The popularity of nuts has grown hugely in the past few years, as more and more people are realising the nutritional benefits of them, and they’re so easy to find now in almost every shop and supermarket.
A wonderful source of plant protein, raw and unsalted nuts, seeds and the various butters made from them are a brilliant addition to your diet for their health-promoting monounsaturated fats.
All types of nuts are high in fat and calories. But please don’t be put off completely by their fat content. Nuts and seeds do contain substantial levels of calories from fat, but they’re mainly derived from healthy essential fatty acids, plus they contain plenty of beneficial minerals and antioxidants.
Enjoyed in moderation, they can really boost your health. Eating about one handful per day of nuts and seeds can help you to lose weight by satiating your appetite, stabilising your blood-sugar levels and adding fibre to keep you feeling full. They’ve also been shown to improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes.
Many types of nuts are rich sources of potassium and magnesium, to help build strong bones. All varieties of nuts and seeds are super sources of vitamin E, which is an antioxidant needed to build smooth skin, with the selenium and zinc in Brazil nuts also playing an important role in your skin’s health. But stick to one to two Brazil nuts a day for all the selenium you need.
Zinc is needed for strong nails and collagen maintenance, to keep your skin supple and youthful. Together with vitamin B6 and biotin, zinc is needed for shiny, healthy hair.
Almonds are a good source of easily-assimilated plant protein, calcium, magnesium, protein and vitamin E, to nourish, soften and protect your skin from sun damage. Raw almond butter is another super way to enjoy these nutritious nuts, but aim for no more than a tablespoon per day.
Hazelnuts, pine nuts, pistachios and macadamia nuts are also heart-healthy sources of monounsaturated fat to help reduce the risk of heart disease and control type two diabetes. Pecans are one of the best sources of antioxidants, and I love their rich flavour in desserts.
Walnuts are shaped like little brains, and they also happen to hugely benefit your brain thanks to their high levels of omega-3 fats. The same fats are needed in your diet regularly to strengthen your skin cell membranes and lock in moisture and nutrients to help keep it looking youthful, plump and glowing. The fats in walnuts can also help to reduce the inflammation that leads to spotty breakouts.
Walnuts are delicious as a snack, sprinkled on porridge, salads, fruit and work well in dips and pesto recipes.
This recipe for Chocolate Almond Butter-Cups is a simple and tasty way to enjoy cashews and almond butter:)
- 129g (1 cup) raw unsalted cashew nuts (buy organic if possible)
- 147g (1 cup) dates, pitted and soaked for 20 minutes in warm water to soften
- 2 tbsp raw cacao powder
- 2 tbsp raw cacao nibs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 55g smooth almond butter
- Almonds and dark chocolate chips, to decorate
- Place the cashews in a blender or food processor and blend until ground well.
- Add the dates, cacao powder and vanilla, and combine until it becomes a sticky 'dough'.
- Add the cacao nibs and pulse to combine.
- Use a tablespoon to divide the mixture, roll it into a ball in the palms of your hands and then press it down into the individual sections of a muffin baking tray.
- Use your thumb to gently press a well into the centre of each.
- Fill each well with a tsp of almond butter, then decorate and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.
- Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.