What distinguishes nuts, seeds, and kernels are their healthy fats. They mainly contain unsaturated fatty acids, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are considered good fats. Good fats help regulate cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and promote heart health.
Nuts, seeds, and kernels contain a significant amount of fat. However, the fat content varies depending on the variety. You can find the amount of fat in nuts, seeds, and kernels in the above fat table. Since fat is a calorie-dense nutrient, nuts, seeds, and kernels are high in calories. One gram of fat contains about nine calories, compared to about four calories per gram of protein or carbohydrates. Excessive consumption leads to increased calorie intake, which should be taken into account by individuals watching their calorie intake.
Generally, nuts, seeds, and kernels contain a low amount of saturated fatty acids. These fatty acids are acceptable in moderate amounts for a balanced diet. Compared to animal sources of saturated fatty acids such as meat and dairy products, they have a significantly lower saturated fat content.
Some nuts and seeds contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fats that the body cannot produce on its own and must therefore obtain through diet. They are considered particularly beneficial for health, including supporting a healthy cardiovascular function, regulating inflammation in the body, and promoting optimal brain function. Walnuts, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are notable examples. They contain a high proportion of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based form of omega-3 fatty acids, which can be converted to a limited extent into Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) in the body. The long-chain EPA and DHA particularly promote brain and heart health.
Omega-6 fatty acids, such as linoleic acid, are also important for the body and have their own health benefits. They are involved in regulating inflammation and support cell growth and development. Omega-6 fatty acids are also necessary for healthy skin, hair, and the immune system. Nuts and seeds also contain significant amounts of omega-6. Sunflower seeds, almonds, macadamias, pistachios, pine nuts, and sesame seeds have higher fat contents.
However, the ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 is important, as the next section will reveal.
Pay Attention to the Ratio
The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is important for health. Both fatty acids are essential. However, an excessive imbalance in favor of omega-6 can promote inflammatory processes in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, are known for their anti-inflammatory effects. Omega-6 fatty acids, on the other hand, tend to promote inflammatory reactions in the body. Compared to omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids have pro-inflammatory properties. Inflammatory reactions in the body are a natural response to infections or injuries. However, chronic and excessive inflammation can lead to health problems such as heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and diabetes.
Ideally, the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids should be around 1:1 to 1:4. However, a modern Western diet often has an imbalance because it tends to contain too much omega-6 fatty acids. This is mainly due to the use of plant oils that are high in omega-6, such as soybean oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil. Nuts, seeds, and kernels can help establish or maintain a healthy balance.
Portioning Nuts, Seeds, and Kernels
To avoid excessive calorie intake, the fatty nuts, seeds, and kernels should be portioned into small and moderate amounts. They have a high fat content that contributes to their rich flavor and textured consistency. However, consuming a large amount can lead to increased calorie intake. Therefore, they should be enjoyed in moderation, especially if you are watching your weight or in a calorie-controlled phase. For example, you can combine them with other snacks like fresh fruit or vegetables to create a balanced meal.
Nevertheless, they can be incorporated into diets that are helpful for weight loss. The high content of fiber, proteins, and healthy fats provides a long-lasting feeling of satiety. As a result, the body is less inclined to snack between meals or consume excessively large portions. In this context, you can also make use of our calorie chart with vegan foods.
Combining Nuts, Seeds, and Grains with Vitamins
By combining nuts and seeds with fresh fruits or vegetables, you can also reap the benefits of improved vitamin absorption. Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K require fat to be efficiently absorbed by the body. Since nuts have a high fat content, like other fatty foods, they can enhance the absorption of these fat-soluble vitamins. For example, when you eat a handful of nuts together with fresh fruits or vegetables, you benefit from their synergistic effect.
What Does a Diet with Nuts and Seeds Look Like?
Nuts complement other foods well and can be a nutrient-rich addition to your meals. You can roast them to enhance their flavor. Be mindful of short roasting times to prevent oxidation of fatty acids. Brief roasting brings out the flavor without significantly affecting the nutrients.
Alternatively, you can also grind them to be used in various recipes as a substitute for flour or as a topping. Corresponding flours are healthy alternatives to conventional grain flours. Instead of breadcrumbs, you can use chopped or ground nuts to bread vegetables, for example. This adds extra flavor and texture to the dishes.
If you're looking for a natural sweetener for your baked goods, you can also use nuts. For example, you can use ground almonds as a substitute for sugar in cakes or cookies. This reduces the sugar content while adding a nutty flavor.
By grinding nuts, seeds, and kernels in a blender or food processor, you can make your own nut butter. This gives you full control over the ingredients and allows you to avoid the additives often found in commercial butters, creams, and spreads.
What should not be missing in a lactose-free or vegan diet are plant-based milk alternatives. You can also make these yourself. Simply blend nuts with water and then strain the mixture. This way, you can easily create a delicious and healthy milk alternative without any animal ingredients. Alternatively, you can also purchase a nut milk maker.
The list reveals how you can incorporate the high-fat nuts, seeds, and kernels into your diet:
- Add chopped almonds, walnuts, or cashews to your morning cereal or oatmeal.
- Sprinkle sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds on your salad.
- Mix ground flaxseeds into your smoothie or yogurt for an extra dose of omega-3.
- Use chia seeds as a binder for vegan egg substitutes in baking recipes.
- Prepare a delicious hummus with tahini (sesame paste) and serve it with vegetable sticks.
- Add chopped macadamia nuts or pine nuts to your vegan pesto.
- Bake vegan cookies using almond flour instead of wheat flour.
- Add ground hazelnuts or cashews to your vegan cake or muffin mix.
- Include ground almonds or walnuts in your vegan burger patty.
- Sprinkle hemp seeds over your bowl or avocado toast.
- Use peanut butter or almond butter as a spread for your vegan sandwich.
- Prepare vegan energy balls with ground almonds, dates, and coconut.
- Add chopped pistachios or almonds to your vegan curry.
- Add chopped walnuts or pecans to your green salad.
- Sprinkle sesame seeds over steamed vegetables or fried tofu.
- Mix ground almonds or cashews into your vegan yogurt for added creaminess.
- Prepare a vegan quinoa mushroom stir-fry with pine nuts.
- Enjoy a delicious smoothie with frozen berries, oat milk, and a tablespoon of almond butter.
What nuts have to offer besides fat
These little powerhouses are excellent sources of plant-based protein, especially for vegans. They contain all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own and must therefore obtain through food. Here is the nut protein table.
In addition, nuts, seeds, and kernels also contain other nutrients such as dietary fiber, B-vitamins (including thiamine, niacin, and folate), and minerals like magnesium, iron, and zinc. Here are the nut tables: