My father used to tease my mother about eating ‘bird food’ (aka: nuts and seeds) ever since I can remember. In recent years, however, as his doctor started lecturing him on the importance of unsaturated fats and other vital nutrients he was missing from his diet, he’s begun to humbly adopt some of Mum’s intuitive wisdom…while still good naturedly maintaining that she’s (if you’ll pardon the pun here) a complete nutter.
So what is it about these little gems that make them so valuable? Well they have anticancer and heart protective properties for a start.
Nuts are rich in many vitamins and minerals such as omega-3; protein; B vitamins, calcium; iron; potassium; magnesium; phosphorus; copper; vitamin E.
Seeds offer similarly compacted goodness, with protein; vitamins A, D, and E; B vitamins; phosphorus; calcium; iron; fluoride; iodine; potassium; magnesium; and zinc.
Research suggests that eating the equivalent of your own sized handful of nuts and seeds each day is a healthy quota.
Kept best in glass jars, nuts and seeds are happiest stored in a cool, dark place (such as your pantry or fridge). They make a terrific snack either on their own, or following a serving of fruit or other sweet treat as they work wonders in levelling out blood sugar, thus sustaining you longer.
While raw is best from a nutrient yielding perspective, nuts can be roasted, boiled, or blanched, and seeds can be dried, roasted or cooked.
I always keep some dry-fried seeds (in a glass jar in the fridge) ready to go as a healthy flavour enhancer to soups, salads, pasta dishes, stir fry dishes, and casseroles. Below are two of my favourite alternatives to their delicious, pure, raw flavour.
Honey Soy Roasted Nuts:
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Scatter selected nuts on a baking tray and bake until golden brown (about 15 minutes is good for 4 cups of nuts).
- Drizzle a small amount of honey and soy sauce over the nuts and stir to coat.
- Return tray to the oven for a few minutes (3-5 mins is ample) until they are dry to touch (just remember – they will be hot!).
- Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
This sweet treat makes for an excellent, easily portable snack to take to the movies!
Most seeds work for this, and even some nuts. My favourite staples are sesame seeds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), pine nuts, and cashews.
- Heat a fry pan/skillet to a medium setting (ensuring that the pan is dry and free from any oil).
- Add your chosen variety of seeds or nuts to the pan and spread them out evenly in a thin layer (either with a wooden spoon/spatula or by carefully jostling the pan).
- Stir/jostle around every 20 seconds or so. They will brown quickly, so don’t take your eyes off the pan while they’re cooking – it will only take around 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and sprinkle directly onto your dish or cool on a plate (they will continue to cook and likely end up burnt if you leave them in the hot pan) to store in the fridge. The cooking process releases their natural oils, so it’s best to use them within the week to prevent them from going rancid.
I like to use the toasted sesame seeds on salads; the pine nuts on pasta dishes; the pepitas on roast vegetables; and the cashews on stir fry dishes – but it’s really only limited by your imagination!
Author: Adrienne Megan Lester