Among the more versatile snack options, nuts and seeds are a power-packed superfood all on their own. Sure, they are high in calories and fat, but the calories and fat in nuts and seeds are absolutely worth it — and actively beneficial! In fact, they can save on your waistline by reducing cravings, curbing your appetite at mealtime, and even aiding in digestion (they’re good sources of fiber too!) They are also good sources of protein and can be eaten alone, on a salad, in trail mix, or in a tasty treat like this one or this one. Nut butters count too, so don’t be shy in spreading your almond butter onto your whole grain toast or using it in fun recipes like this one.
The favorites on today’s list are walnuts, almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
Each of these tiny treats contains a good mix of vitamins, trace minerals, healthy fats, and antioxidants. That part you might already know. What you might not know is that they are great for your brain too, and therefor great for your mood!
What does this nut look like? It’s got a hard, protective exterior with wrinkly flesh on the inside, separated into two hemispheres. You guessed it! It looks like the human brain! And the Omega 3 fats present in walnuts can actually help boost mood by feeding the brain the healthy fats it needs to function at its best. In fact, some studies have shown that walnuts can have the same effect as Prozac or other SSRI drugs in boosting mood by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.
Rich in vitamin E, good-for-you fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), arginine, potassium, and fiber, these little gems offer a ton of balanced nutrition. They also offer a phytochemical called phenylalanine, which can do wonders for your mental and neurological health. It comes in three forms, each of which plays a role in pain relief, mood elevation, and appetite suppression. (source)
The thin skin around the outside of almonds also packs a punch of healthful flavonoids, which have been shown to help prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing. (Hint, LDL oxidation can lead to chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.) (source)
Pumpkin and Sunflower seeds:
According to Professor James Duke, many varieties of seeds and nuts contain tryptophan, an important amino acid that the brain converts to serotonin. Roasted pumpkin seeds and dry sunflower seeds are an excellent source of tryptophan, making them a safe, natural way to relieve mild depression and insomnia. Additionally, sunflower seeds are high in thiamine, an important B vitamin for memory and cognitive function. (source)
Quick tips to easily incorporate nuts and seeds into your diet:
- Make a smoothie and throw them in! (or use a nut butter)
- Snack on an ounce of nuts or seeds between meals, about 2.5 to 3 hours after your last meal (serving sizes)
- Add them to a salad — not just the leafy kind, but chicken or tuna salad too!
- Mix them into your hot cereal in the morning — nothing better than walnuts or pecans in oatmeal!
- Use nut meal or seed meal in baking as a substitute for white flour
Trying to curb your appetite or prevent weight gain during the holiday season? Have a look at RealAge.com’s 4 Tricks for Feeling Full and Eating Less. (Hint, snacking on nuts before a meal is on the list!)