Friday, May 11, 2012

Are you seedy, or just plain nuts?

   On this hot day, did you just finish eating a cool slice of watermelon…….and throw away the seeds? Next time, don’t – those seeds are high in protein, essential minerals, B vitamins and healthy fats, so crunch them in your mouth along with the cool pink pulp and enjoy the health benefits. 

     The new kids on the health block are pumpkin, flax, watermelon and sesame seeds.  These are comparable with nuts in nutritional benefits. Lightly toast them (for 2 -3 mins) to enhance their flavour. Roasting them for longer can lead to destruction of the healthy fat component.

     Most seeds are RICH in fiber (lowers cholesterol and keeps the gut healthy), Selenium (a powerful antioxidant), Vitamin  E (protects the nervous system, prevents clotting of blood to prevent heart attacks and protects cell DNA). Seeds are also GOOD sources of Iron, Plant Protein, Zinc and other essential minerals. This gives you an idea of just how they contribute to health.

     Try out the recipe for making watermelon seed chutney powder (see recipe at the bottom) or invent your own! 1 tbsp a day of these nutrient dense seeds is great for health. 

    The heart disease risk lowering property of nuts has been written about for as long as we can remember but that’s only because it is SO TRUE! Study after study finds that those who consume an ounce (30g or 2 tbsp full) of nuts per day show a reduced risk of dying from heart disease. 

    The results of my lipid profile test that I underwent last year showed my HDL (good cholesterol) was high- mainly due to the fresh groundnuts / peanuts my Mom and I were consuming almost daily. (Did you know that peanuts are not really nuts? They’re actually legumes but their nutritional content resembles most nuts so closely, they’re considered honorary nuts!)

So far so good, but that’s only a fraction of the big picture.

     Eating a daily fistful of nuts along with a balanced, healthy diet, can prevent or greatly reduce the risk of developing Metabolic Syndrome,  Alzheimers, Dementia, certain cancers, Diabetes and the list is expanding as more research occurs.

     Enough reason to make like a squirrel ? Hold on though – this doesn’t mean they’re OK ad libitum. On the contrary, nuts are high in fat (mostly good though) and therefore are best consumed only as stated above.

     The real crème de la crème of the whole bunch are of course almonds and walnuts (the latter have both ALNA and Omega 3s - essential fatty acids).
Again not roasted - toasted (you can do this at home too) and definitely unsalted.

     Nuts and seeds make for great snacks - carry a pack of them in your purse or laptop bag for that 4:30 pm rumble. Also great 'before workout' snacks in the morning or evening.

     Nut and seed butters are great tasting spreads and liven up that daily slice of whole grain toast. Go ahead, so long as you’re using them within the specified limits (they contain more calories per gram than whole nuts). With commercially prepared nut butters, watch out for added sugar, salt, artificial colours and flavours and preservatives. You can even surf the net for recipes and make your own without the above. Get your kids eating these healthy spreads.

     Nut and Seed Oils are equally beneficial, especially the cold pressed versions – same rules apply as with the butters.

     Remember that while nuts and seeds have their specific benefits, nothing works better than including them as part of a natural, healthy, balanced diet.

Pumpkin seeds
Watermelon seeds
Flax seeds

Watermelon Seed Chutney Podi:     
Watermelon seeds (seed coat removed..available in health stores)–100g                                                                        
 Pepper corns – 1 tsp                                        
Jeera – 1 tsp                                                Peanuts – 2 tbsp 
Tamarind – 1 inch piece                                 Red Chillies – 2-3 nos.
Salt – to taste                                              Garlic - 3 cloves (optional)

     Toast all the ingredients together for 2- 3 mins, cool for a while and then dry grind roughly.

     Sprinkle 1 tbsp  of this podi on steaming red rice, mix and enjoy the warm, earthy flavour !

     You can add other ingredients which give their unique flavour like curry leaves, dried tulsi or neem (seriously!). Substitute with other nuts and seeds- come out with your own recipes and do share them with me!

This article was published in 'Life in Adyar', Chennai -  May 5th, 2012.

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