One evening while I was watching the news, I heard the reporters speaking with a couple of doctors about the changes to the dietary guidelines for Americans. It was on this newscast that I first heard the acronym “G-BOMBS,” which stands for greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and seeds. These foods are nutrient dense and should make up the bulk of our diets. Being interested in healthy eating, I took notice of this.
I’m not a big fan of mushrooms so I honestly won’t try to eat much from “M,” but I know I can add more G-BOBS to my diet. It’s not that hard, really, and the list didn’t surprise me all that much. Except for seeds. I’ve never thought of seeds as being a staple in my diet. I think of them more as cute little garnishes for my granola and trail mix than as their own source of nutrients. I know, I know. Seeds having many health benefits is not new information so this shouldn’t have taken me by such surprise. But this G-BOMBS thing was my “a-ha” moment and it’s what it took for me to get serious about eating more seeds.
Since I had this reaction, I figured some of you may have felt – or do feel – the same way. So today, we’re going to talk about seeds. And nuts.
Let me preface this by saying I’m very thankful that my family does not have any nut allergies. I love adding nuts to things. They’re a great source of protein and healthy fats and they’re so very yummy. I like to take a little bit of cinnamon and a tiny pinch of sugar, mix it with a bowl of pecans or almonds, and roast the nuts just long enough for them to soften and caramelize. It’s insane! Then I add them to my yogurt or oatmeal or eat them by themselves with my afternoon cup of coffee. I want to make some just thinking about it. (Yes, I’m essentially talking about candied pecans and I don’t feel bad about it. I cut WAY back on the sugar. You’d be surprised how little sugar it takes to get that candied goodness. And you don’t have to use refined sugar, either. Maple syrup and honey are two of my favorite sweeteners to use. Even with these, a little goes a long way.)
Did you know that some seeds actually have more protein than nuts? And that nuts are a decent source of fiber? Neither did I! Check out this chart for a quick look at the amounts of protein and fiber in certain nuts and seeds.
Nuts and seeds are also a good source of healthy fats and vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, selenium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, niacin, pantothenic acid, Vitamin B6 and folate.
Now this is all well and fine but the information itself won’t do a thing for you unless you know how to apply it. Here are a few tips on how to include nuts and seeds in your diet, and how to substitute them in place of other not-so-healthy snack options. I even included some links to recipes that I hope you’ll enjoy.
- Add nuts and seeds to your oatmeal.
- Add nuts and seeds to your yogurt.
- Add nuts and seeds to your salad.
- Keep a bowl of seeds on your counter. When you get the munchies before meal time, grab a handful of seeds instead of a prepackaged snack.
- Make your own trail mix (nuts and seeds) and keep a portion-size baggie (about 1/4 cup) in your bag at all times. When you get hungry during the day, pull it out and eat it.
- Make your own granola and granola bars. Eat them as a snack or for a quick, easy breakfast.
- Make your own candied nuts (cut the sugar in this recipe in half!).
As promised, here are a few of my favorite treats:
- Candied Pecans (I use 1/4 of the sugar in this recipe)
- Homemade Protein Granola Bars
- Pecan Apple Breakfast
FitTip: Seeds and nuts are a great snack for you and your family. They provide important nutrients and because they contain a lot of protein and fiber, they will help fill you and keep you feeling full for longer. They are also a good source of unsaturated fats, which is a good thing, but that makes them high in calories. As always, pay attention to the portion size. Most recommended portions are between one tablespoon and one ounce. Reference the chart above whenever you’re not sure which nuts and seeds to choose. Looking for more protein? Try peanuts and sunflower seeds. If it’s fiber you want, chestnuts, pistachios, almonds, and flax seeds are good options. When you eat them, enjoy them with a clear conscience! You’re doing your body a favor.