If you’re feeling hungry in the middle of the day but don’t want to commit to a full meal, nuts and seeds can make a great snack. They’re high in fiber and protein to fill you up and keep you full of energy, and contain high levels of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
They can even be a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, depending on the specific nut or seed in question. Nuts and seeds are easy to incorporate into your diet – munch on them as a snack or incorporate them into a salad for a light meal; they can also add a healthy crunch to baked goods.
But as with all things, moderation is important – nuts are a very high calorie food, after all. Here are some healthy nuts and seeds to introduce to your daily diet.
These pleasant, mild-tasting seeds – they are technically seeds, not nuts! – are available at most grocery stores. For eating, you’ll want to pick up sweet almonds; bitter almonds are edible, but much less pleasant, and typically used to make almond oil.
Almonds are a good source of fiber, protein, selenium, and other important nutrients – but they may have even more health benefits; one review says that
“emerging evidence supports that almond consumption beneficially influences chronic degenerative disease risk beyond cholesterol reduction, particularly in populations with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes mellitus.”(1)
2. Flax Seeds
These small, brown seeds can be used as egg substitutes in vegan cooking, or just added to dishes on their own – they have a mild taste and crunchy texture. Their high fiber content promotes intestinal and bowel health, while their rich levels of alpha-linolenic acid are great for promoting cardiovascular health(2).
To get the most from these, grind the seeds using a blender before eating. If you’re on blood-thinning medication or are pregnant, however, it’s best to avoid these seeds – they can have negative effects on both these conditions.
3. Pumpkin Seeds
Always popular in the fall, these seeds taste great roasted with a little bit of salt. But they’re not just tasty – they have strong antihypertensive and cardioprotective effects:
“Pumpkin seed oil is a natural product commonly used in folk medicine for treatment of prostatic hypertrophy… pumpkin seed oil exhibits an antihypertensive and cardioprotective effects through a mechanism that may involve generation of nitrous oxide.”(3)
Walnuts have a rich flavor and smooth texture, and are a great addition to salads or baked goods. Popular for this reason, walnuts also have some lesser-known benefits – namely, they’re good for your brain.
A 2011 study revealed that regular walnut consumption has a positive impact on learning and memory functions in rats(4).
A more recent study showed that they could improve memory deficits in mice with Alzheimer’s disease(5).
5. Brazil Nuts
Crunchy and rich, these nuts taste great when lightly salted. Did we say nuts? They’re actually technically seeds, but due to their brown, nut-like outer covering, they’re more commonly known as nuts.
Brazil nuts can improve the lipid profile of healthy individuals(6), and are an excellent source of selenium(7), which can protect against mercury poisoning.