Nuts and seeds are extremely popular in Indian cuisine, with almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds being among the most widely used. Nuts are seeds or fruits consisting of an edible fat-containing kernel, which is surrounded by a brittle shell and with very little, or no roughage and water. Because of their high fat content, there are some misconceptions among dieters and fitness enthusiasts, who try to restrict the intake of these foods. However, fat obtained from nuts and seeds are of the healthy variety and several studies in recent decades have highlighted the importance of such fats.
Here are some nuts and seeds you should consider including in your diet:
These nuts are packed with nutrients, containing 60% fat and 20% protein, while low in carbohydrates. They are also a good source of vitamin E and Vitamin B. Almonds are rich in monosaturated fatty acids, which are healthy fats that actually lower the risk of cardiac diseases by reducing (LDL) Bad Cholesterol.
A coconut is a stone fruit and not a nut botanically speaking, however, the benefits of its consumption are plentiful. Apart from the incredibly refreshing coconut water, coconut milk and flesh can also be used in gravy preparation, as is the case with most South Indian dishes. Consisting of 18% carbohydrates, 3% proteins, and 79% fats (mainly from the flesh), this is one of the healthiest foods.
Also known as peanuts, earthnuts, and monkey nuts, they are the seeds of a leguminous plant. Peanuts are a good source of essential proteins like arachin and conarachin II. They comprise of about 40% fat and are a rich source of the antioxidant flavonol. The nut can also be consumed in the form of groundnut flour, which is a protein-rich flour, or groundnut milk; these serve as healthier alternatives to regular flour and cow’s milk.
Walnuts contain 65% fat in the form of oil, while also rich in protein, along with alpha-linolenic acid. This is one of two essential fatty acids, so called because they are necessary for health, and they cannot be produced within the human body.
Cashew nuts are again not really fattening, despite the high fat content, unless consumed excessively! They also contain 20% protein, and are a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) like omega-3 and omega-6 that help lower bad cholesterol levels.
Garden Cress Seeds
Garden cress seeds are a good sources of Vitamin B and proteins. Their consumption improves bio-availability of iron and protein, which means that they aid in the absorption of iron and protein in the body.
These are very nutritious as they provide 7g of protein, but they also contain enzymes that may cause occasional abdominal distension, which is why they should be consumed roasted or steamed.
Consumption of flax seeds lowers both total and LDL (bad) cholesterol and the seeds are rich in healthy fats called PUFA. The seeds can be used to garnish cereals, yogurt, and smoothies; alternatively, the addition of flax seed flour in baked items gives a nutty flavour along with improved nutrition.
They contain 40% oil and are also high in protein content. Oil extracted from them is used as oil for cooking. Sunflower seeds are also nourishing because of their high content of vitamins E and B-1, as well as minerals like copper.
These seeds contain 20% protein, including alpha- globulin, which is a globular protein that plays an important role in digestion and blood coagulation. Globulins make up 38% of blood proteins and transport ions, hormones, and lipids assisting in immune function. They can be used in chutneys or sauce preparation to impart and enhance the taste.
Consisting of 40% oil and 20% protein, mustard seeds are best used for making pickles. Canola and mustard also possess strong antioxidant properties, offering protection against free radical damage.
Also known as Chironji or Cuddapah almonds, they consist of 52% oil, 20% protein, 12% starch, and 5% sugar. These seeds can be used as a substitute for cashews or almonds and can be consumed roasted or raw.
Ways To Use Nuts And Oilseeds In Everyday Cooking
Coconuts, cashew nuts, and poppy seeds can be used as thickening agents in the preparation of gravy.
Chutneys or sauces can be made out of nuts like coconut and groundnuts.
Oil from oilseeds can be used in cooking and pickling, as well as in salad dressings.
Nuts can be used to garnish various food items.
Nuts can be enjoyed as healthy mid-day snacks as an alternative to biscuits, chips, or chocolates.
Ideally, you should consume 30g of nuts a day and 20g of seeds. You can choose to have 30g of mixed nuts daily, 30g of a specific nut each day, or 3 servings of 3 different nuts (10g each), depending on your personal preferences. Just avoid going nuts over nuts and seeds because excessive intake can cause indigestion.