As the squirrels gather nuts and seeds for the winter, it’s the perfect time to increase these super foods in your diets as well. Nuts and seeds are considered super foods because they are concentrated with protein, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Adding nuts and seeds into your diet is also a great way to get a high energy dense fuel source for vegans and vegetarians. Just remember, we’re talking about nuts and seeds that are minimally processed and unsalted.
So, here’s 5 ways you can add nuts and seeds into all meals throughout the day and up your nutritional intake.
Chia seeds are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. "Chia" is a Mayan word for "strength" and these seeds provide your body with sustainable energy. They are high in antioxidants, quality protein, and have more Omega-3 fatty acids than salmon, gram for gram. Chia seeds are also high in fiber, which feeds the good bacteria in your gut and helps prevent the ruthless stomach bug.
To make Chia Pudding, combine 1 cup of water, or milk of choice, with 1/4 cup chia seeds and let sit for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add additional flavors such as cacao powder and peanut butter or toppings such as fresh berries and granola. Try these Coconut Chia Parfaits made with coconut milk.
Walnuts are full of protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals that reduce bad cholesterol, improve metabolism, posses anti-inflammatory properties, and slow the spread of cancer.
Nuts are the perfect topping for oatmeal because they add the perfect crunch factor to creamy oats. Find the recipe for this bowl of Chunky Monkey oatmeal along with many others in my ebook Not Your Average Oats.
Hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, have similar amounts of protein by weight to beef and lamb. 2-3 tablespoons of hemp seeds is equivalent to 11 grams of easily digested protein. This form of plant-based protein is also a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, Vitamin E, and other minerals.
Throw a tablespoon or two of hemp seeds into any smoothie to add a more natural source of protein than commercial protein powders. Try this Pumpkin Pie Smoothie because it is the season of pumpkin spiced everything.
Flax seeds contain two types of dietary fiber, Omega-3 fatty acids, and high quality protein. They help reduce risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure, decreasing bad cholesterol, and increasing good cholesterol. Flax seeds also contain up to 800 times more of a group of nutrients called lignans than other plant foods, which reduce the risk of cancer.
Ditch the bad cholesterol in eggs altogether by substituting it with flax eggs in any baking recipe like these Lemon Blueberry Muffins. To make a flax egg combine 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds and 3 tablespoons water and leave the mixture sit for 5 minutes, or until thick.
#SpoonTip you can use chia seeds to make a chia egg using the same ratio of seeds to water.
Cashews are naturally cholesterol free and are high in vitamins E, K, and B6 as well as many minerals such as copper and iron. These nuts protect your eyes from cataracts, help prevent cancer, and aid in weight loss when substituted correctly for saturated fats and eaten in moderation.
Fresh Moxarella Cheese is by far my favorite creation using soaked raw cashews and really show off their versatility. It takes 5-10 minutes to make and can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. Who knew reducing your risk for heart disease could taste so good.
Give these few recipes a try or become inspired to incorporate other super foods in your diet this Autumn. Your body and overall health will surely thank you. I guess we can say squirrels were definitely ahead of the curve on this one.
Seeds and nuts are amazing foods and as long as you aren’t allergic, definitely something you should be consuming. Like mentioned several times before, chia seeds are a source of omega 3 and just 2 tbs a day can fill your daily requirement of omega 3 as a vegan (as long as they are soaked!), but also flax seeds are a source of omega 3.
Nuts and seeds are a source of fiber and protein as well as vitamin E, B vitamins, calcium, iron,zinc, folate. Not to mention that 1 brazil nut a day helps you reach your daily requirement of selenium. (This is something i need to buy and start eating.)
- Almonds: protein, calcium and vitamin E
- Brazil nuts: fibre and selenium: just two brazil nuts a day provides 100% RDI for selenium for an adult
- Cashews: non haem (plant based) iron and a low GI rating
- Chestnuts: low GI, fibre and vitamin C (although much vitamin C is lost during cooking)
- Hazelnuts: fibre, potassium, folate, vitamin E
- Macadamias: highest in monounsaturated fats, thiamin and manganese
- Pecans: fibre and antioxidants
- Pine nuts: vitamin E and the arginine amino acid
- Pistachios: protein, potassium, plant sterols and the antioxidant resveratrol
- Walnuts: alpha linoleic acid: plant omega 3 and antioxidants
There are so many seeds, but they are nutritionally just as good as nuts 🙂
So how to incorporate them into your diet?
