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Nuts And Seeds

Although nuts contain high levels of fat as well as calories, if they are consumed in moderate amounts they may definitely be a component of a healthy diet. In fact, nuts are not only very tasty, but every ounce of it is complete with nutriments.

You should know that majority of the nuts are basically seeds or fruits dried up from trees. For instance, contrary to the general perception, peanuts are not nuts, but a variety of legumes and are a member of the plant family that also includes beans and peas.

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In fact, the term 'nut' itself may be puzzling. Originally, this term denoted an edible kernel that is enclosed by a firm shell. Presently, the scientific definition of 'nut' denotes a fruit having a solitary seed that is enclosed by a dehydrated, hard shell. This definition perfectly suits chestnuts, beechnuts and hazelnuts, but is not appropriate for nuts like almonds as well as walnuts (as the fruit that surrounds them is edible too) and peanuts (which are actually legumes). To add to this confusion, it may be pointed out that pine nuts and Brazil nuts too are not nuts, but seeds. On the other hand, what we call seeds of the sunflower are actually the fruits of the plant.

All nuts are a resourceful food and you can consume them fresh, use them in cooking and, occasionally, even they are used in culinary along with their shells. Nuts are available as whole or chopped up and even salted or without salt. In addition, they are used to make a number of products, such as oils, butters and spreads. Preferably, you should consume nuts as well as seeds raw - this is the best and most useful way of eating them, because when they are raw, the seeds and nuts retain the maximum amount of enzymes as well as other nutriments. Nevertheless, consumption of roasted nuts too is very nourishing, particularly when you roast them personally using the least amount of salt and fat necessary. Compared to the roasted nuts, raw nuts can be digested more easily owing to the activity of the enzymes present in their raw state.

You may use nuts in several ways. Many stores readily sell whole, ground and flaked nuts as well as butters prepared from nuts. Adding roasted nuts to vegetarian dishes enhances their flavour and several cook books for vegetarian foods provide one such recipe that can be varied incessantly using various dissimilar herbs as well as essences, in addition to diverse blending of cereals and nuts. You may also include nuts in sweet dishes, biscuits, and cakes, while nut butters may be incorporated into stews and soups with a view to congeal them.

Nutrition

Unlike the legumes or animal products, proteins present in seeds and nuts do not enclose lysine, a vital amino acid. While nuts are rich in calorie content in comparison to their mass, they are also deemed to be nutrient-compact foods. In comparison to their calorie content, nuts enclose plenty of nutriments.

In addition to calories and proteins, nuts also enclose high amounts of other plant compounds. For instance, flavonoids are present in all types of nuts. Basically, flavonoids are antioxidants and they aid in putting off the harmful free radicals formation in our body, which add to the development of cancer and several cardiovascular ailments. Compared to their dimensions, nuts are considered to be among the most excellent sources of protein derived from plants.

Usually, nuts have a rich fat content. In majority of cases, over 75% of calories contained by nuts are derived from fat (chestnuts being the only exception - as only 8% of their calories originate from fat). However, the positive side of this is that the fat contained by nuts is the 'appropriate' type of fat. Barring the palm and coconut kernel, majority of fat contained by nuts is of monounsaturated as well as polyunsaturated type. Different from saturated fats, which are usually present in dairy products and red meat, the fats in nuts do not seem to augment the levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream. When consumed in small quantities, monounsaturated as well as polyunsaturated fats may, in fact, lessen the levels of blood cholesterol.

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Nevertheless, you should keep an eye on the amount of salt you are ingesting along with salted nuts. Originally, nuts do not contain any salt, but it is added to them later to make them more flavourful. If you wish to restrict consuming salt, you are advised to go for products that are salt-free.

Selection

While purchasing nuts, look for those that look clean and are homogeneous. In fact, several dissimilar forms of seeds and nuts are available commercially now - they are sold with or with no shell; whole; chopped; halved; finely sliced pieces; ground; roasted; plain; salted; sweetened; smoked; coated with chocolate or candy; and with or devoid of their brownish skin. In addition, seeds and nuts are also processed to prepare oil, butter as well as spreads that may be sweetened, salty or plain. The shells that enclose the nuts are actually a defensive coating that puts off the nuts from decomposing very fast. Therefore, if you are buying unshelled nuts, always go for those whose shells are intact.

On the other hand, while purchasing shelled nuts, you are advised to purchase the ones that are marketed in glass jars and cans that are vacuum-sealed or in airtight bags - this type of packaging ensures that the nuts have utmost freshness. In addition, it is also prudent to purchase nuts from stores that have a fast turnover.

Storage

As seeds and nuts enclose high amounts of fat, they should always be stored in a place away from light, heat and dampness. It is preferable to store them in airtight glass jars or plastic containers, because this will help to put off the nuts from becoming rancid. You should know that unshelled nuts have a longer shelf life compared to the shelled ones, which may perhaps turn out to rotten in some weeks provided they are not frozen.

Moreover, unshelled nuts have a tendency to remain better compared to shelled, chopped, cut or crushed nuts. The latter varieties should always be stored in sealed containers and in a place away from heat, light and humidity. Conditional of the selection of the nuts, they will remain edible for anything between two to nine months when stored in a refrigerator.

It may be noted that nuts with their shells freeze better and will remain fresh in the refrigerator for approximately a year. However, you need to store shelled, chopped, cut or crushed nuts as well as seeds in sealed containers and packing at the normal temperature of the living room. When you have opened the package, put the nuts in an airtight container and keep it in a place away from light, heat and humidity for storing them for a prolonged period or in a freezer for storing them for an even longer period.

Safety Issues

Although nuts are extremely nourishing and flavourful, you need to adopt certain precautions while consuming them, because allergic reactions to nuts are among the most widespread types of allergies caused by foods. Such food allergies may produce several symptoms including breathing problems or panting; congestion in the nose; hives, itching; nausea, stomach disorder, diarrhea or gas; heartburn; cramps; dizziness; fainting; and/ or swelling of the face etc. Contact a competent allergist right away in case you believe that you have developed a food allergy. The allergist will evaluate your condition and suggest remedies.

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