part of your diet?  I’d love to hear your ideas, suggestions and recipes!

6 Comments

Filed under Rants and Cravings

6 responses to “Go Nuts!

  1. At the risk of sounding like a goober, I’m nuts about raw nuts! (This is perhaps the punny-est comment I’ve ever written.) While I was aware raw nuts are much better for you than the roasted variety, I had no idea about the enzyme inhibitor issue. Thanks for the instructions on soaking and more. 🙂

    • I love a good pun! When I was writing this, I had to be so careful not to write anything that sounded dirty. My last line was “Do you like eating nuts as much as I do?” and I quickly changed it before publishing!

      A lot of people don’t know that soaking and roasting their nuts can make them so much easier on the digestive tract. I recommend making up big batches all at once so you can grab them on the go and you don’t have to go through the long process as often.

  2. Kelly

    I read your idea about mixing carob chips with nuts for trail mix. I’ve seen carob chips at the health food store but don’t know much about them other than what I’ve read online. Can you share any more info?

    • Hey Kelly,

      Carob chips look very similar to chocolate chips, but they are made with carob powder and have an earthy, cocoa-like flavor that’s more mellow than chocolate in my opinion. Carob powder comes from the pod of the Mediterranean carob tree. The pod is seeded, then the fruit pulp is dried, roasted, and ground to a fine powder. The benefit of carob chips over chocolate is that they are rich in fiber and protein, lower in calories and are sweetened with a natural syrup instead of regular sugar.

      I don’t completely substitute carob chips for chocolate in dessert recipes, but using them along with chocolate can cut the richness and bring in that earthy flavor. You can find carob chips in the baking section of most health food stores in both the unsweetened and sweetened form.

      I think the sweetened chips are great in trail mix. If you’re gluten free, you should know that carob chips contain gluten if they are sweetened with malted barley.

      Hope that helps!
      JoAnna

  3. Kelly C

    I never knew to soak my nuts! I have just completed my first batch and am LOVING them. I store them in the freezer to preserve them and maintain freshness. I even love to eat them frozen. I enjoy them raw, but find that my home roasted nuts are much better than store bought nuts. Thanks for your helpful tips!

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