Go nuts with your diet and improve your heart health

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Nuts are good sources of heart-healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

It’s time to get a little crazy with your diet. That’s right — it’s time to go nuts. 

Nuts, such as Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews and pecans, are full of heart-healthy fats and can be used to make sweet and savory dishes stand out. 

It might seem counterintuitive, but eating nuts in their most natural state is not the healthiest way to consume them. Raw nuts contain phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, which prevent the body from taking in crucial nutrients and digesting food properly. 

To avoid these roadblocks, simply soak nuts in salt water to break down and remove the harmful elements. The salt water soak is also the first step for making nut milk, a non-dairy alternative perfect to use in smoothies and baked goods. After the nuts have soaked, place them in a blender with more water and then strain through a cheesecloth. 

Homemade nut butters trump their store-bought counterparts in virtually all aspects because the more expensive grocery-store nut butters tend to be laden with extra oil and sugar. Use nut butters to thicken up smoothies, “healthify” brownie recipes and eat by the spoonful while cramming for stressful final exams. 

To make homemade nut butter, toast raw nuts lightly in an oven to break down those pesky enzyme inhibitors, place in a food processor and blend until smooth. 

Walnuts are an omega-3 powerhouse and are also known for helping with cholesterol levels and risk of heart diseases. Use walnuts for more savory dishes — stir them into a warm quinoa and Brussels sprouts salad. Walnut oil is also a good substitute for canola or vegetable oils. 

If you’re concerned about your protein intake, grab almonds from your pantry. Many plant-based protein bars found in grocery stores contain almonds and almond butter. Save the money and make your own energy bites using dates and almonds. Alternatively, lightly toast slivered almonds to toss on top of fresh asparagus. 

Brazil nuts, generally found in the bulk section at stores such as Whole Foods, contain high amounts of selenium. Selenium aids in the production of antioxidant enzymes, which help with cell damage and reduce the risk of cancer. Eat these in moderation, though, as Brazil nuts contain higher amounts of saturated fat than their healthier nut cousins. 

Cashews are a staple in many vegan kitchens. Not only are they high in vitamins and minerals, but they can be broken down into a cream used to make things such as cashew yogurt or dairy-free cheesecake. These cashew-based desserts can end up being high in calories, but they’re also high in good-for-you fats. 

Ready to get nutty? Check out our raspberry cashew butter smoothie recipe:

Recipe

  • Ingredients:
  • – 2 frozen bananas
  • – 1/4 cup frozen raspberries
  • – 3 frozen strawberries
  • – 2 tablespoons cashew butter
  • – 1/4 teaspoon maca powder
  • – 1 teaspoon chia seeds
  • – 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  •  
  • Directions:
  • – Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If too thick, add more almond milk. Split between one or two glasses and enjoy.