When embarking on the heroic journey that is a plant-based lifestyle, variety will keep you motivated on your path, and nuts and seeds are an excellent companion along the way. They are more than just toppings or snacks, they are a remarkably nutrient rich food providing a dense array of both micro and macronutrients for you to devour. They even come in a delicious ‘easy to nibble and convenient to carry’ format. If you’re not already going crazy for nuts, allow us to plant the seeds! The best bit is, with just a little kitchen wizardry and a cheap blender you can transform simple seeds and normal nuts into the most amazing dairy free cheese!
Are We All Going Nuts?
So, what are nuts and seeds anyway? In a nutshell, they’re the part of the plant that makes new plants. They’re the beginning of a magical process that creates something from nothing. Both nuts and seeds are highly nutrient dense, holding all the goodness that’s intended to proliferate their plant species.
Nuts are hard shelled dry fruit with a separable rind, or shell, and an edible interior kernel. There are also fruits that aren’t classified as nuts but are used in the same ways, nutrient rich “culinary nuts” which include almonds, coconuts, and cashews. Seeds, on the other hand are the ripened ovule, otherwise known as the grain.
Technically speaking, peanuts are legumes and part of the bean family. However, their nutritional composition, and deliciousness, closely resembles nuts.
All seeds and nuts have a unique, rich combination of nutrients. Some are good for specific nutritional boosts and balancing your overall nutritional intake. Nuts are well known as excellent sources of protein, and can provide safe plant-based alternatives to meat in both flavour, taste and texture. Nuts and seeds also typically house healthy doses of omega-3, needed for brain and heart health, B vitamins, which convert our food into fuel, and essential minerals like magnesium, potassium, copper and iron and various antioxidant compounds.
Eating a handful of nuts a day is associated with weight loss – the fibre and healthy fats help you feel fuller and satisfied for longer. The delicious tastes and variety in texture help you feel emotionally fulfilled. Food should be enjoyed and nuts and seeds add a full bodied, satisfying flavor to meals and can bulk out dishes that seem to be otherwise lacking that something special.
Aim to eat a couple of handfuls of nuts or seeds every day (around 100g) and try and include a selection of types to get the full nutritional spectrum. As with most things moderation is key and nuts and seeds should be a regular and well deserved treat which can be added to almost all your meals to help them shine. Eating too many nuts can result in weight gain, bloating and gas. Eating nuts can offer the following health benefits:
- Reduce glycemic index
- Regulating cholesterol
- Reduced chance of heart disease
- Reduces macular degeneration which prevents blindness
- Reduces cancer risk
- Improved bone health
Fact: Walnuts contain plant omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamin E, copper, manganese, selenium and zinc, flavonoids, resveratrol, arginine, a lot of fibre and potassium.
Preparing Your Nuts
Before you start munching, consider some options…..
Seeds and nuts can be found in a variety of guises in supermarkets and grocery stores, the most common being raw, roasted and salted. The roasted and salted forms offer a longer shelf life, making them cheaper, but the roasting process reduces the nutrient content massively, and salting adds a lot more sodium. Buying nuts and seeds raw is by far the best option. You can enjoy their nutrients to their fullest, and you have the potential to take your seeds and nuts to a whole other level with soaking and sprouting.
The soaking and sprouting process enables our bodies to absorb even more of the nutrients by breaking down something called phytic acid. This acid binds to some minerals, inhibiting our bodies from absorbing them. Breaking down phytic acid through soaking also activates other helpful enzymes waiting to join the party, and also makes the seeds and nuts easier to digest, thus allowing for greater absorption by the body.
But there’s more! By going a step further and allowing them to sprout, you can access even more of the nutrients locked away in the seed. Sprouting activates enzymes and mobilises nutrients making them easier to assimilate. Sprinkle some seeds onto a cloth on a plate or in a jar and keep them wet: wash twice a day and see what happens! It’s much easier than you imagine and you don’t need any expensive kit. After a few days you’ll see some green and if it’s in a warm and sunny place you can almost see them grow.
