I follow a mostly vegetarian diet.
When it comes to optimal health, that is one of the better options.
Of course, eating my Micronized Purple Rice powder goes hand in hand with optimal health, whether you’re vegetarian or not!
But even if you’re a diehard meat eater, it doesn’t hurt to skip animal protein for some of your meals.
Where to get protein, then, if not from animal products?
One option, of course, is beans and legumes, but we can only eat so many of those. They take a long time to cook and involve a fair amount of preparation. Some people have a hard time digesting them, too.
And, although they provide loads of fiber, beans and legumes don’t provide any fat to speak of — and our bodies really need healthy fats.
That’s where nuts come in! These anti-aging nutritional powerhouses not only taste delicious, but they are very healthful as well. They contain healthy fats, protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and so much more.
(I’ll talk about seeds next week — they’re the other non-bean/legume protein powerhouse in the vegan world.)
As long as you eat nuts fresh, organic, and raw, and don’t overdo it quantity-wise, they’re some of the healthiest foods on the planet.
You’ll want nuts to be:
- Fresh, because rancid oils are bad for you
- Organic to avoid ingesting pesticides
- Raw, because roasted and salted nuts are about as bad for you as French fries. The oils can become rancid, then free radicals are created, the protein is compromised, and the heat-treated salt used on roasted nuts is bad for you.
Roasting nuts also forms acrylamide, a byproduct of the amino acid asparagine, which has potentially carcinogenic effects. Some kinds of roasted nuts are worse than others, depending on how much acrylamide they contain. In general, it’s best to just avoid roasted nuts altogether.
And, although it’s easy to pop nuts into your mouth right from the bag, it’s actually better to soak them overnight first. This releases the toxic enzyme inhibitors and increases bioavailability of vitamins. It also reduces phytic acid, which hinders absorption of minerals.
So, for better digestion and absorption of nutrients, soak nuts overnight in the refrigerator before eating them.
Here’s how: Put them in a glass bowl and cover with filtered water. Add about a tablespoon of celtic sea salt or Himalayan pink salt. That helps neutralize the enzyme inhibitors. Soak overnight and then discard the water.
Soggy nuts might not sound all that great, but they are actually delicious! I love to put them in all my salads. After discarding the soak water, I lay them out on an unbleached paper towel to dry out a little before eating them.
Note: People often think of peanuts as nuts, but they are actually legumes, in the same family as peas, lentils, and soy. I stay away from peanuts, even though I’m not allergic to them like so many people are. They often contain aflatoxins — toxins from mold. Aflatoxins are a known carcinogen associated with liver cancer.
Peanuts are also susceptible to salmonella. There have been a number of recent recalls in major supermarket chains due to this deadly bacteria. It can affect not just raw peanuts but also roasted ones — and even peanut butter.
Furthermore, peanuts are high in lectins, which are implicated in a number of inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. They are also way too high in omega-6 fatty acids, which can also contribute to inflammation.
Peanuts are often high in pesticides and fungicides as well. This is mainly to combat the mold that comes from peanuts’ being grown underground and having a permeable shell.
So, to protect your liver and reduce inflammation, I’d advise staying away from peanuts, period.
Now, here are the most nutritious nuts, along with a summary of why each is beneficial.
Containing more vitamin E than any other nut, just one ounce of almonds provides half the RDA of this important antioxidant. Almonds are also loaded with calcium, but again, they must be soaked for full benefit, because without soaking, their phytic acid will inhibit calcium absorption.
Almonds are very good for the heart, and are loaded with protein as well.
You may have noticed that walnut halves look similar to the hemispheres of the human brain — and that is a clue to one of their many health benefits. When it comes to brain health, walnuts are one of the most healthful things you can eat.
Not only are they good for brain health, but walnuts are one of the most important anti-cancer foods. Just two handfuls a day may help prevent prostate and breast cancer, and possibly slow tumor growth as well.
Their high omega-3 content also makes walnuts potent inflammation fighters.
Studies have shown that a fatty acid called oleic acid may actually turn off a gene that triggers breast cancer. Well, pecans are loaded with this healthful fatty acid. These nutritious nuts are also packed with fiber and contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals, including magnesium. They’re a potent antioxidant, too!
Research shows pecans help lower LDL cholesterol as well.
4. Brazil nuts
Probably the most important attribute of this buttery nut is its high selenium content. Brazil nuts are the richest known food source of this potent cancer-fighting mineral. Just two of these tasty nuts gives you a full day’s supply!
Selenium, in addition to fighting cancer, helps with metabolism, immunity, and reproductive health. It also helps with vitamin E absorption, and even helps ward off cataracts.
In addition to their high selenium content, Brazil nuts contain other healthy minerals as well, including zinc, potassium, and magnesium.
At 291 mg of potassium per ounce, pistachios are one of the best sources of this important mineral. They’re also high in cholesterol-lowering plant sterols.
If you’re concerned about eye health — and who isn’t — pistachios contain a lot of lutein, which is important for supporting eye health. They’re also good for lowering inflammation, and help with weight loss, reduced cholesterol and blood sugar, and improved inflammation.
Most pistachios are bleached, so look for organic ones to avoid this.
6. Macadamia nuts
Although raw organic macadamia nuts can be hard to find, they’re worth the effort. If you can’t source them locally, you can buy them online. They’re pricy, but again, totally worth it.
Not only are macadamias incredibly delicious, but they contain lots of healthful nutrients, including oleic acid, which as I mentioned earlier may turn off a gene that triggers breast cancer.
These crunchy little wonder nuts also contain vitamin B1 (thiamin), magnesium, and manganese.