Energy boosting health foods like snack bars, granola and muesli have one thing in common; they are loaded with nuts – one of nature’s most nourishing foods. Pistachios, walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, peanuts, pecans, hazelnuts and cashew nuts are like little pills of nutrition packed with unsaturated fat, omega3 fatty acids, fibre, argenine, anti-oxidants and Vitamin E. Each of them has a unique flavour which can be used in a number of ways and in almost every meal of the day.
The best way to eat nuts is by themselves as a snack. Make a small snack box with mixed nuts of your choice and keep them in your bag or at your work desk. That way you can much on them whenever you get hungry. Making a mini-meal of a handful of nuts makes it easy for the body to absorb all the nutrition they have to offer. You much however, be careful not to go overboard. While nuts are packed with nutrients they are also high in fat; and consuming too many nuts in the day can be counterproductive. It is best to stick to a handful at a time.
Among the commonly available nuts, walnuts, almonds and pistachios are perhaps the best. Pistachios have the highest fibre content and the lowest percentage of saturated fat. Almonds are the best source of vitamin E which is essential for skin and hair health. Walnuts are particularly high in omega3 acids which help fight high cholesterol and heart disease. Nuts like peanuts and cashews are on the fattier side of the spectrum. Macadamia nuts are the fattiest of all nuts. So when choosing to snack on nuts, be careful about which ones you choose based on your levels of activity, age and nutritional requirements.
One great way to enhance the flavour of nuts is to toast them in an oven or dry roast them in a thick bottomed skillet. Toasting nuts releases their essential oils, makes them fragrant and crunchy. Toasted nuts can them be tossed in dry herbs and powdered spices of your choice for a delicious snack. Even when adding them to salads or using them in desserts it is recommended that nuts be toasted first.
Besides these, there are several ways in which nuts can be added to your diet. Whole nuts or ground nuts can be used in cakes, muffins and cookies. They add texture and good oils to bakes which allow you to reduce the amount of butter or cooking oil used. The same applies when making curries and sauces. Ground nuts can be used to thicken gravies and the natural oil which is released from them adds a rich flavour to the dish. It is so much better to thicken a soup or curry using peanut or cashews than it is to use cornstarch or refined flour. Nuts can even be ground into nut butters; smooth spreads made with crushed nuts that can used to top bread or crackers.
For those of you who don’t have the time or inclination to make nut butters and nut based gravies, the easiest way to ensure you eat nuts is to just toss a few into your daily bowl of cereal or choose a packet of muesli which come pre-mixed with nuts. It’s a simple way to enhance your diet with the host of nutrients.