- You can roast them and add them as toppings to your food, for example roasted sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are delicious on salads on on soup or on your youghurt or oatmeal.
- Roasting nuts and eating as they are or topping yoghurt/oats/salad/soup is delicious.
- You can add them to granola or muslie which you make yourself.
- You can make chia pudding.
- You can makenut/seed crackers (So incredibly delicious and very simple to make!)
Do you have a favourite nut or seed and what is your favourite way to eat them?
Personally i eat nuts and seeds just as they – or i buy them already roasted and salted, and then i like to top my food with them as well as using peanut butter in alot of food i eat!!
The peanut butter you remember from childhood has stiff competition these days from creamy spreads that are ground from a variety of nuts, seeds and other legumes. And that’s a good thing! These spreads can add variety to your healthy diet. Plus, they aren’t just for sandwiches. They’re tasty dips for fruits and vegetables too.
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But not all these spreads are equal, nutritionally speaking. Some of these are rock stars, while others are nutritionally lacking, heavily processed or loaded with sugar, bad fats and calories.
We talked to dietitian Ryanne Lachman, RDN, LD, about the many varieties of nut butters and their alternatives you now see at the grocery store to find out which are worth trying and which ones you should avoid. Here’s what she had to say.
Almond butter is a great choice if you’re looking to broaden your taste horizons past peanut butter. Almond butter tastes great and is similar in texture and thickness to peanut butter. The good news nutritionally is that almond butter has about 3 grams more of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat per serving than peanut butter. Plus, unlike processed regular peanut butter, almond butter usually is lower in sugar and provides a little extra calcium, about 60 mg per tablespoon. Look for brands with a single ingredient: roasted almonds.
While cashew butter is somewhat lower in fat and protein than peanut butter, it can be a little higher in sugar if sugar is an added ingredient. As with all nut butters, look for varieties with only nuts as the ingredients ― that means no added oils, salt or sugar. Cashew butter can be a healthy option, especially if you’re avoiding legumes like peanuts or soybeans. Bonus, you’ll get about 10% of your daily iron in two tablespoons. However, be mindful of your portion size, since nuts like cashews are high in fat and calories.
Because of its high fat content and relatively low amount of protein, coconut butter is not a nutritional standout on our list. And, despite the recent craze for coconut oil or butter, there is only limited research on any special health benefits. Coconut butter is best viewed as an occasional indulgence, such as an ingredient in desserts or snacks. Fun fact: While the Food and Drug Administration classifies coconut as a tree nut, a coconut is not a true nut. Botanically speaking, a coconut is a drupe, a fruit in which an outer fleshy part surrounds a pit of hardened endocarp with a seed inside.
Full-fat, regular peanut butter
Traditional, full-fat, shelf-stable peanut butter like the kind you (and everyone else) ate as a kid is higher in sugar than other nut butters. The fat that’s in today’s full-fat peanut butter (now that the U.S. FDA has mandated manufacturers eliminate trans fats from foods) is mostly healthy unsaturated fat. It’s best to buy a peanut butter that’s just peanuts and salt, without added palm or other oils. Even though this (technically legume) nut butter is often the cheapest, it’s smarter to choose a variety and enjoy the health benefits of other options too!
While almond butter, tahini and natural peanut butter may be good additions to your daily diet, take care with this trendy spread. While delicious, hazelnut spreads can contain a good deal of sugar ― some of the most popular add chocolate flavoring too. Be sure to read the nutrition label for sugar and fat (usually palm oil) content. Hazelnut spreads should be treated like rich, calorie-laden desserts ― eat them sparingly.
Natural peanut butter
If you want a peanut spread, this is the best choice: Pure peanut butter – with nothing else but peanuts (or perhaps salt) on the label’s ingredients list. Avoid brands with added sugars, fats, salt, preservatives and chocolate. Don’t bother with low-fat peanut butter. The calories are the same or higher, thanks to the extra ingredients ― usually sugar ― that manufacturers add to improve the taste after taking out the fat. Natural peanut butter brands have about half as much sugar as traditional peanut butter ― and the natural, healthy monosaturated fat helps you to feel satisfied and full.
Soy nut butter
Soy nut butter can be a good option for those with tree nut or peanut allergies. This spread also can be a good choice for your kids’ lunch if their school or lunchroom is peanut-free. Made with lightly roasted soy nuts, soy nut butter is quite similar to peanut butter in taste and texture but has significantly less total and saturated fat. Soy nut butter offers 7 grams of soy protein per serving.
