Healthy Seeds and Nuts to Snack On

Looking for healthier food options to munch on throughout the day? Nuts and seeds are good alternatives to snack on every time you feel a little pang of hunger in between meals. High in fibre, protein and good fat, they boost your strength and energy, make you feel fuller faster, and aid in weight management. They are also rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help improve your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, and ultimately reduce your risk for heart diseases.

Hold off on the junk foods because we are spilling the beans on 10 healthy nuts and seeds that are great additions to your daily snack time, including the nutritional value packed in one serving (approximately one ounce or 28 grams) of each.

1. Almonds

Almonds contain minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium and copper that promote strong bones and prevent osteoporosis. They are also loaded with fibre, protein and vitamin E that help fight inflammation, control weight gain and improve heart health.

Studies have shown that adding one serving of almonds to every meal could help prevent the increase in blood sugar levels that occur after eating by as much as 30% in people with diabetes. It has also been reported that almonds reduce inflammation in type 2 diabetics. When included in a low-calorie diet, they could contribute to weight loss and lower blood pressure in people who suffer from obesity.

Almonds have also been known to improve cholesterol levels as revealed in a few studies where subjects who were put on almond-rich diets exhibited lower levels of LDL cholesterol (or “bad” cholesterol), overall cholesterol and oxidised LDL cholesterol, which is particularly harmful to the heart.

Finally, almonds contribute to the production of beneficial gut bacteria, enhancing the health of your gastrointestinal microbiota.

A serving of almonds contains the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 161
  • Fat: 14 grams
  • Protein: 6 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 6 grams
  • Fibre: 3.5 grams
  • Vitamin E: 37% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Magnesium: 19% of the RDI

2. Cashew Nuts

Cashew nuts are a good source of copper, magnesium and iron that help strengthen your immune system and boost the antioxidant quantities in your food.

Studies investigating the effects of cashew-rich diets in people who exhibit symptoms of metabolic syndrome discovered that 20% of calories from these nuts reduced blood pressure and increased the antioxidant content of the diet. However, a few research studies have also revealed that a high amount of cashew nuts in diets may cause the rise of glucose levels in people with metabolic syndrome.

Additionally, a more extensive experiment observed that a diet high in cashews reduced blood pressure and increased levels of HDL cholesterol (or “good” cholesterol), while significant effects on body weight and blood sugar levels have yet to be seen.

An ounce of cashews is estimated to contain:

  • Calories: 155
  • Fat: 12 grams
  • Protein: 5 grams
  • Carbs: 9 grams
  • Fibre: 1 gram
  • Vitamin E: 1% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 20% of the RDI

3. Peanuts

Peanuts are packed with magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, protein, thiamin and vitamin E. They are also rich in oleic acid, which inhibits LDL cholesterol.

A study in over 120,000 people revealed that peanuts may improve heart condition in people who consume higher amounts of these nuts and are, thus, linked to lower death rates. Another study among women revealed that eating peanut butter more than five times a week can lower the rate of type 2 diabetes.

One serving of dry-roasted peanuts has about:

  • Calories: 176
  • Fat: 17 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Carbs: 5 grams
  • Fibre: 3 grams
  • Vitamin E: 21% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 11% of the RDI

4. Pistachios

Pistachios are an abundant source of vitamin B6, copper and manganese. They are beneficial to your heart health by improving your blood pressure, body weight and the balance of antioxidants and free radicals in your system.

Like almonds, pistachios may improve the cholesterol levels in your body by increasing the amount of HDL. They also mitigate the upsurge in glucose levels following a meal.

An ounce of pistachios can give you:

  • Calories: 156
  • Fat: 12.5 grams
  • Protein: 6 grams
  • Carbs: 8 grams
  • Fibre: 3 grams
  • Vitamin E: 3% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 8% of the RDI

5. Walnuts

Walnuts are rich in proteins, fibre, magnesium and phosphorus, as well as a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which helps lower your risk for several heart diseases.

It has been observed in a number of studies that eating walnuts significantly lowered LDL levels while increasing the amount of HDL resulting in reduced inflammation and better weight management. Walnuts also contribute to improved blood pressure and blood circulation in your body.

Additionally, one research study conducted among college students revealed that walnuts may also have positive effects on cognition and overall brain health.

A serving of walnuts contains around:

  • Calories: 182
  • Fat: 18 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Carbs: 4 grams
  • Fibre: 2 grams
  • Vitamin E: 1% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 11% of the RDI

6. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are high in iron, folate, calcium and magnesium, making them beneficial for bone and dental health. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, these seeds decrease the amount of stored fat in the body for a healthy heart, and help manage cholesterol and blood sugar level with their soluble fibre content.

