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Nuts and Seeds: Nutritional Powerhouses

December 23, 2013 by Dean Simmons, Registered Dietitian

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Nuts and seeds contain everything needed to form a new life. That's what makes them so nutritious. Each almond, pecan, sunflower seed and pumpkin seed you snack on or add to your baking is made up of the same three basic parts; the embryo, the endosperm and the shell (or seed coat). This tiny package is loaded with energy and nutrition.Key nutrients:

In general, both nuts and seeds are high in heart healthy unsaturated fats and protein. The fat is what makes them energy rich. They're also good sources of fibre, potassium, selenium, magnesium, thiamin, iron and zinc. In addition, nuts and seeds contain a variety of nutrients with antioxidant properties that protect cells from damage.

If you're looking for a nutritional powerhouse to add to your meal, you'll find it in nuts and seeds.

Why are high fat foods "energy rich"? Our bodies use the fats, carbohydrates and proteins in our food and beverages to produce the energy that enables us to move and think. The energy is measured in calories. Fat contains more than twice the calories contained in the same amount of carbohydrates or proteins. This is why high fat foods are energy rich.

Health benefits:

Research shows eating nuts and seeds as part of a balanced diet can contribute to a healthy heart, reduced blood pressure and a lower risk of some cancers.

How to enjoy:

Nuts and seeds are energy rich, so enjoy them in moderation. One serving of whole nuts or seeds is 60 ml (1/4 cup) or about the amount that fits into the palm of your hand. 30 ml (2 tbsp) is a serving of nut or seed butters.

A little goes a long way.

  • Try topping your hot cereal with chopped hazelnuts or ground flax seeds
  • Chopped almonds also add a crunchy coating to baked fish
  • A salad can easily become a meal with some pecans or pumpkin seeds tossed in
  • Nut butter is great on crackers, in bean dips or in a satay sauce

Recommended Resources:

EatRight Ontario: Choose nuts and seeds more often!
AICR’s Foods that Fight Cancer: Walnuts and Flaxseed

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