Sunflower seed butter
Sunflower seeds can be processed into a smooth, spreadable alternative to peanut butter — another great nutrition choice for anyone with a tree nut allergy. Sunflower seeds are a good source of protein, fiber, zinc and iron, and are low in saturated fat. Sunflower butter contains almost four times as much vitamin E as peanut butter, and about twice as much iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. Sunflower butter also has a bit more sugar and fat than peanut butter.
Tahini is a thin paste made from ground sesame seeds and is a staple ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking. Tahini is used in dishes such as hummus and baba ganoush, or thinned with water to make a creamy sauce to top sandwiches and salads or serve as a vegetable dip. Tahini is a good choice nutritionally because it typically has no added ingredients such as sugars. Sesame seeds are an excellent source of copper and a very good source of manganese, and a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, molybdenum, selenium, and dietary fiber. A note of caution, however: research suggests that allergies to sesame seeds and tahini may overlap with peanut allergies.
Walnuts are a great choice for a butter because they are a highly valuable source of the omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for health. Walnut butter is slightly lower in protein and slightly higher in fat than other nut butters, but its omega-3s make it a winner. You might not be able to find walnut butter at your local grocery store, but try your local health food store or online. Or make your own walnut butter at home using a blender or food processor.
Once reserved for peanuts and only used as sandwich filler, nut butters are increasingly replacing mayonnaise, cream cheese, and other tasty spreads that typically grace your favorite bread—and for good reason.
"Nut butters contain a mix of nutrients including fiber, protein, B vitamins, phosphorous, zinc, and vitamin E," explains Andrea Hasson, a registered dietitian at the Cedars-Sinai Nutrition Counseling Services.
"If the product says, ‘no stir,’ it’s likely the manufacturer added rapeseed oil or palm oil for easy spreading. It’s those hydrogenated oils that aren’t good for us and can increase bad cholesterol levels."
Nut butters are loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. These fats help increase HDL cholesterol—the good kind—while keeping LDL cholesterol—the bad kind—in check.
Breaking down nut butters
Most nut and seed butters have between 80-100 calories per tablespoon, and 7-10 grams of mostly unsaturated fat.
They also contain protein and fiber and can help you feel full for longer periods.
"Just watch your portions," Andrea says. A tablespoon of nut butter may not seem like a lot when you’re spreading it on a bagel or toast.
Here’s a quick guide to the nutritional punch of 2 tablespoons of some popular nut butters.
Almond nut butter
With 200 calories, nearly 19 grams of fat, and almost 5 grams of protein, almond butter can help you bridge the gap between meals when you’re hungry.
It contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fats as well as vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, magnesium, and calcium.
Stir almond butter into oatmeal and ice cream or use it as a base for muffin, cake, and cookie batter.
"Of all the nut butters, walnut butter has the most omega-3 fatty acids," Andrea says. The healthful fat ratio helps lower LDL cholesterol, increase HDL cholesterol, and reduce inflammation.
The hitch: Walnut butter is lower in protein and fiber than other nut butters.
Use walnut butter as a base for smoothies or spread it on cranberry walnut toast.
Peanut butter is among the most affordable nut butters and it’s a good bang for your buck—it has the highest amount of protein per serving of all nut butters (about 8 grams).
It’s also rich in antioxidants.
Pair it with apples, celery, or bananas for additional nutrient punch or stir it into sauces for added thickness and flavor.
One of the creamiest nut butters available, cashew butter can take the place of dairy in recipes that require milk or cream.
It’s also a higher-carb and lower-proteincompared to other nut butters.
Dab cashew butter on Chinese noodles, broccoli, and chicken for added nutrients.
Sunflower seed butter
A great alternative for people who are allergic to peanut and tree nuts, sunflower seed butter has a similar nutrient profile as other nut butters.
Just one tablespoon of sunflower seed butter supplies nearly a quarter of your body’s daily requirement for vitamin E. Sunflower seed butter is also a great source of protein, healthy fats, and magnesium.
Spread it on toast, drizzle it on pancakes or waffles, or add a spoonful to oatmeal or a smoothie.
Picking a nut butter
There’s no doubt that the number of nut butters appearing on grocery shelves is ballooning. But more important than the type of nut butter you choose is what appears on the ingredients list.
"Choose products that have only one ingredient—your nut of choice—and skip butters that contain excess salt and sugar as well as partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils," Andrea says.