To preserve your nuts, seeds or even sprouts longer you can dehydrate them. The main difference between dehydration and roasting is the temperatures. The high temperatures used during roasting damage nutrients and deactivate enzymes while often using rancid vegetable oils. Dehydration uses lower and steadier temperatures that preserve all of the potent nutritional potential.
More Ways to Go Nuts
Discover the simplicity and speed with which you can get nutty and seed some delicious new recipes (make sure you check out the diary free cheese, we can’t emphasis this enough!)
Nuts and Seed Butters or Sauces
Simply blend your chosen nuts and seeds with a little healthy oil (some oily nuts don’t need this) or soak in water then blend. After a little effort (for you if you are using a hand blender!) you will see a creamy texture developing, the longer you blend the better the texture, unless you like it crunchy that is. Homemade nut and seed butters are WAY cheaper than shop bought versions and you can be sure of what they contain. Add more water and you have a sauce, add some spices and you have a delicious satay to top salads and more. You can even make it sweet with a healthy sugar alternative and top of an underwhelming fruit salad. Nut or and seed sauces add satisfaction, healthy fats and flavor. Yum.
Nut and Seed Milks
Milk is a utility food, we use it to make things wet, like cereal, and to make things creamy like coffee. But it doesn’t need to be made from cow puss there are much nicer plant-based options! Most nuts and seeds will make a milk of sorts and you just need to experiment a bit to find what works for you. Usually soaking is required (apart from Hemp seeds which milk up nicely without any preparation). Simply blitz your nuts or seeds with a hand-held blender or vitamix then strain through a fine sieve or nut bag. The resultant liquid is creamy and milky and you can adjust the flavor with spices, natural sweetners or anything else you fancy really. Keep the nutty leftover bits for adding to other dishes or making a delicious raw cake! Cashew milk is amazing. Almond milk is naturally sweet. Hemp milk is quick and creamy.
Make Dairy Free Cheese!
Now this might sound a little far-fetched, but bear with us on this one its really worth it. Take virtually any nuts or seeds, soak them (sometimes overnight) then blend them and add some flavors, like basil or chili and lemon. They blend into a cheese like consistency and amazing flavor. You will have to try it to believe it but once you do we guarantee you will be hooked. Here are some delicious recipes for dairy free cheese which you can knock up in a few minutes and probably devour just as rapidly! You can spread your delicious dairy free cheese on anything, or just nibble it in slices. It has the unctuousness of cheese and the practicality of being spreadable while being filling and tasting awesome.
Just A Little Warning
Some people are allergic to nuts and seeds. If you have a family history of nut or seed allergies, consult a trusted health expert before making any dietary changes. Always introduce new foods slowly to see how much your body will accept them; we’re all unique and respond differently. Beware of eating too many nuts of one sort (don’t go on a cashew cheese binge!) as this can upset your digestion and if its peanuts can induce a pseudo allergy even if you are not allergic.
A Healthy Approach to Improving Your Diet
Avoid genetically modified (GM) products and go for organically grown seeds and nuts where possible. Organically grown seeds and nuts contribute more necessary nutrients to your diet, and responsible consumption of them provides you with a substantial source of energy for such a small food. Make nuts and seeds a delicious addition to your plant based kitchen. Makes sauces, spreads, nut butters and dip into the exciting world of dairy free cheese with these versatile and tasty plant-based ingredients – wahey for nuts and seeds!
Together we can overcome the immense advertising budgets and fraudulent propaganda of the meat and dairy industries. Each one of us has the power to instigate massive change and powerful global action. Be strong in your conviction and share your truth with the world. Share this article now on your favourite social media platforms; influence others with a positive message. Everybody needs to know the simplicity and decadence of dairy free cheese!
- http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/fcs3/fcs3545/fcs3545.pdf ?
- http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/sites/default/files/nuts-and-health-with-references.pdf ?
- http://genesishealthsolutions.net/clients/19536/documents/How_to_Soak_Nuts1.pdf ?