Dish up Nuts, Seeds and Legumes for Good Health
In looking at food trends for the coming year, Nielsen research indicates that ninety-one percent of people say they snack daily and snacking is on the rise among all age groups and genders. And I am encouraged that folks are focusing more on snacks that are rich in nutrients like nuts, seeds and legumes–choices that earn high marks from me. These three foods are readily available nutrition powerhouses. They are excellent sources of protein, low in saturated fat and sodium; they are cholesterol free and good sources of fiber.
In lining up resolutions for the coming year, during this season of good eating, you’ll find an assortment of seeds, nuts and legumes on lots of tables. If you dish up good things to eat during the next holiday gathering, adding some seeds, nuts and legumes will give you a head start on making changes in your daily diet for better health in the New Year.
Seeds are the embryo and food supply of new plants. These include chia, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower and flax seeds. True nuts according to the botanical definition are a composite of seed and dry fruit inside a hard outer shell, i.e., chestnuts, hazelnuts and acorns. Culinary nuts are those that do not meet the botanical definition, yet we consider them nuts too—walnuts, pecans, almonds, pistachios and cashews. Now peanuts on the other hand are actually legumes whose edible seeds are enclosed in pods. Most nuts are grown on trees however peanuts grow underground from a single plant.
Legumes also include peas, beans, and lentils.
- Peas include black-eyed peas, green peas, snow peas, snap peas, and split peas.
- Bean varieties are adzuki beans, black beans, soybeans, Anasazi beans, fava beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), kidney beans and lima beans.
- Lentils are not spherical in shape, but flat, rounds, generally identified by color i.e. yellow, orange, green, brown or black.
These foods have each grown in popularity and are often posted on the latest list of “trending” foods. Nuts and seeds contain heart healthy mono-and polyunsaturated fats; these fats help lower cholesterol and maintain normal structure of cells in the body. For folks who crave crunchy snacks, seeds and nuts are the best choices—they allow for healthy munching with crunch, and are great options to serve or enjoy at parties.
Legumes will show up on buffets as roasted soybeans or edamame (young green soybeans), roasted chickpeas, hummus or black bean dip. For New Year’s entertaining, black-eyed peas are perennial dishes on the menu to help guarantee good luck throughout the year.
As with many edibles on a party buffet, it is not about “all you can eat.” Choose your portions wisely and limit the nuts and seeds to about 1-ounce or 1/4-cup. They are good snacks and filled with plenty of nutrients; just remember all things in moderation.
Take Away: Nuts, seeds and legumes are nutrient filled. Adding these to your daily diet will increase your intake of vitamins, mineral and fiber helping to fill you up, and not out.