"If the product says, ‘no stir,’ it’s likely the manufacturer added rapeseed oil or palm oil for easy spreading. It’s those hydrogenated oils that aren’t good for us and can increase bad cholesterol levels."
The bottom line: Eat the butter you like, as long as you choose a natural butter that requires stirring.
In this article on how and why to soak nuts and seeds, we look at the enzymatic change that occurs in soaked nuts and why this change makes nuts more digestible and nutritious.
Soaking raw nuts and seeds (often overnight in salt water) is essential for good general health, if you plan to eat nuts as a regular part of your diet. Former cultures knew to ferment their grains. Modern trends toward the healthfulness of raw foods or even the benefits of a grain-free diet often miss this important step.
In other words, if you are a raw foodie, or on a grain-free diet such as Paleo, it is vital that you soak the nuts you consume. This includes almond butter. This step or method even works well with peanuts.
In this post, we’ll also look at how to sprout (or pre-digest) nuts and seeds to make “crispy nuts”, also called “awakened” nuts.
Why to soak nuts?
Phytic acid is the main storage form of phosphorous in plant tissues.
Phytic acid in grains, nuts and seeds needs to be neutralized; otherwise, it binds with minerals in the body, creating nutritional deficiencies. This really isn’t an optional step. We should soak all the nuts, seeds and grains we eat — to better access their nutrition but also to create a gentler digestive process.
Soaked refers to a soaking process in salted or acidulated water that creates an enzymatic change within nuts and seeds. Raw nuts are dormant (storing nutrients and protecting themselves from winter). In this state, nuts are indigestible.
A diet too heavy in raw or roasted nuts or seeds that haven’t been soaked or sprouted will deplete the body of its much-needed minerals. Digestive discomfort or allergic reactions after eating nuts can be the body’s way of telling us that the digestive mechanism is being overly taxed.
Conversely, when we soak nuts and seeds before eating them, our bodies can access their nutrition!
Tubers and beans
Even tubers and beans will benefit from a significant reduction in their phytic acid content. This is done through proper soaking and cooking methods. (In the case of beans, gas produced in the lower intestine is partially a result of improper preparation methods.)
If you are grain-free and legume-free, possibly also starch-free, you can see why our bodies have an easier time healing without these foods! They are high in phytic acid, hard to digest and rob the body of the nutrients it needs to get healthy!
While some ingestion of phytic acid is unavoidable and actually fine, we need to lower that amount; and for nuts, a long soaking in salted water is an easy method to accomplish that objective.
How to soak and sprout seeds
There are two seeds that are harder to soak. They are chia seeds and flax seeds.
Despite being tricky to pre-digest, these seeds are still high in phytic acid and should be eaten in moderation. Read about Which Seeds to Soak and How HERE , or soak them in a sourdough batter, or in kefir or yogurt overnight, to reduce antinutrients.
Conclusion on why to soak nuts
Un-sprouted granola and raw muesli aren’t healthy; dry cereal is deleterious to one’s health; whole grain breads that aren’t made from a traditional sourdough or from fermented grain are all likely to lead to the loss of essential nutrients and compromised health.
As you execute the following soaking technique, enjoy the connection you may feel with women and men who lived centuries and millennia ago, those who made their food from corn, acorns, rye, and wheat, cultures that soaked, pounded, strained, fermented and enjoyed a beneficial relationship with their food.
Soaked, Sprouted, Dehydrated “Crispy” Nuts Technique
How to soak and sprout nuts and most seeds
For every 4 cups of raw seeds or nuts, cover with room temperature, filtered water by two inches, and 2 tsp. sea salt. Stir well to dissolve the salt. Leave out overnight at room temperature to soak. Drain them in a colander; and rinse them well. If you suspect old nuts, or possible rancidity, or mold, such as with peanuts, add 1/2 teaspoon vitamin C powder to the salted soaking water. This will kill any potential mold.
(As a side note, cashews have already been heated. Their shells are toxic and a heating process is used to eliminate the chemical poison and to free the nut from its lining. Therefore, no cashew we buy from the store is technically “raw.” Shorter soaking times for cashews are still beneficial; whereas longer soaking times will render them slimy. 2 hours to overnight is adequate for cashews and still helps to reduce phytic acid. Subsequent dehydrating and roasting are also beneficial, as with all nuts and seeds, although roasting can destroy beneficial enzymes.)
