Summer picnics, hikes and day trips call for yummy snacks for when you’re on the go. There are tons of delicious foods to pack as portable treats: fruits and vegetables, granola bars, crackers and much more. You may even be tempted by not-so-healthy choices, too, like chips, processed snack packs and candy bars.
However, some of the best snack choices you can make this season are actually often overlooked: nuts and seeds. These powerful foods make great additions to tons of recipes and are also great snacks on their own, especially when you’re out and about.
Whether you opt for nuts like walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews, pistachios or pecans, or seeds like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds or others, you’ll be in for a healthy treat.
Why nuts and needs are a great, healthy choice
Crunchy, filling and offering their own unique tastes, nuts and seeds make a great alternative snack choice to other, less healthy snacks like potato chips. While they are more natural in general, nuts and seeds are also extremely nutrient-rich.
Nuts and seeds pack a powerful punch in a small package. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals and healthy fats that work together to improve health and wellness. While they are higher in calories and fats, many of those fats are of the healthy variety and may help reduce your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and strokes. Studies have also shown that people who eat nuts regularly live longer and healthier lives than those who don’t.
Here are some of the top nutritional benefits of nuts and seeds.
Healthy fats reduce inflammation and cholesterol
Many nuts and seeds are plentiful in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, like omega 3 fatty acids, which are healthy for the heart and body.
These fats help combat inflammation that may occur as a side effect of an unhealthy diet, stress or autoimmune responses. This can help reduce your risk for a variety of health issues, including cardiovascular disease.
These fats can also combat the “bad” cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) to promote stable heart health.
Fiber helps you feel full
Nuts and seeds may be small, but they help you feel full fast because of their high fiber content. Fiber slows digestion, which can help prevent overeating and unnecessary weight gain. Studies have also shown that nuts help improve weight loss results and prevent obesity.
Dietary fiber can also help reduce cholesterol, as well as promote stability in the gut by feeding “good” bacteria called probiotics.
Good source of plant protein
On average, one ounce of nuts can provide around 6 grams of protein. While this isn’t nearly enough to meet your recommended daily serving of protein, it can be a good way to supplement protein-rich meals, particularly if you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Vitamins, mineral and antioxidants
Nuts and seeds also contain varying amounts of vitamins and minerals, including zinc, magnesium and calcium, all of which are good for bone development and energy production. Many also contain vitamins E and B6.
Additionally, many nuts and seeds contain antioxidants like polyphenols, which can help fight free radicals (unstable molecules that can cause cellular damage in the body).
Incorporating nuts and seeds into your diet
Try to incorporate a variety of nuts and seeds into your daily diet, since every type will have varying amounts of the healthy minerals and nutrients you need. Also, try to avoid eating nuts that have been soaked or roasted in vegetable oils or coated with salts and seasonings. Raw or dry-roasted nuts are the healthiest choices you can make.
Ideally, the average person will eat between 1 and 1.5 ounces of nuts and seeds each day for the most health benefits. Eating a handful of the same nuts every day can get boring and unappetizing, but there are tons of ways to add nuts and seeds to your diet in creative ways.
- Sprinkle them onto salads: Chopped nuts and seeds make excellent salad toppings and give a different kind of texture and flavor to the mixture. Some salad dressings also incorporate nuts and seeds.
- Add to baked goods: Nuts and seeds are easily baked into things like muffins, breads and other baked goods or make delicious toppings.
- Mix them into on-the-go snacks: If you need a quick snack, mix nuts and seeds with other, similar snacks to create your own trail mix variety. Try mixing pretzels, raisins, popcorn and more for a crunchy treat.
- Blend into smoothies: Nuts and seeds can be added to smoothies, as long as you don’t mind a slightly different texture. Nut butters can also be added to give a different type of flavor to the drink.
- Eat them on their own: Finally, you don’t have to do anything special with nuts and seeds. They make excellent snacks all on their own! Grab a handful to tide you over in the afternoon or pack a small snack bag full for when you need a little pick-me-up on the go.
As with all things, you shouldn’t reply on nuts and seeds to be a large portion of your daily diet, but adding a small amount each day may have some long-lasting health benefits.