The healthiest nuts and seeds

The healthiest nuts and seeds

Are you eating enough nuts and seeds? Corey Tolbert, RD, LD, a licensed and registered dietitian at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont, breaks down the health benefits of these superfoods.

“A lot of people are concerned that nuts and seeds are high in fat and calories, but what they don’t realize is that these are healthy fats and calories,” she says. “Nuts and seeds are also a good source of plant-based protein.”

The health benefits of nuts and seeds

According to Tolbert, the healthy fats and protein in seeds and nuts can help:

  • Control your blood sugar

  • Decrease inflammation in the body

  • Improve the health of the lining in your arteries

  • Keep you satiated longer

  • Lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol

  • Reduce the risk of blood clots

Which nuts and seeds are healthiest?

“When you look at types of nuts and seeds, all possess healthy fats and protein, but some have other beneficial properties,” says Tolbert. These include:

  • Walnuts, which are high in inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids. “When you get enough omega-3s, it can help with chemotherapy symptom management and help the chemo drugs work better,” she explains.

  • Brazil nuts, which contain selenium. Selenium has been shown to have cancer-fighting properties. Tolbert recommends eating four Brazil nuts a day.

  • Flax seeds. These little seeds pack a big dose of anti-inflammatory, heart-healthy omega-3s. Be sure to choose ground flaxseeds, as the body can’t absorb whole flaxseeds.

How many nuts and seeds should you eat a day?

While nuts and seeds are good for you, they are high in calories and fat, so you’ll want to watch your portion size. One-fourth of a cup is one portion.

Ideally, Tolbert says, 30 percent or less of your diet should come from fat.

“Try to track your food intake for a little while to get an idea of the percentage of carbohydrates, fat and protein,” she says.

How to add nuts and seeds to your meals

Incorporate nuts and seeds into your diet by adding them to:

  • Cereals

  • Fish or poultry dishes as a crunchy crust 

  • Healthy casseroles

  • Oatmeal

  • Salads

  • Smoothies

  • Trail mix

  • Yogurt

Another solid snack combo is a piece of fruit and ¼ cup of nuts or seeds.

“Nuts and seeds give you protein to help you feel full,” says Tolbert. “If you only eat yogurt, you may be hungry pretty soon after, but having nuts or seeds gives you more fiber and protein to sustain you longer. From a weight management standpoint, that can be helpful.”

How to choose the healthiest nut butter

Always look at ingredients, she says. Nut butter should only contain nuts and perhaps a small amount of sea salt. Also, check the consistency.

“Whenever you buy nut butter, you want to see the oil sitting on top,” says Tolbert. “Manufacturers often add partially hydrogenated oils to make peanut butter stay solid. These oils are very bad for you and can clog your arteries, so avoid them.”

Check out more nutrition tips from Cancer Wellness experts.

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