Welcome to the heart of winter, where cold winds and lower temperatures can send you running into a warm bath and under the covers in search of a shiver remedy. While a wool blanket and a hot soak provide temporary comfort, the body actually needs more calories to stay warm when it becomes chilled during these winter months.
One good source of calories that also packs a nutrient dense punch can be found in the delicious nut family. Most nuts contain 150-200 calories and 15-20g of fat per ounce serving, and supply rich, full-bodied flavor.
Due to their high fat content, nuts are often avoided by those seeking a low-fat diet. However, the main fat sources in nuts come from healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which can help reduce the risk of heart disease and provide a number of health benefits. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, nuts may also be helpful for weight loss.
Studies show that people who enjoy nuts daily consume less food during the course of the day, and that eating nuts regularly can actually increase the resting metabolic rate. Nuts also provide some protein, with walnuts containing the highest amounts, and they are good sources of dietary fiber. They are excellent sources of most B vitamins, as well as a number of essential minerals like zinc, magnesium and potassium. Additionally, there are many research studies showing that regular consumption of nuts can be very effective in lowering blood “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and possibly preventing heart disease,
partly due to their plant sterol content as well as their healthy fats.
Here is just a sampling of some of the numerous benefits that daily nut consumption can offer:
Almonds are one of the richest sources of vitamin E. They are a good source of calcium which helps maintain bone strength, as well as zinc which strengthens the immune system and promotes proper wound healing. Stir a handful of almonds into a bowl of plain yogurt sweetened with a dash of maple syrup for a scrumptious, healthy snack.
Walnuts, in addition to being another good source of vitamin E, contain other healthy antioxidants that help support the immune system and have high levels of omega 3-fatty acids which can help reduce inflammation. Try substituting walnuts for pine nuts in your next pesto recipe.
The Brazil nut grows in the rainforests of the Amazon where it has a sacred status among indigenous tribes. It is one of the most nutritious nuts, being a wonderful source of selenium, and important antioxidant that my help reduce risks of heart disease, cancer and premature aging. Tossing some Brazil nuts into a stir fry will give your dish an original nutty flavor.
Nut and seed butters: If chewing on nuts presents a problem, a variety of delicious nut butters are readily available at your local store for easy spreading on toast or fruit. The most common, of course, is peanut butter, which is a favorite of many. While there are many commercial brands, it’s best to look for those without added trans fats, which have been linked to heart disease and cancer. Other nut butter varieties include almond, cashew, hazelnut, and even pumpkin seed butter. Organic nut butters are better because they tend to contain lower amounts of pesticides. Nut butters can also be used to make tasty, easy sauces, gravy and more. The seed family similarly offers a host of beneficial qualities: sunflower, sesame and flaxseeds all provide ample allotments of dietary fiber and cholesterol-lowering plant sterols. Flaxseed is an excellent source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids as well. Sesame seeds are high in calcium, and both pumpkin and sunflower seeds contain good amounts of zinc. Do be mindful as seeds can often be difficult for seniors to digest, and chewing is especially important. If you experience any discomfort after seed consumption, it may be wise to avoid eating them. You can instead experiment with them in their butter or oil form, which can offer some of the same healthy benefits.
Nuts and seeds are incredibly versatile items to have in your pantry. In addition to being an excellent snack by themselves, they can be sprinkled on your hot morning cereal, added to your next rice pilaf, tossed in the blender with a banana and milk or yogurt for a nutty smoothie, or garnished on top of salads for added flavor and nutrients.
Because their high fat content, nuts tend to go rancid quickly, so it’s best not to store them in the refrigerator or freezer unless you plan to use them right away.
Bring a bag of nuts on your next outdoor trip to fight off the shivers! Your body and palate will thank you.