As part of our ongoing education to help our readers find natural ways for immune support, we are focusing on nuts and seeds. We spotlight these crunchy morsels as a source of B-vitamins, zinc, vitamin E, antioxidants, healthy fats and micronutrients. All nuts and seeds are great sources plant-based proteins, which support the immune system at the cellular levels to rid the body of damaged cells. Nuts and seeds are also particularly high in the following nutrients:
B-vitamins (B1, B6 and folate) are necessary to fight off infection. Pistachios are particularly high in B1 and B6 nutrients. Almonds and flaxseeds contain good amounts of folate, which is important for DNA repair.
Zinc and selenium are proven to lower the risk of viral infections. Pine nuts, peanuts, cashews and almond are good sources of zinc for immune support and body tissue reparation. Brazil nuts are the ideal source of selenium, which strongly influences inflammation and immune response.
Alpha-tocopherols and gamma-tocopherols, are forms of vitamin E that reduce inflammation. Sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, and pine nuts contain alpha-tocopherols. English and black walnuts, sesame seeds, pecans, pistachios, flaxseed, and pumpkin seeds contain gamma tocopherols. One ounce of sunflower seeds contains 2/3rds of the daily recommended allowance (RDA) for vitamin E, while the same volume of almonds contains half the RDA. The body needs 15mg of vitamin E per day, but most people do not get enough to meet this requirement (Read more here).
Prebiotics and fiber are important aspects of immune health. Nuts contain beneficial prebiotic fibers that improves gut microbiome diversity and supports healthy probiotic gut bacteria, which enhances the immune system and protects against infection.
Seeds like chia, flax, pumpkin and hemp are abundant in healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, as well as important amino acids for overall immune function.
Nuts and Seeds In Your Daily Diet
Other than snacking, how else can you use nuts and seeds in your daily eating habits? Here are a few ideas you may not have considered:
- Thicken soups/Add water soaked and then pureed nuts to your favorite soup to thicken it, in place of cream or rice. Almonds, pistachios, and hazelnuts need about 8 hours of soaking, softer nuts like cashews, macadamias, and pine nuts need 2-4 hours of soaking and nuts like pecans, walnuts and Brazil nuts need only about an hour of soaking time.
- Add protein to non-dairy smoothies/If you’ve switched to nut or grain milks, they don’t contain a significant amount of protein, B-vitamins or other important micronutrients . Add nuts or seeds to your smoothies to boost the protein level and increase satiety.
- Create a nut confit/Instead of roasting nuts in an oven, infuse them in olive oil. The flavor will be rich and the texture tender. Try this recipe from Cooking Light. Serve the drained nuts on a cheese board, in salads and in vegetable dishes (also use the oil to season vegetables and salads).
- Don’t toss out squash and melon seeds, instead roast the seeds from winter squash and summer melons for a fun kid’s project and tasty snack. See our recipe here.
- Use ground nuts in place of flour/While almond flour is all the rage, other nut flours are just as tasty. The Italians have been using chestnut flour for centuries in baking, fresh pastas and crepes. Pecan flour works well for gluten-free, paleo/keto brownies, cookies and batter breads. When substituting a wheat flour recipe, you can easily use a 50/50 split nut flours with all-purpose wheat or gluten-free flour blends. If using all nut flours, it will take some experimentation (look for an adapted recipes online).
Roasted Carrots with Chamoy and Almonds
If you don’t know Chef Yotam Ottolenghi, consider this fair warning. You are in for the most intense flavor experience that puts vegetables and plant-forward recipes in the center of the plate. This recipe is an adaptation of from his recent Flavor cookbook. He transforms the humble and affordable carrot into a tantalizing pop of sweet and tart thanks to an apricot and sumac chamoy, a sauce inspired from Mexican cuisine. Recipe adapted by Kimberly Lord Stewart from Flavor cookbook (one of New York Times best cookbooks of the year, 2020).
2 lbs of carrots, washed well
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 teaspoons maple syrup
Salt and pepper
6 ounces dried apricots (we used organic sulphur dioxide free)
2 teaspoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons sumac
3 Tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon crushed chile pepper flakes
1 clove garlic
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Apricot Herb Finish
1/3 cup mint leaves, minced
1/4 cup dill, minced
8 dried apricots (organic sulphur dioxide free), thinly sliced, scissors work well
1/4 cup roasted, salted almonds, roughly chopped
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons lime juice
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Scrub carrots well, remove tops and cut on an angle into 2-3 inch stubs.
- Stir together olive oil, maple syrup in bowl and toss with carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Spread on pan and roast in hot oven for about 15-18 minutes until caramelized but still a bit firm (watch carefully as ovens vary).
- Meanwhile, place chamoy ingredients in a food processor. Puree until a paste forms.
- When carrots are cooked, place in a serving bowl and toss with chamoy.
- Stir together mint, dill, sliced apricots, chopped almonds, olive oil and lime juice. Stir into carrots. Season with salt and pepper.
This article is sponsored by the Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, partnered with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of naturopathic medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing health care systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:
- Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of naturopathic medicine
- Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
- Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine
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