Dehydrating nuts and seeds
Use any soaked nut or seed that has been duly drained and rinsed. Toss with optional sea salt to taste and place in your dehydrator or low temperature-capable oven, 95-145 degrees. For some nuts, such as macadamia or hazelnut, this process of completely drying out the nut can take as long as 72 hours. For smaller seeds, 24 hours may still be necessary. To check your nuts’ doneness, let one or all cool to room temperature. Then eat one. It should be very dry and crispy, no softness or chewiness to the inside. With the exception of walnuts, (which should still be stored in the refrigerator or freezer because their oils go rancid more quickly), the nuts will have a good shelf life and may now be stored in a sealed container in your pantry.
Happily, sprouted nuts are the crispiest, most palatable way to eat nuts.
How to make sprouted nut flour and butter
Place “crispy nuts” into food processor. Blend to a flour consistency. If you desire nut butter or seed butter, just keep blending! Some nuts or seeds also benefit from a short roasting at 350 degrees Fahrenheit before making nut butter. This further reduces phytic acid, and it helps to release the nuts’ oils, which allows the butter to form.
Note: Do not use a blender to make nut or seed flour; it will make butter too quickly and unevenly chop the nuts.
A nutritionist explains why the stuff is so good for you, and shares her favorite tahini recipes.
When I mention tahini to my clients as a healthy fat option, I'm often met with confused looks. Some say they think they’ve had tahini before, but aren’t 100% sure. Others confess they honestly have no idea what tahini is.
To clear up any confusion, tahini is simply a paste made of ground-up sesame seeds. It's often used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine as a dip or drizzled over falafel. And despite it's creamy look, tahini is totally dairy-free.
You can make your own, but for a healthy shortcut, jarred tahini is available at most grocery stores. You’ll find it either in the condiment aisle, or near other nut and seed butters. Just be sure to look for jars that contain sesame seeds as the only ingredient.
In addition to being plant-based and “clean,” tahini is packed with nutrients, providing copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium, and thiamin. Two tablespoons offer 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. It’s also low in sodium, generally containing just 50 mg, a mere 2% of the daily recommended daily limit for healthy adults. Plus, tahini has a tasty nutty flavor, making it a great alternative to nut butters for anyone with allergies.
Personally, I'm a huge fan of tahini and always keep a jar on hand. I love to doctor up the tasty spread and incorporate it into a number of my go-to healthy dishes. Here are five of my favorite ways to use tahini, including a few sweet treats that may surprise you.
Roasted veggie dip
One of my favorite ways to use both tahini and leftover roasted veggies is to combine them in a dip. In a small food processor blend two tablespoons of tahini with a half cup of oven-roasted eggplant and/or red bell pepper, one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, a half teaspoon of minced garlic, and one sixteenth teaspoon each ground pepper and sea salt. Garnish with fresh herbs, like basil or rosemary, and slather onto cucumber slices or scoop up with celery.
Tahini makes the perfect base for a sauce, especially when it’s seasoned. My go-to recipe is two tablespoons of tahini thinned with a half to one tablespoon of water (depending on the texture you desire) and mixed with one teaspoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice, a half teaspoon of minced garlic, and a dash cayenne pepper. This delicious combo is ideal as a salad dressing, dip for raw veggies, sauce for grilled, oven roasted, or steamed veggies, or topping for oven-roasted chickpeas, beans, fish, or chicken.
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Chocolate energy balls
Most people use tahini in savory recipes, but you can also go sweet. For deliciously simple energy balls combine the following in a small bowl: two tablespoons of tahini, one tablespoon of honey, two tablespoons of raw or non-Dutched cocoa powder, a quarter cup of almond flour, and a quarter teaspoon each fresh grated ginger and ground cinnamon. Pinch off five small spoonfuls, then using your palms, roll into round, even balls. Enjoy them as is, or roll the balls in toasted sesame seeds, chopped nuts, chia seeds, or coconut flour.
Tahini adds thickness, creaminess, and nutrition to homemade hummus. For my simple lemony version I fill a small food processor with a half cup of chickpeas, two tablespoons of tahini, two tablespoons of water, tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice, teaspoon of minced garlic, quarter teaspoon of fresh lemon zest, and one sixteenth teaspoon each of cayenne pepper, black pepper, cumin, and sea salt. Blend until smooth and serve with raw veggies, like broccoli florets, sliced red bell pepper, and grape tomatoes. You can also use this flavorful hummus as a mayo alternative for protein salads (tuna, salmon, chicken, lentil, white beans) or deviled eggs.
