Eating nuts can actually help you lose weight because they are so filling. The more I dig down into what foods are good for us and how great different foods are, the more I realise why it is so good to eat a varied diet. Unprocessed foods – or foods in their natural state – have so many benefits. It’s easy to buy the same things at the grocery store every week, but if you make it a habit to buy one different food a week, like a bag of almonds one week and some dried apricots the next, you are adding variety to what you eat in a very simple way.
And when I started researching nuts, it’s as if different nut lovers are competing about which one is the best. I’m not kidding. You know how many are called the king of nuts? Well, suffice to say that it really makes the point that they are great for us and, like in Mediterranean diets, should be included in ours.
Nuts are full of protein and great oils, make a great snack and are easy to carry around. They have antioxidants, essential fats and lots of fibre. It’s a great idea to include them in your weekly diet and keep them in your fridge – so they retain freshness. The fat in nuts is great fat – fat that your body needs. It is much better to eat a bag of fatty nuts instead of a bag of greasy crisps.
Like I said earlier, people get a little nutty about nuts and argue about which nut is the best. This may seem a bit odd, but I think that the message is that people in the know understand how great nuts are for us and are really keen to encourage you to eat them. Good for all, nuts are particularly good for vegetarians and vegans as a source of protein.
Nuts are versatile. You can just eat them plain. You can add them to your morning cereal, muesli or porridge. You can sprinkle them on salads, mix them with pasta, mingle them with rice and bake them into a casserole. You can bake sweet things with them, too – from sweet bars to nutty breads to nut cakes. It’s easy to fit them into your week if you use a little imagination. I put a little bowl with different nuts on the table every few days for us and our kids.
At Planet Organic, we have nuts for all occasions. For nutty snacks, we have lightly toasted, sometimes salted or spiced nuts. We have bags of nuts…bags and bags of nuts. There are different sizes and forms and types.
Almonds (with skins, blanched, flaked, ground)
Great for protein, almonds are also high in calcium and can be given to growing children as a better source of calcium than cow’s milk.
These kernels, like most seeds/nuts, are vey nutritious. Uniquely, they contain vitamin B17 or amygdalin.
Contain high levels of selenium, a powerful antioxidant.
Cashews – plain, roasted and salted
Containing iron, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium and zinc, cashews benefit everything from blood to bone and teeth growth, digestion and the immune system.
A coconut gives so many health benefits that it is now called a functional food. Pacific Islanders rate it so highly – as food and medicine – that it is called the tree of life. Coconut’s got to be worth including in your diet with them thinking so highly of it. You can add dried coconut to muesli, curries and baked goods.
As well as having the good protein, fibre and oil of other nuts, hazelnuts help maintain a healthy blood pressure and are a good source of iron. They are wonderful to include in fruity breads.
Another healthy tree nut, macadamia’s are so buttery that they are amazing when used in desserts. You can also use them to make pesto.
A ground nut, peanuts provide resveratrol, which is thought to improve blood flow to the brain.
These are close to my heart, because I grew up eating them off of my mom’s pecan tree in New Orleans. Pecans are unctuous because of their high and wonderful oil content. Because of this, they must be eaten fresh, so choose nuts that are very pale. The darker the pecan, the older it is.
Little powerhouses of flavour and nutrition, pinenuts are great added to salads, pasta dishes and baked into pies.
A rare treat when we were kids growing up in America, one of our big Christmas delights was a bag of red pistachios. I don’t know why they used to dye them red. Anyway, pistachios are divine. As well as keeping skin protected from dryness, a handful a day provides a great dose of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and protein.
With high amounts of omega 3 fats, you can skip salmon and tuna sometimes and have walnuts instead. Walnuts also contain almost twice as much antioxidant as other nuts. Choose the palest ones that you can find. The darker they are, the older they are. And remember, it’s cheaper to buy nut pieces, than whole nuts.
You can eat nuts as they are, but if you want to make them even better for you, you can soak them in salted water for 6 hours. This breaks down phytates that are enzyme inhibitors. You can then drain then, put on a baking sheet and dry them out on low heat in the oven. They are easy to digest – good for young and old.
The idea for this comes from a nut pie my brother David used to bring home from Chinatown in Boston. This bar doesn’t really resemble that recipe, but oh is it good! It’s a great snack – full of protein and delicately sweet – and incredibly delicious. I’ve been enjoying it for breakfast.
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Baking Time: 20 minutes
Storage: Keep in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Refrigerate for up to another 3 days.
- butter, for greasing
- 120g/4¼oz/1 cup wholemeal spelt or wheat flour
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- 40g/1½oz sesame oil
- 1 large egg, whisked
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 180g/4fl oz/½ cup rice malt syrup
- 2 tbsp sunflower seed oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 50g/1¾oz/½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 60g2¼oz/½ cup hazelnuts coarsely chopped
- 55g/2oz/½ cup pecans, coarsely chopped
- 70g/2½oz/½ cup almonds, coarsely chopped
- Preheat oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Grease a 26 x 19cm/10½ x 7½ in or equivalent baking dish, line with greaseproof paper and grease again.
- In a small bowl, mix together the flour, spices and salt. Add the oil and mix well, then add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Press evenly into the bottom of the dish.
- In a medium bowl, mix the rice malt syrup, oil and vanilla until well blended. Add in the nuts and mix well. Spoon onto the pastry and flatten gently with the back of the spoon. Bake for 25 minutes until bubbling all the across the top and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack completely. Serve at room temperature.