In honor of National Nut Day tomorrow, we are putting a spotlight on this plant-based, nutrient-dense, protein-packed, (healthy) fat-rich food group.
Deemed one of the “Hottest Nutrition Trends of 2016” by Today’s Dietitian, nuts aren’t leaving our plates anytime soon. They have evolved from a party snack to a variety of flavorful butters, milks and “flours”. Nuts often serve as the foundational ingredient for many of our favorite, plant-based dishes. Pulverized almonds are a wonderful flour substitute for gluten-free baked goods; toasted walnuts compliment a favorite salad and blended cashews serve as the base for a rockin’, vegan buffalo dip.
Why eat nuts? Most nuts contain: some type of unsaturated (healthy) fat, fiber, vitamin E, arginine, protein and plant sterols. Over the years research studies have shown that nut consumption has beneficial effects on heart health (improved lipid profiles) and may help to moderately control blood sugar levels as well as aid in weight management (when substituted with nutrient poor foods).
Aside from the traditional peanut, there are many types of nuts (ex: almond, peanuts, cashews, pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios, macadamia, Brazil nuts), which often carry different health benefits. For example, almonds are quite fiber-rich while Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium.
It is recommended to try a variety of nuts, but be mindful of the portion size. As beneficial as nuts can be, they are still calorie dense. Recommended portions depend on the type of nut. For example, one portion size of pistachios is around 45 pieces while one portion of almonds is around 22 pieces.
How can I incorporate nuts into my daily meal plan? Nuts are so much more versatile than we once thought. If you’re a purist at heart, enjoy a handful of roasted, unsalted, mixed nuts in between meals. Looking to get creative? Use peanut butter as a sauce base or crushed pistachios for a crusted fish dish. Make your own macadamia nut milk for a rich and aromatic addition to your morning coffee. There are endless options for the creative chef!
Flours – almond, pecan, hazelnut, walnut and chestnut
Milks – almond, cashew, hazelnut and pistachio
Butters – peanut, almond, cashew, macadamia, walnut and pistachio
Our featured recipe is perfect for a National Nut Day:
by Alexandra Caspero, MS, RD
These grab-and-go bars are packed with fiber, protein and healthy fats. Cover them with plastic wrap to store in the fridge or freezer for a quick, portable snack.
- [125 grams] 1½ cups quick-cooking oats
- [55 grams] ½ cup sliced almonds
- [35 grams] ¼ cup sesame seeds
- [35 grams] 3 tablespoons chia seeds
- [40 grams] ¼ cup hemp seeds
- [3 grams] 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- [3 grams] ½ teaspoon salt
- [240 grams] 1 cup unsalted peanut butter
- [170 grams] ½ cup (120 milliliters) honey
- [4 grams] 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) vanilla extract
- Line a 9-by-9-inch square pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap with enough overhang for easy removal.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, almonds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, cinnamon and salt.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together peanut butter, honey and vanilla extract until very smooth.
- Pour liquid mixture over dry ingredients and, using a wooden spoon, stir until evenly combined.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Using the back of a wooden spoon or an offset spatula, firmly press the mixture evenly into the pan.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.
- Gently lift the parchment or plastic overhang to remove from pan and slice into 16 bars.
- Enjoy immediately or wrap individual bars in plastic wrap or parchment paper and place in a freezer-safe bag to store in the fridge or freezer. Serves 16.
- If using old-fashioned oats, pulse oats a few times in a food processor to break up the texture.
- If using salted peanut butter, use only ¼ teaspoon salt.
Serving size: 1 bar (45 grams)
CALORIES 209; TOTAL FAT 13g; SAT. FAT 2g; CHOL. 0mg; SODIUM 77mg; CARB. 20g; FIBER 3g; SUGARS 11g; PROTEIN 7g; POTASSIUM N/A; PHOSPHORUS N/A