Tahini works well with both veggies and fruit, so it makes a great addition to smoothies. In a blender combine a half cup frozen banana slices with a half cup fresh or frozen cut mango, two tablespoons of tahini, one cup of unsweetened coconut milk, one tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice, and a quarter teaspoon of fresh grated ginger. Whip until smooth, transfer to a glass, and drizzle with a bit of organic honey if you like.
Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees.
Following a raw food diet requires good planning and creative cooking to keep your meals interesting and well-balanced — raw nut butters help you meet your nutritional needs for protein and healthy fats. Raw nut butters are made from nuts that haven’t been roasted or cooked in any way, whereas traditional nut butters may be made from roasted nuts. You can purchase raw nut butters in many health food stores and co-ops; just make sure the butter is clearly labeled as “raw.” Or grind your own at home by combining raw nuts and a small amount of raw oil, such as almond oil or sunflower seed oil, in your food processor.
Following a “raw” diet means that at least 75 percent of your diet consists of uncooked foods. Most of what you consume are raw plant foods such as fruits and vegetables prepared in a variety of ways. Sprouted and dehydrated grains and legumes are also allowed, as well as raw nuts and seeds. Nuts and nut butters are a staple in most raw diets as a source of protein.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are easy vehicles for raw nut butter. You can eat raw nut butter spread on sliced apple, pear or banana. Try celery sticks with the center area filled in with nut butter. You can use any raw vegetable you like to dip in nut butters. Some people enjoy raw bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, snap peas or zucchini sticks. To make a more savory dip, mix a small amount of raw soy sauce, also known as nama shoyo, with your nut butter.
Many raw foodists make raw crackers or flat breads from a mixture of grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit. The mixture is pressed or spread into flat trays and placed in a food dehydrator. Slowly dehydrating the foods at a temperature below 115 degrees Fahrenheit keeps the crackers raw, and perfect for spreading your favorite nut butter on. To add a little sweetness to your snack, top the cracker and nut butter with diced raw or dehydrated fruit.
Smoothies and Sauces
You can also add your nut butters to smoothies, sauces and dressings while following a raw diet. Consider blending your favorite raw milk, such as almond or cashew milk, with a raw banana and a couple tablespoons of nut butter — you’ll get a rich and creamy smoothie to enjoy. If you eat a lot of salads on your raw diet, incorporate nut butters into a dressing. Blend nut butter with oil, vinegar and herbs to create a thick dressing for your greens. Or, consider creating a raw pasta with a nut sauce. Finely slice carrots, zucchini or green mango with a mandolin. Toss in some other chopped veggies, such as tomatoes, and top with a blended mixture of nut butter, raw soy sauce, lime juice, oil, fresh garlic and chili.
- Medical News Today: What is the Raw Food Diet? What Are the Benefits of the Raw Food Diet?
- Nouveau Raw: Soy Sauce/ Salt Substitutions
- Rawmazing: Rawmazing FAQ
Erica Kannall is a registered dietitian and certified health/fitness specialist with the American College of Sports Medicine. She has worked in clinical nutrition, community health, fitness, health coaching, counseling and food service. She holds a Bachelor of Science in clinical dietetics and nutrition from the University of Pittsburgh.
If you have a peanut allergy, you're probably well aware that peanut butter can't be a part of your life. Thankfully, there are actually a bunch of great alternatives that are equally delicious and completely peanut-free.
Before we get into the options, though, it's important to note that not all peanut butter alternatives are safe for people with peanut allergies. Peanut allergies can range from extremely severe and life-threatening to pretty mild, Tania Elliott, M.D., an allergist and immunologist at NYU Langone Health, tells SELF. In a lot of cases, just the smallest amount of peanut dust can be enough to set off a reaction, she says. Having a peanut allergy doesn't automatically mean that you're also allergic to tree nuts like almonds or walnuts—peanuts are technically legumes, not nuts—though 30 percent of people with peanut allergies are also allergic to tree nuts, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. (If you think you might have a food allergy, always see an allergist to get properly diagnosed.)
The problem is that many other nut-based products could be cross-contaminated. So even if you're only allergic to peanuts, simply avoiding them doesn't guarantee you'll be safe, says Elliott. Many packaged foods in general can be dangerous for people with peanut allergies because they're frequently processed in facilities where peanuts are also processed, so you constantly have to be checking labels to make sure you're not eating a trace amount. According to the Mayo Clinic, "most people with a peanut allergy need to avoid all products that could contain even trace amounts of peanuts," but it's important to speak with your allergist to confirm what is and isn't safe for you.
