Nuts and Seeds - Ask a Nutritionist

August 3, 2023

There are many different benefits to nuts and seeds. Most can be incorporated into a healthy real food diet. But not all nuts or seeds are created equally. Tune into this week's episode of Ask a Nutritionist with Britni to learn all about the health benefits of different nuts and seeds.

Listen below, or subscribe to our podcasts through Apple Podcast or Spotify.

Join our Dishing Up Nutrition Facebook Community!

This private group moderated by Nutritional Weight & Wellness nutritionists and nutrition educators provides our Dishing Up Nutrition podcast and radio show listeners with a safe, supportive community to ask questions, share ideas, get inspired, and access special Dishing Up Nutrition bonus content.

Podcast Powered by Podbean

Print Transcript


Welcome to the “Ask a Nutritionist” podcast, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. We are thrilled to have you join us today as we discuss the connection between what you eat and how you feel, and share practical real life solutions for healthier living through balanced nutrition. Now let's get started.

BRITNI: Hello and welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition's midweek segment called “Ask a Nutritionist”. I am Britni Vincent, a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. On today's show, brought to you by Nutrition Weight and Wellness, I will be answering a nutrition question we've received from one of our Dishing Up Nutrition listeners. On today's show, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. I will be answering a nutrition question we have received from one of our Dishing Up Nutrition listeners.

And today's question is “Nuts and seeds: are there any that are preferred or recommended, or are they all okay and why?” Fabulous question; a common question that we get from class participants and clients.

Are nuts and seeds healthy?

So overall, I think for most individuals, any nuts or seeds can be incorporated into a a healthy real food diet. There's many different benefits to nuts and seeds, which I'll explain as we go today. And I, I really recommend trying to get a variety of them because each nut and seed does offer different, different nutrients and different nutritional benefits.

Some individuals negatively react to nuts and seeds

So clinically, you know, we do see some individuals that react to nuts and seeds and peanuts and cashews I would say are the most common. Of course there are true nut allergies and true peanut allergies out there as well. But again, I think for the, the majority of people getting a variety of nuts and seeds into their diet is a great thing and, and offers many benefits.

Benefits of nuts & seeds

So some of the benefits of nuts and seeds, you know, most of them are a really good source of fiber. Many of them are high in a type of fat called monounsaturated fat. And monounsaturated fats help with weight loss. A lot of research shows that they help to reduce the risk of heart disease, improve insulin sensitivity, which means that the glucose is able to get into the cell easier. And then those monounsaturated fats can also reduce inflammation. So many benefits there.

The fat and fiber in nuts really help to balance your blood sugar throughout the day. And then there's a lot of different vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in nuts and seeds as well. So whatever nut you choose, and again, I would try to get a variety there. I think they're really convenient. Most people love the taste of them. There's so many different ways to use them either as a snack, especially a portable snack. You can put them on salads or even make like a chicken or fish crust with, with a a nut also works well.

Popular nuts: overviewing tidbits on each

So I'm going to highlight some of the more popular nuts out there and just give you a couple tidbits about each of them. And for sake of time, I didn't list all of them. So if there's a nut that I didn't list today, that does not mean that you shouldn't eat it. Again, it's just sake of time, I didn't include them all.

So let's start with almonds. You know, we hear a ton about, about almonds and they do offer a lot of benefits; really great source of fiber. A serving, which is about a quarter cup, offers three and a half grams of fiber. Almonds are a great source of vitamin E, but you know, people really tend to overeat almonds and especially looking at all of the different almond products on the market, you know, almond milks, almond tortillas, almond butter, I mean the list kind of goes on, on and on. So that would be something to be mindful of is just the amount of almond products that you are consuming.

Brazil nuts, maybe not a super common nut to, to incorporate into your diet, but it is one of the best food sources of selenium. And selenium is incredibly important for thyroid function. It has an antioxidant capacity, supports your immune function, cardiovascular health and research shows that selenium can help with cancer prevention as well. So with Brazil nuts, four to five nuts is a serving. So it's not like other nuts where you want to grab a huge handful. You really just need, again, four to five, especially to get all, all the benefits of the selenium.

Cashews, you know, they, they may be aren't as nutrient dense as some of the other nuts that I'm talking about today. They're also higher in carbohydrates. So that would be something to be mindful of. These are ones that I hear often it's just easy for people to keep snacking on and, and they do have kind of this buttery sweet flavor. I get it. They're very tasty. But again, be mindful of the amount that you're consuming. Cashew allergies, they are nearly as prevalent as peanut allergies.

