Nutrition Highlight - Nuts

Mixed nuts in bowl
Thinking about nuts brings back happy childhood memories. Every winter when I was growing up my dad would buy very large amounts of unshelled nuts. He would spend the winter evenings shelling the nuts in front of the TV. In fact when he passed away we found a huge basket filled with mixed nuts. There is a school of thought that buying nuts while still in the shell is the best way to insure that your nuts are the freshest they can be. Since I rarely see organic nuts in the unshelled form in places I have lived, going with the nuts that can be purchased in the bulk bins works just fine. It is quite easy to tell whether the nuts are old by the taste, smell and look.

Fall and winter are a perfect time to add nuts to your diet. They are a wonderful source of protein (some more than others), healthy fats and minerals.
Nuts, just like everything really, are best used in moderation. Tossing them into salads, couscous dishes, quinoa dishes, breads and desserts adds a delightful crunch and a burst of good flavor.

Close up of mixed nuts
There are some nuts that may be better than others for people. Nuts may not be advisable for people at all if they have digestive issues such as candida. In both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, nuts are valued for their restorative abilities and warming (quite different than heating, more like soothing) qualities. They are also thought to build strength, and in Ayurveda they are thought to reduce Vata.

Nuts are wonderful sources of vitamin E and essential fatty acids. They are also high in protein, with some nearly as high in protein as meat. Most nuts are good sources of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. A quick note: if you happen to find a nut with a hollow center, toss it. It is most likely rancid.

America’s favorite nut, the peanut, is actually a legume but is more commonly called a nut. This could possibly be due to the fact that legumes store starch and peanuts store fat making them more like a nut. Low in cost and and the nut that is highest in protein, it is easy to see why the peanut is so popular. However, they are quite high in fat. Since they naturally have a slightly sweet taste it’s no wonder why kids love peanut butter. This popular nut is also high in iron, vitamin B6, magnesium and is a good source of calcium. It has been eaten so much that it is now in the top ten list of food allergens. Unlike other nuts and seeds, peanuts need to be cooked to be digestible. Peanuts are heavily sprayed with powerful chemicals. Therefore it is best to buy only organic peanuts. There are many who stay away from peanuts entirely because of their tendency to carry mold.

Walnut in shell
The most popular and widely used nut in the world is the English Walnut also known as the Persian Walnut. It is much easier to shell than the walnut native to America, the black walnut. It also does not stain like black walnuts do. Walnuts strengthen the kidneys and lubricate the intestines. The English walnuts are over 60% fat and have a high Omega-3 content. Perhaps this is how it became known as the nut good for your brain. They also contain fair amounts of calcium, iron, protein, zinc and potassium. They are warming and calming in nature.

Pecans in bowl
Pecans are related to walnuts and are a member of the hickory genus. Pecans were an important staple to the Native Americans. The pecan tree is the state tree of Texas and is indigenous to the Mississippi river basin. This is why pecans are such a popular addition in southern cooking. A mature tree produces about 500 pounds of pecans a year. Surprisingly, pecans are second in fat only to macadamia nuts. But that in no way means that one should not include them in their diet, but rather be aware. They are usually best as an accent to foods. They contain a fair amount of calcium and selenium and are a good source of potassium magnesium, phosphorus and zinc as well as vitamins E and B complex. They are warming and calming in nature.

Almonds in bowl
All of the almonds sold in stores in the US come from California where there are vast orchards of them. Almonds are the 7th largest US food export.
Almonds are our oldest cultivated nut. Wild Almonds have been found in Greek archaeological sites dating as far back 8000 B.C. Almonds are considered the healthiest nut. They restore, tone and nurture. Almonds support both the digestive and nervous systems and are the only nut that is mildly alkalizing to the system. Almonds contain a phytonutrient called phytosterol which has anti-cancer activity and the ability to lower cholesterol. They are also wonderful antioxidants. But this important activity is found in the skins. So for that reason, almonds are best eaten with the skins on. Almonds help strengthen us both mentally and spiritually and are strengthening to the bones, nerves and reproductive system according to Ayurvedic medicine. Almonds are about 18% protein, are and excellent source of magnesium. They also contain several B vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium and phosphorus and are one of the worlds richest sources of Vitamin E.

Cashews in bowl
The cashew, which is native to Brazil, will never be found in the shell. This nut is found hanging from a pear shaped edible stalk called the cashew apple. This apple is again not something that you will find in stores. It is enjoyed by the natives since it goes bad in 24 hours. About 90% of our cashews comes from India and East Africa. The remainder comes from South America. The cashew is 47% fat which actually makes it lower in fat than most other nuts. Cashew are 20% protein, and contain high amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Cashews are nutritive, warming and calming in nature.

Brazil Nut
Brazil nuts
The Brazil nut is technically considered a seed. Currently we import them from Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela. Brazil nuts are almost as fatty as macadamia and pine nuts. They are an good source of calcium, an excellent source of vitamin E and B complex, and are one of the few nuts that contain a significant amount of vitamin C. Brazil nuts contain the highest natural source of selenium. Just one Brazil nut a day should ensure an adequate intake of dietary selenium. They are best eaten away from food or other minerals.

Macadamia nuts
This wonderfully buttery, sweet nut originated in Eastern Australia. As the nut has become increasingly more popular it is now being grown in Hawaii and California. Although these nuts are not packed with the nutrients that you find in other nuts, they are a delightful treat. Just bear in mind that they are 70% fat and a pound is over 3,500 calories. Due to their cost, I don't think that this will pose as much of a problem for most of us. Macadamia nuts are calming in nature.

In addition to the suggested uses above, including nuts or nut butters in your healthy treats can be a yummy way to add these protein, vitamin and mineral rich ingredients. Enjoy!

Nut Butter Cookie Dough Bites
Nut Butter Cookie Dough Bites

1 15 ounce can chickpeas, well-rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
½ cup organic nut butter such as peanut, or almond.
¼ cup brown rice syrup or maple syrup.
½ cup brown rice flour or flour of choice
2 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt if your nut butter doesn't have salt in it.
½ cup dairy free carob chips (or chocolate chips, raisins or currants)


1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Combine all the ingredients, except for the carob chips, in a food processor and process until very smooth. Make sure to scrape the sides and the top to get the little chunks of chickpeas and process again until they're combined.

2. Put in the carob chips and stir it if you can, or pulse it once or twice. The mixture will be very thick and sticky.

3. With wet hands, form into 1½" balls. Place onto a Silpat baking mat or a piece of parchment paper. If you want them to look more like normal cookies, press down slightly on the balls. They don't do much rising.

4. Bake for about 14 minutes. The dough balls will still be very soft when you take them out of the oven. They will not set like normal cookies.

5. Store in an airtight container at room temperature (or in the fridge) for up to 1 week.

Just a note: the original recipe did not call for flour. I found the dough much to difficult to work with and so did my best friend when she made it. So you may want to play around with the flour part. Different flours will product a different textured dough. Since there are no eggs in the recipe, no matter what they look like or whatever texture they turn out to be, they will taste good and be good for you. These cookies were the only thing that I could eat (beside fruit) for several days after my surgery. They gave me the energy to get up, move around and do PT. So give them a try!


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