Researchers have observed that consumption of chia seeds increase ALA in the blood to help reduce inflammation, blood pressure and risk factors of heart disease.

28 grams of chia seeds contain:

  • Calories: 137
  • Fibre: 10.6 grams
  • Protein: 4.4 grams
  • Monounsaturated fat: 0.6 grams
  • Omega-3 fats: 4.9 grams
  • Omega-6 fats: 1.6 grams
  • Magnesium: 30% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 30% of the RDI
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1): 15% of the RDI

7. Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are loaded with polyphenolic compounds called lignans that help prevent various kinds of cancers. They also contain soluble fibre that helps reduce cholesterol and normalise glucose levels in the body. In addition, the omega-3 fatty acids in ground flaxseeds are good for brain and eye health.

A few studies revealed that eating flaxseeds may reduce tumour markers in women with breast cancer, minimising their cancer risk. This can also be associated with their lignan content as these polyphenolic compounds are similar to oestrogen in females. Similar effects of flaxseeds have been observed in men with prostate cancer.

Moreover, flaxseeds could prevent heart disease and diabetes by helping manage cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

A standard serve of flaxseeds offers the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 152
  • Fibre: 7.8 grams
  • Protein: 5.2 grams
  • Monounsaturated fat: 2.1 grams
  • Omega-3 fats: 6.5 grams
  • Omega-6 fats: 1.7 grams
  • Manganese: 35% of the RDI
  • Thiamine (vitamin B1): 31% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 28% of the RDI

8. Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds contain the antioxidants magnesium and zinc, as well as protein, iron and vitamin B that helps generate healthy blood cells. They also have a high amount of the amino acid tryptophan that produces the hormones melatonin and serotonin—responsible for regulating appetite, mood and sleep.

Attributed to their abundant nutrient content, pumpkin seeds reportedly have various health benefits including a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer, prostate diseases and urinary disorders.

One ounce of pumpkin seeds is equivalent to:

  • Calories: 151
  • Fibre: 1.7 grams
  • Protein: 7 grams
  • Monounsaturated fat: 4 grams
  • Omega-6 fats: 6 grams
  • Manganese: 42% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 37% of the RDI
  • Phosphorus: 33% of the RDI

9. Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds may be black or white, and they can be ground to make sesame seed butter or tahini, which is the main ingredient in hummus and a lot of Middle Eastern cuisines. They are packed with essential minerals such as copper, manganese and magnesium.

Sesame seeds are loaded with lignans, specifically, the kind called sesamin. Gut bacteria have been found capable of converting these into enterolactone to improve oestrogen levels. Healthy levels of sesamin are said to prevent heart disease and breast cancer.

Additionally, research showed that these seeds may also have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties after observing people with knee osteoarthritis whose condition improved after daily consumption of 40 grams of sesame seed powder for two months.

A similar study revealed that semi-professional athletes had remarkably reduced muscle damage, improved tissue regeneration and increased aerobic capacity after eating 40 grams of sesame seed powder every day for about a month.

A serving of sesame seeds provides:

  • Calories: 160
  • Fibre: 3.3 grams
  • Protein: 5 grams
  • Monounsaturated fat: 5.3 grams
  • Omega-6 fats: 6 grams
  • Copper: 57% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 34% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 25% of the RDI

10. Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds have a rich supply of the fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin E and also contains a considerable amount of healthy fats, fibre and protein.

They are said to help reduce the risk of heart ailments in middle-aged and older people when eaten at least five times a week to minimise C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammation indicator found in the blood.

A study has shown that sunflower seeds have a positive effect on blood cholesterol levels in postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes. These women who incorporated sunflower seeds in their daily diet for three weeks were found to have lower levels of cholesterol and fat deposits.

An ounce of sunflower seeds has approximately:

  • Calories: 164
  • Fibre: 2.4 grams
  • Protein: 5.8 grams
  • Monounsaturated fat: 5.2 grams
  • Omega-6 fats: 6.4 grams
  • Vitamin E: 47% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 27% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 23% of the RDI

In a Nutshell

Nuts and seeds have a wide range of nutritional benefits and are a good alternative or addition to your daily snack staples. They contain many essential nutrients that can help improve your cholesterol and blood sugar levels as well as your heart health while reducing your risk for certain diseases. Nuts and seeds are also a good source of strength and energy which makes them ideal snacks to eat before and after you hit the gym. Whether you eat them as is or mixed with other ingredients, nuts and seeds will add a healthy spin to your snack time.

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