So because many alternative nut and seed butters, even if they don't contain any actual peanuts, are frequently processed in the same facilities, it's important to always check the labels and if you're not sure if a product may contain trace amounts of peanuts, it's best to skip it to be safe.
To help you find some options, we asked people with peanut allergies to share the 100 percent peanut-free spreads they actually eat. Made with a range of ingredients, from watermelon seeds to soy beans, their textures and flavors are similar to peanut butter and delicious in their own unique way. Important note: These nut and seed butters aren't necessarily free of other allergens, such as soy and tree nuts. Again, if you are not sure what you are allergic to, or if you are allergic to other seeds, nuts, or legumes besides peanuts, always read the labels and speak with your allergist before trying any of the below foods.
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With such a variety of nuts and seeds out there in the market, it’s getting easier to add them to our diets.
“They bring a host of benefits,” says registered dietitian Nicole Osinga. “They bring healthy fats, protein and some fibre. In addition, they also provide a number of micronutrients that we sometimes have trouble getting in our diet, including magnesium, B vitamins and iron.”
She adds a healthy portion size of nuts and seeds is one-quarter of a cup.
Registered dietitian Shahzadi Devje, adds while research shows there are plenty of benefits of eating nuts and seeds on the daily, it gets very easy to over-consume them.
“It’s important to be mindful of your portions, especially if you’re watching your weight,” she tells Global News. “You also want to make room for other foods in your diet to meet your complete nutritional needs.”
Shopping for nuts and seeds
When it comes to shopping for nuts and seeds, avoid packages with added salt or flavours. “I love to add my own flavour by roasting or toasting them and adding some spices such as cinnamon and cumin before eating them,” Osinga says.
Devje has a couple of rules she follows, including buying nuts and seeds as fresh as possible and in small amounts — because of their high-fat content, they tend to go rancid.
“Shop in busy stores for nuts and seeds because it’s likely their stock will be moving faster, offering fresher produce,” she adds.
3:00 Nutritional benefits of flax seeds and oil
She also suggests checking the appearances of the nuts and seeds. “They should appear intact, fresh and hard versus wrinkled, deformed or discoloured.”
You should also buy them in shells (when possible). “To check for freshness, shake the shell and if you hear a rattle, it indicates that the nut inside is old and has shrunk,” Devje says.
Below, Devje and Osinga show us simple (and healthy) ways to add nuts and seeds to every meal of the day.
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“A sprinkle of chia seeds in your oatmeal, smoothie, or cereal will offer a boost of protein, fibre, omega 3s and antioxidants,” Devje says.
Osinga suggests adding hemp seeds to your smoothie for extra protein.
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Toss your favourite nuts or seeds on salads to bring texture and crunch, Devje says.
“Virtually all nuts and seeds work well, however, these are particularly delicious options: walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, pistachios, sesame seeds and chia seeds. If you struggle to chew nuts and seeds, make a dressing instead.”
She also suggests blending pumpkin seeds with garlic, cilantro and mix with lemon juice.
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For dinner, Osinga suggests using pistachios for a crusted salmon or tofu dish, or using pine nuts to make a homemade pesto (just add basil, garlic and Parmesan to the mix).
“Use cashew nuts instead of heavy cream in stews, curries and soups to bring a rich and smooth texture,” Devje adds.
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“Blend a handful of almonds with frozen bananas, unsweetened coconut flakes and a dash of milk to create your homemade super-easy, creamy ice cream,” Devje says.
Almonds will not only add a protein boost, but it will also include healthy fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
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Snacking on just nuts or seeds is already nutritional, but both dietitians suggest adding them to other snacks.
Osinga suggests toasting nuts and seeds and adding them to popcorn, while Devje says nut butters are also nutritious.
“Dip your apple, pear or banana in your favourite all-natural nut butter. The protein in the nut butter will help to keep you feeling fuller for longer and help prevent a spike in your blood sugars.”
These alternatives to nut butter are sure to be your next healthy food obsession.
Confession: I currently have five different kinds of seed butter in my fridge (from sunflower to watermelon!). Seed butters are a new white-hot trend in natural foods—and for good reason. They're rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fat, and fiber. Plus, unlike nuts, seeds aren't common allergens.
Seed butters are just as versatile as nut butters, and come in a variety of delicious flavors and texture. Here are a few of my personal favorites, plus yummy ways to enjoy them.
