Nuts and seeds are always included as part of a healthy diet regimen. As a commonly enjoyed snack food, they’re inexpensive and easy to take with you when you’re on the go. Whether in the office for a mid-morning snack, on the hiking trail or in your kids’ lunch boxes, nut and seeds help us stave off hunger by supplying fiber and protein which help keep us feeling fuller for longer.
The most important part of seeds and nuts are the healthy fats that help feed our brains!
Not only do fats make up 60% of our brain matter, they have been shown to help our brains function properly, reduce rates of depression, improve memory and motor skills, promote healthy blood flow to the brain and protect against cognitive decline. Need we say more? So instead of that bag of chips or afternoon sugary energy drink, be proactive with your health (and your day) and grab a handful of nuts and seeds or foods made with them.
Here is the list of our top 7 favorite nuts, seeds and their well-known health benefits:
One of the most versatile nuts in today’s diet, almonds are an abundant source of high-quality protein and healthy unsaturated fatty acids. Often eaten on their own in either raw or roasted forms, almonds are also available as diced, sliced or slivered as well as in flour, butter and one of our all-time favorites, milk! Interestingly, almonds are actually considered “drupes” (a type of one-seeded fruit) and are not truly nuts. Regardless, almonds have been shown to lower cholesterol levels, decrease cancer risks and keep blood sugar under control.
Raw or roasted, pecans are a welcome addition to any meal (or dessert!). Rich in omega-6 fatty acids, pecans help reduce the risk of heart disease. They have also been found to contain plant sterols known to reduce cholesterol levels, as well as phytochemicals that offer antioxidant protection from diabetes and cancer.
This powerhouse nut is packed with antioxidants and healthy omega-3s, aiding brain health, blood pressure and important in helping keep certain cancers away. One of the richest plant-based sources of ALA, a fatty acid your body converts into heart- and brain-healthy omega-3s DHA and EPA. Walnuts are also an excellent source of copper, which together with iron enables the body to form red blood cells.
Cashews lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure and bad cholesterol (LDL) levels. They also contain the amino acid arginine which has been shown to protect the inner lining of arterial walls. Additionally, the iron in cashews helps our body form and utilize red blood cells, while copper ensures the production of dopamine and serotonin (our “feel good” hormones!).
5. Sunflower Seeds
These small seeds are infinitely more nutritious than their size suggests! Used as a food source for over 5,000 years, sunflower seeds have an incredibly diverse history to match their numerous health benefits. The sunflower seed oil lowers triglyceride and (bad) cholesterol levels, helps maintain healthy skin by preventing damage from the sun and pollution, prevent cancers and reduce the risk of diabetes by maintaining a balanced blood sugar.
6. Pumpkin Seeds
When searching for a healthy source of soy free plant-based protein, look no further than pumpkin seeds. A healthy snack all year-long, pumpkin seeds are full of protein, fiber and minerals such as iron, magnesium and potassium. Pumpkin seeds get their green color from chlorophyll which alkalizes the blood, preventing high levels of inflammation from today’s otherwise acidic diets. In a small 1-ounce serving, pumpkin seeds contain high amounts of tryptophan which enhances serotonin production and is sure to boost your mood!
7. Sesame Seeds
Similar to sunflower seeds, don’t underestimate the power of sesame seeds because of their small size. Sesame seeds are packed with a variety of disease-fighting properties sure to make you take a second glance next time you’re in the bulk aisle. Full of fiber, protein, zinc, copper and phytosterols, sesame seeds support digestive health, healthy skin, lower cholesterol and relieve arthritis pain while strengthening bones and joints. Additionally, sesame oil has been shown to prevent diabetes, lower blood pressure, protect your heart and even prevent wrinkles from sun damage!
8. Queen Chia
Chia, native to South America is among the healthiest foods on the planet. Chia seeds are very small blackish seeds from the plant Salvia Hispanica. Chia seeds have recently become a superfood stample for a modern person even though these seeds were a very important in the diet of the Aztecs and Mayans.
We know that we all heard about salmon is being high on Omega-3, but for all of us palnt-based eaters this is not an option. Chia seeds are one of the highest known sources for omega-3 fatty acids, containing 7.5 times more of these essential oils per ounce than salmon! This is a true testament to the power of plants!
Chia is a true nutrient powerhouse!
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