Nuts and seeds are super healthy and most of us are not eating enough of them. They are a great natural source of vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, and fiber. I have eaten tons of nuts and seeds as part of my anti-cancer diet since January 2004 and I think you should too.
Depending on whose list you read, the number one healthiest nut is either the almond or the walnut, but there is no way to really rank them. The healthiest nut is the one with the nutrients your body needs most on a given day. Of course no one knows which one that is. So the best strategy is to eat a variety.
Here are the top healthiest nuts:
Almonds have as much calcium as milk, and contain magnesium, vitamin E, selenium and lots of fiber. They can lower cholesterol and help prevent cancer.
Walnuts are extremely good for your heart and brain, and contain ellagic acid a cancer-fighting antioxidant.
Pecans have tons of vitamins and minerals like Vitamins E and A, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, B vitamins, and zinc. And they help lower cholesterol.
Brazil Nuts are a good source of protein, copper, niacin, magnesium, fiber, vitamin E, and a great source of selenium.
Cedar Nuts/Pine Nuts have Vitamins A, B, D, E, P and contain 70% of your body’s required amino acids.
Cashews are rich in minerals like copper, magnesium, zinc, iron and biotin. They are actually a low-fat nut, and like olive oil, they have a high concentration of oleic acid, which is good for your heart. According to Dr. Andrew Saul, one big handful of cashews provides one to two thousand milligrams of tryptophan, which rivals prescription antidepressant Prozac.
Note: Cashews are not recommended for cancer patients due to potential levels of fungus
Here are the top healthiest seeds:
Flax seeds are definitely at the top of my list. Two tbsp of ground flax seed per day is ideal and easy to add to oatmeal or smoothies. Barleans Cold-Pressed Organic Flax Oil is the best source of parent omega-3s (better than fish oil) and lignans, super anti-oxidants that help fight cancer. It also contains a lot of fiber and can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Chia Seeds are incredibly healthy seeds rich in omega-3 oils, protein, anti-oxidants, calcium, and fiber.
Hemp seeds are a certified superfood with cancer and heart disease prevention properties. They are high in protein and fiber, with balanced omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
Sunflower seeds also help prevent heart disease and cancer with phytochemicals, folate, Vitamin E, selenium and copper.
Pumpkin Seeds are great for your immune system with lots of antioxidants (carotenoids), omega-3 fatty acids and zinc.
Sesame Seeds are a good source of calcium, magnesium, zinc, fiber, iron, B1 and phosphorus. They can lower blood pressure, and protect against liver damage. Sesame seeds have also been linked to prevention of many diseases like arthritis, asthma, migraine headaches, menopause, osteoporosis, and may even reduce PMS symptoms.
Tahini is a ground sesame seed paste that is popular ingredient in Middle Eastern dishes we eat, like hummus.
Finally Apricot seeds (aka Apricot kernels), Apple seeds, and other bitter fruit seeds contain Amygdalin aka Vitamin B17 which has incredibly powerful anti-cancer properties. There are many cases of people who cured their cancer with Apricot kernels alone! The pharmaceutical Laetrile, which is a concentrated form of Amygdalin, has been used in cancer clinics outside the US for over 50 years. I dedicated an entire post to Apricot Kernels here.
Do Nut Eat This
Peanuts do not count because they are technically legumes (beans). Peanuts can contain a carcinogenic mold called aflatoxin, and they are notorious for being one of the most pesticide-contaminated crops. If you eat peanuts, organic roasted peanuts or peanut butter is your safest bet. I prefer to eat organic nut butters like almond butter, sunflower seed butter and walnut butter.
Embrace Your Inner Hippie
I like to go to the bulk section of Whole Foods (where the big plastic bins of nuts are) and buy a couple pounds of organic seeds and nuts. I take them home and mix them all together in my Super Trail Mix. Eat them straight out of the bag, throw some in a bowl for the family, or toss into a smoothie, into oatmeal or on a salad. Either way, a couple handfuls of my Super Trail Mix every day will rock your body with super nutrients. So go ahead and embrace your inner hippie, throw on a pair of birkenstocks with socks, dowse yourself in patchouli, and load up on some trail mix. I like to keep a bowl out for everyone to snack on at home, and a tupperware container in the car to snack on when I am out and about.
I do not buy the fried, salted, honey-glazed, candied, or any other special flavor nuts. Frying nuts converts the fats into an unhealthy form, and most seasonings are made from artificial flavors, chemicals, and preservatives, contain MSG, and are high in sodium. Organic raw or roasted nuts are fine.
If you want to maximize the nutrients you get from nuts, you can soak them in distilled or purified water overnight. This helps neutralize enzyme inhibitors which may affect digestion and absorption of the nutrients in seeds and nuts. It can also help reduce the amount of pesticides on them if they are not organically grown.
Simple Soaking Directions:
Place 4 cups of nuts in a bowl with enough distilled water to cover the nuts completely. Add a tablespoon of celtic sea salt. This helps the neutralize enzyme inhibitors. Different seeds and nuts have different soaking times, but the easiest rule of thumb to remember is to let them soak 7 hours (overnight). You many or may not like the taste of soggy nuts, so you will need to dehydrate them in a dehydrator or oven for 12-24 hours. If you do it in the oven, keep the temperature under 150 degrees and shift them around on the pan occasionally. Every oven is different so it might take some experimentation to get the ideal drying time figured out. And because this is essentially a 24 hour process it makes sense to do several big batches at a time. Afterward compare the flavor of the soaked and dried nuts versus the non-soaked nuts. You might be surprised to find they taste better, depending on the nut and your taste.
One exception: Cashews should soak 6 hours or less and need to dry out quickly at 200-250 degrees or they can get funky.
The Excalibur Dehydrator is the dehydrator that most health gurus use and recommend.
Here is a shopping list you can copy, paste, and print out:
Almond, Cashew or Sunflower Seed Butter
The rest of the seeds I mentioned do not work very well in trail mix because they are too small and all end up at the bottom. One of my favorite snack bars is the Nutiva HempseedBar. It is made with organic hemp, flax, sunflower, pumpkin seeds, and sweetened with honey. It is a super tasty way to get some super healthy seeds in your diet. They also have a Flax & Raisin Bar, and a Flax, Hemp & Chocolate Bar.