Another use for cashews other than just snacking on them, they make a great dairy-free cheese substitute. So if you soak them for a couple hours and water, drain the water, blend them up, that can be a nice creamy cheese alternative in, in a dish.

Macadamia nuts: you know, a lot of times we just hear about those with desserts, right? So macadamia nuts could be a great one to, to snack on or you know, they make a great breading on fish or or chicken instead of higher carb breading. These too could be easy to overeat. They do kind of have a sweeter flavor to them. So I'd keep it to about three tablespoons for, for a serving.

Peanuts, that is the next nut I'm going to talk about. And they are not a nut at all. They're actually part of the legume family and, but everybody just considers it a nut. I hear a lot of people, they crave peanut butter and it can be easy to just grab spoonfuls of peanut butter. So again, being mindful of the amount that you're consuming. And then, you know, of course peanut allergies have become more common, but we do find clinically that some people are sensitive to peanuts and, and they do create inflammation for those individuals.

Pistachios: another great nut. They are one of the nuts with the highest concentration of antioxidants. Lutein and zeaxanthin both are really important for eye health. Getting them shelled I think sometimes makes the process longer and prevents that over consumption of nuts. And then you're going to get a fair amount of fiber in pistachios as well. You're getting three grams of fiber in a quarter cup.

Walnuts are great because they have higher antioxidant activity than any other common nut and they also have something called polyphenols and those can help to fight oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.

And then the last nut I'm going to talk about today are pecans. Again, I think we associate that with dessert often, but they are one of the best known dietary sources of vitamin E and I think that subtle kind of sweet flavor can be really satisfying for, for individuals.

Avoid roasted nuts with refined oils

So lots of benefits with, with nuts as I've mentioned. But there are definitely a few things to keep in mind as you're incorporating nuts into your diet. You want to avoid roasted nuts that contain refined oils like soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil and vegetable oils. If you have listened to Dishing Up Nutrition before, we've talked a lot about the negative impact of these refined oils. They're very inflammatory and really are pretty much nutrient void. So getting raw nuts are great. If you can't find raw, dry roasted would be kind of the next best option. Salted would be fine if, if you want to get them salted.

Be aware of nut consumption amounts

And then as I kind of mentioned with a few of the nuts, you want to be aware of how much you're consuming. For some people eating nuts are kind of like candy. It's just mindless eating and it's easy to overconsume and they are very calorically dense foods. So it could be easy to, to eat way more than you necessarily need if you're snacking on nuts. I've had several clients just kind of pay attention to how many nuts they're eating each day. And I had one client, she was having five handfuls each day, just kind of mindlessly throughout the day, more of like a grazing without realizing it. And that was definitely for her slowing her weight loss down and then can affect your hunger for, for mealtime as well. So if you are somebody that tends to overeat them, maybe you measure them out ahead of time, just put it in a dish and, and that's your serving and you move on.

And then thinking about the overconsumption, also including all nut products. They have become so popular from nut milks to nut flours, nut butters. They are incorporated in a lot of, especially lower carb packaged food items. So if you're eating some sort of nut product every single time you eat, that's probably overdoing it I think.

Phytic acid & what to know about it

Another thing to consider in regard to eating nuts is there is something called phytic acid in some nuts. And it is a storage form of phosphorus found in various plants. A lot of animals can digest it, but humans cannot. So the negative with this phytic acid is that it can bind to minerals and prevent absorption of them. I mean, it's not going to leach minerals that are already stored in our body. And then that phytic acid can also interfere with enzymes that are needed for digestion. So if you are eating on nuts all day long, that's where the concern with that phytic acid would, would really be.

You can soak your nuts and roast them in the oven at a low temperature and that will reduce some of that phytic acid and then also just make them easier to digest in general. So you could soak it overnight, roast it in your oven, maybe at 250 until you get whatever texture you desire. You could use that opportunity to add some seasonings, spices into the mix. You can drizzle with olive oil since you're, you're doing the oven at a lower temperature, and then it's a great opportunity to just add more flavor to your nuts.

My favorite combination is doing like a salty, spicy, sweet combo with salt and cinnamon, a little cayenne, chili powder, nutmeg, flavors like that. I I love that combination with my roasted nuts. And then, you know, interestingly, a lot of cultures use this soaking and dehydrating process before they eat their nuts. They've just doing, been doing that as a cultural process.

