Looking for the perfect snack? Well then….nuts and seeds it is! I always like to leave the house with a home made trail mix- something to snack on in between my meals, or something to fuel me an hour before my workout. Including more plant based proteins, like nuts and seeds, will not only supply you with a good source of protein; but will also give you fiber and lots of minerals! I’m sure most of us like to go for the roasted, salted kinds, but once nuts and seeds are roasted, their oils tend to get damaged, so they lose their nutritive qualities. So I’m talking about the raw, unsalted kind. Now….you can toast nuts and seeds for a few minutes to bring out some flavors, but I wouldn’t suggest for too long, approx. 5 mins. So here is a breakdown of some of my favorite nuts and seeds and their amazing benefits:
Almonds– These bad boys are loaded with protein and fiber. 1 ounce provides approx. 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, and they are very high in vitamin E; approx 7 grams per serving! 1 cup serving can provide you with 600mg of calcium! They are also high in monounsaturated fats that can help fight heart disease by lowering cholesterol! And you thought fat was bad for you!! Guess again!
Walnuts– Super rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, these nuts are protective of your heart and brain. They also contain ellagic acid- an antioxidant to boost immunity and help prevent cancer! (On a side note- ellagic acid is also found in strawberries, pomegranates, raspberries and pecans). As for mineral content, 1 ounce serving provides approx. 20mg of calcium, 55mg of magnesium, and 145mg of potassium! Wow-za!
Cashews– Containing approx. 5g of protein per serving, these nuts also provide high amounts of magnesium and potassium; even higher than walnuts! 2 handfuls of cashews also provides you with a fair amount of tryptophan. Tryptophan, is an amino acid which is converted into niacin (vitamin B3) in the body. B3 helps to stimulate circulation, and helps with the proper functioning of the nervous system. BUT….it gets better! Tryptophan is the precursor to a very vital neurotransmitter-serotonin. Serotonin influences mood and sleep. The effect that Serotonin has on mood is quite dramatic, that studies have shown it to be just as effective as Prozac! Amazing I tell you!
Pistachios– These are becoming my new fave! They are very high in potassium, approx. 285mg per 1 ounce serving, and contain calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. They also contain phyto-nutrients such as beta-carotene, pectin and cyanidin, NOT cyanide!! C’mon people!
Pumpkin Seeds– These are the richest source of zinc, and zinc is very protective of the prostate! OK…I’ll say it…Zinc is for the dinc!! It’s a good way to remember! Pumpkin seeds are also very high in iron, calcium and essential fatty acids. They are also great for killing off intestinal parasites.
Sesame Seeds– 1 cup of these tiny little seeds provides 2200mg of calcium!! Yes…that’s right, 2200mg! Sprinkle them on your salads, blend them in your smoothies, grind them up and bake with them. Get creative!
Hemp Seeds– These are very high in essential fatty acids (omega 3 & 6). They also contain about 20% of highly digestible protein, which makes it a great vegetarian protein source. They also contain lots of minerals- magnesium, zinc, copper, and phosphorus. I like to use Hemp protein powder in my smoothies. Just 2 scoops provides 15g of protein and 9 g of fiber!
Flax Seeds– Lastly, this amazing seed is loaded with goodness! It is very high in essential fatty acids, which helps our body fight inflammation, and just 2 Tbsps(ground) provides a fair amount of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. It is also a great source of fiber, helping to keep the intestinal tract functioning optimally. Flax is also very high in lignans, which is a phytochemical that in our intestines converts to substances that help to balance female hormones. Be sure to grind flax seeds, or buy them ground to really absorb all the nutrients!
Go on…make your trail mix of amazingly healthy, high mineral, anti inflammatory, mood enhancing, sleep inducing, nuts and seeds!!!
Samantha Gladish, R.H.N