Nuts and seeds. They're in trail mixes and snack bars and muesli and we probably think of them as healthy - but what do they really do for our bodies?
They're crunchy and delicious and they are actually really good for you. They're nutritional powerhouses and jam packed with protein, fibre and nutrients. I thought I'd share my favourite nuts and seeds with you - as well as why you need to be adding them to your daily diet!
We often think that calcium only comes from dairy foods - but almonds are also rich in bioavailable calcium (that means calcium that can be absorbed and used by the body).
As well as calcium, almonds are packed full of nutrients which offer benefits, including:
- Improving and maintaining the health of your skin, hair and nails
Almonds are rich in Vitamin E - a fat soluble vitamin and antioxidant that's essential for protecting our cells from damage. Almonds are one of the best serves of Vitamin E with a single serving (a handful of almonds) providing 85% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin E.
- Helping to keep you feeling fuller for longer
Almonds are full of fibre and protein that help to keep you satiated and stop you from overeating.
- Feeding and repairing your muscles
The protein and magnesium found in almonds helps to feed and restore your muscles - essential if you're working out in the gym, exercising or doing physical labour at work.
- Keeping your bones strong and healthy and assisting with the formation of connective tissues
When calcium and manganese combine, as found in almonds, they make a powerful combination that helps to keep your bones strong and healthy whilst also assisting with the formation of connective tissues.
- Reducing blood pressure
Almonds are rich in magensium which helps to reduce blood pressure, control blood sugar levels and more.
Almonds are also rich in copper, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and phosphorus are a great source of antioxidants which work to protect our cells from damage and have incredible anti-ageing and disease fighting properties.
Brazil nuts aren't actually nuts at all - but seeds! They come from the seeds of a huge tree in the Amazon rainforest. Unlike most nuts, brazil nuts are actually sourced from the wild - not man made nut farms.
- Prevent Heart Disease
Eating just two brazil nuts a day will provide you with your entire daily intake of selenium - a mineral and antioxidant that may help to prevent heart disease!
Brazil nuts are also a great source of protein, copper, niacin, fibre, vitamin E and magnesium.
Cashews are rich in copper, magnesium, zinc, iron and biotin - and whilst you might think of nuts as a source of healthy fats, it turns out cashews are actually a low-fat nut.
- Improve heart health
Just like olive oil, they have high levels of heart healthy oleic acid.
- A natural anti depressant
Just one handful of cashews provides 1000-2000 milligrams of tryptophan - a natural mood booster!
A few years ago no one knew what chia seeds were - but now they're everywhere. They're a modern superfood - but all for good reason.
- Boosts your metabolism
Chia seeds boost your metabolic rate and assist in healthy weight loss and weight maintenance
- The highest levels of plant-based Omega 3
Chia seeds are a great source of plant-based omega 3, making them perfect for vegans and vegetarians who don't eat fish
- Boost your antioxidant activity
Chia seeds multiply antioxidant activity in the body, fighting cancer and disease causing free radicals and reducing the effects of ageing.
- Improve, maintain and strengthen bones
A great source of calcium, chia seeds will help to keep your bones strong and healthy.
- A great source of plant-based complete protein
To give your body all of the essential amino acids it needs!
- Good for your heart
Research has found that chia seeds may lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart issues.
Flaxseeds are one of my favourite natural health boosters as they're so easy to add to your diet - and you will certainly want to add them in after you find out their benefits!
- Rich in Omega 3
Flaxseeds are actually a better source of omega 3 than fish oil - supporting brain health, reducing your risk of Alzheimer's and dementia, improve and maintain eye health and help to fight depression and anxiety among many other benefits.
- Rich in Antioxidants
To fight free radicals, reduce your risk of certain disease like some cancers and help to reduce the effects of ageing on the body.
Flax seeds are also fibre rich and can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Good for more than just pecan pie, pecans help to lower cholesterol and are filled with vitamins and minerals like Vitamin E, Vitamin A, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, B Vitamins, zinc and copper.
Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds)
Pepitas are an excellent source of protein, dietary fiber, niacin, iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus as well as a good source of riboflavin, pantothenic acid, sodium, folate and potassium.
- Protect your heart and keep it working properly
The magnesium found in pepitas participates in a range of vitally important functions - including the proper pumping of your heart, bone and tooth formation, proper bowl function, blood pressure maintenance and more.
- Boost your immune system
Pepitas are rich in zinc which supports and improves your immune system - keeping you strong and healthy
- Great for your liver
The healthy fats, antioxidants and fibre found in pepitas helps to support liver function.
- Get a better night's sleep!
Pepitas are great sources of tryptophan - a natural mood booster that also converts to serotonin, which the body then converts to melatonin - the sleep hormone.
Pistachios are one of my favourite nuts and common in many Lebanese dishes. Not only are they delicious, they are full of healthy fats, protein, fibre and the minerals phosphorus, copper and manganese.
- Lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol
Studies have found that pistachios may help to reduce your LDL (bad) cholesterol thanks to the high levels of plant stanols they contain.
Sesame seeds may be tiny - but they pack a nutritional punch! Easy to eat as tahini (a ground sesame seed paste that's popular in Lebanese dishes!), sesame seeds are a great source of calcium, magnesium, zinc, fibre, iron, B1 and phosphorus.
- Help to lower blood pressure
- Reduce your risk of disease
Studies have linked the consumption of sesame seeds to the prevention of many diseases - such as arthritis, migraines, asthma, menopause symptoms, osteoporosis and more. There have even been studies that have found they may even reduce PMS symptoms!
- Protect against liver damage
Sunflower seeds are a great heart healthy option as they're packed with Vitamin E, Vitamin C, protein and fibre.
- Improve skin, hair and nail health
Like almonds, sunflower seeds are rich in Vitamin E and provide the same benefits for your skin, hair and nails!
- Mood boosting
Sunflower seeds are a great source of magnesium, providing great mood boosting benefits.
- Keep your cholesterol levels in check
Sunflower seeds are rich in phytosterols which help to support healthy cholesterol levels.
Walnuts are great for heart and brain health and also contain ellagic acid - a cancer fighting antioxidant. Walnuts are also;
- Filled with Rare and Powerful Antioxidants
Walnuts contain several unique antioxidants - such as quinone juglone, the flavonol morin and the tanin tellimagrandin. These antioxidants are so good at free-radical fighting that research has shown that they have a wide variety of health benefits.
- Great for brain health and function
Walnuts contain a number of vitamins and minerals that are important for brain health, including vitamin E, folate, melatonin and omega 3's.