Tips to keep in mind with digestive imbalances

And then I, I talked about nuts and digestion already a little bit, but what we find clinically is if somebody has a lot of digestive imbalance, eating whole nuts can be really difficult to digest and might just exacerbate the inflammation and irritation that's already going on in the intestinal tract.

So you might not be reacting to the nut itself. It might just be difficult to digest. So in that case, maybe you would tolerate nut butters a little bit better, or again, trying to soak, dehydrate. And then as you continue to heal your gut, you might be able to add more of, of those nuts back into your diet.

General serving size for nuts

So overall, I would say for most people a serving of nuts once a day plus maybe a serving of nut butter or some other nut product would be totally fine to and and beneficial to include into your diet. And the serving of most nuts does vary a little bit, but most of them are three tablespoons or, or a quarter cup for serving.

More about seeds

So I want to talk more about seeds specifically because that was part of the original question that we got. You know, I talked about general benefits. A lot of them are, are similar to nuts at the beginning of the show, but I want to call out a few seeds specifically.

So the first one is are flax seeds. You want to eat them ground to get more nutritional value out of them. They're a really good source of fiber. Two tablespoons is three grams of fiber. Really easy to add to yogurt smoothies, even just sprinkle on top of a salad. Flax seeds are considered prebiotic. They're also, they contain something called lignin. So they are really great at balancing our hormones and they, they offer so many benefits including helping with constipation. This is one that I recommend many of my clients in incorporate on a daily basis to, to get these benefits.

Chia seeds: they have a lot of the same properties as flax seeds: probiotics, lots of fiber. You get eight grams of fiber for two tablespoons of chia seeds. So if you have not ever incorporated chia seeds into your diet, I would recommend starting slow and working your way up because that is a lot of fiber to add into your diet and your body if it, if your body's not used to it. And sometimes this can create constipation if you are not used to that amount of fiber. So slowly increasing the amount to that two tablespoons, you know, if you haven't used them before, they are a really interesting consistency and you either love them or you hate them. And so what happens is chia seeds will expand in liquid and create like a gelatinous consistency.

I compare it to like tapioca pudding. If you don't like the texture of tapioca pudding, then chia seeds might not be your thing. And I do recommend incorporating it in some sort of liquid or yogurt so they do expand. You could add them to smoothies, you can actually make chia pudding out of them, which, which is a delicious option.

And then moving on to another seed: pumpkin seeds or pepitas, they are also a great source of phytosterols, which are plant compounds that may help to lower blood cholesterol. They're great for snacking, you know, just like you would snack on nuts or put on top of a salad, something like that.

Sunflower seeds: similar to pepitas or pumpkin seeds, great for snacking or putting on a salad. Sun butter is a nice alternative to nut butters if there's an allergy or sensitivity to nuts. Or sometimes I will make something like a homemade nut bar with instead of nut butter, sun butter to send to school for my kids because most daycares and schools are completely nut free. And with the sun butter, just make sure to look for the no sugar added with that.

And then the last seed I'm going to talk about today are hemp seeds. They are one of the few plants that is a complete protein source, meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids that your body can't make. They contain GLA or gamma linoleic acid. We talk about that a lot on on our podcast. That's an important anti-inflammatory fatty acid. And again, they're similar to flax or chia. You're not going to snack on them, but you could incorporate them into a smoothie, yogurt, even sprinkling on a salad would be great too.

So I, with seeds I don't think it's as much of a concern or from what I've seen, people don't tend to overeat them like they do nuts. But something to be mindful of. And then just like the nuts, you want to avoid these seeds that are roasted in refined oils and stick with just raw. Salted is totally fine. And again, if you can't find that dry roasted would be the next best option.

So overall, I do recommend for most individuals to incorporate nuts and seeds into a daily real food eating plan. And they offer so many different health benefits and they're tasty, right? So thank you so much for listening to Dishing Up Nutrition’s “Ask a Nutritionist”. If you have a nutrition question you would like us to answer, we invite you to join our Dishing Up Nutrition Facebook community by searching Dishing Up Nutrition on Facebook.

Join Our Dishing Up Nutrition Facebook Group

This private group is moderated by Nutritional Weight and wellness nutritionists and nutrition educators, and provides our Dishing Up Nutrition listeners with a safe, supportive community to ask questions, share ideas, and get inspired. Once you're a member of our community, we invite you to join the conversation and share your questions with us. Please don't be shy. If you have a question, just let us know and we look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for listening.

Print Transcript

Back To Top