In my opinion, sunflower butter is a perfect stand-in for peanut butter. It’s silky smooth, easily spreadable, free from grittiness, and mild in flavor. If you like the taste of sunflower seeds, you’ll be smitten with this variety, which you can buy sweetened or unsweetened, and in creamy or crunchy form.
Nutrition wise, sunflower butter is a powerhouse, supplying generous amounts of vitamin E, copper, magnesium, and B vitamins, as well as iron and zinc. A two tablespoon serving also packs 7 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber.
I love it straight off the spoon, but I also whip sunflower butter into smoothies and swirl it into oatmeal. For a healthy fruit dip, I fold in cinnamon, ginger, or chopped dark chocolate. Then I scoop it up with apple or pear wedges. I also use sunflower butter as the base of a savory peanut-free sauce by thinning it with low-sodium organic veggie broth, and adding fresh grated ginger root, minced garlic, and chopped chili pepper or crushed red pepper. This sauce is delicious tossed with steamed broccoli, cooked shrimp, and buckwheat soba noodles.
Sesame butter (often labeled as tahini) is a staple in my household. I advise my clients to look for jars that contain only ground toasted sesame seeds and salt; and season the butter themselves. My go-to combo is fresh squeezed lemon juice, minced garlic, and cayenne pepper. It’s fantastic as a dip for raw veggies, a sauce for grilled or oven-roasted veggies, a topping for oven-roasted chickpeas, an ingredient in homemade hummus, or a salad dressing (when thinned with a bit of water).
It’s also chock-full of nutrients like copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium, and thiamin. A two-tablespoon serving provides 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, and it’s generally low in sodium. You’ll often find it with the nut butters in your market, but it may also be in the condiment aisle, near mustard, ketchup, and the like.
Hemp butter packs 9 grams of protein per two tablespoon serving, and is rich in vitamin E and minerals, including phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, and zinc. It also provides essential fatty acids, which have been shown to help curb heart disease risk.
But I have to admit that I can’t stomach hemp butter by itself. It’s a bit grassy and gritty for my liking, so instead I use it as an ingredient. I like to mix hemp butter with strong-flavored foods that tone down its taste. For example, I'll add it to a smoothie with frozen cherries, raw cocoa powder, honey, and fresh ginger. It can also be mixed with other butters, including coconut butter, which is made from both the oil and meaty flesh of coconuts. Try this duo mixed with dark chocolate and cinnamon scooped up with fresh celery sticks.
Pumpkin seed butter
I love pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas), and I find pumpkin seed butter to be just as enticing. It's packed with manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, zinc, and iron. Plus, a two tablespoon serving can provide up to 10 grams of protein along with a few grams of fiber. I love blending it into smoothies, and using it as an ingredient to thicken savory plant-based soups, like butternut squash or lentil. I've also folded maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice into pumpkin seed butter, and tossed it with spaghetti squash for a healthy snack.
Watermelon seed butter
I only recently discovered packaged watermelon seeds, which I’ve munched on as a snack, and sprinkled onto salads, cooked veggies, and beans. Then when I found out about watermelon seed butter, made simply from raw watermelon seeds, I was over the moon.
In two tablespoons, you’ll find 8 grams of protein, and more than 10% of your daily iron needs. Watermelon seeds also provide B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, potassium, sodium, copper, manganese, and zinc.
I still have a lot of experimenting to do with this new seed butter, but so far it has worked great in energy balls and smoothies. The butter has a yellowish color (it's made without the seeds' black shells), so it blends well with bold-colored berries, green veggies and fruit, or with other pale plants, like pineapple, mango, banana, and ginger. (The packaged seeds are sold without the shells too.)
If, like me, you’re a fan of chia seeds, you may be wondering about chia seed butter. I have yet to see pure chia seed butter (I'm not sure is feasible given its texture.) But I have seen both nut and seed butters that include chia seeds. To make your own DIY version, stir some into your butter of choice. And while you’re at it, experiment with various concoctions. One of the hottest trends in natural foods is combining nut and seed butters. I've also seen a number that include herbs, spices, and other unexpected add-ins, from dark chocolate to turmeric, rosemary, toasted quinoa, oats, dried fruit or freeze-dried fruit powder, chopped or shredded veggies, and balsamic or apple cider vinegar. Get creative, express your inner (culinary) artist, and savor your healthy creations!
Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and consultant for the New York Yankees. See her full bio here.