People often ask me why I’m so obsessed about seeds and nuts and I could rattle off a whole slew of information (see sources below) about why they’re so great. After watching their eyes invariably glaze over from information overload, I’ve since discovered that less is more, and simplicity is a gem worth appreciating. The simple answer lays in the fact that we (meaning homo Sapiens) are at our optimal health and fitness when we adhere to a diet that is both diverse and nutritionally dense. This is in both the historic and evolutionary record ( I won’t bore you with the details) as well as the current health crisis many in the industrialized (as well as underdeveloped nations) are facing in terms of ever-increasing numbers of diabetes, cancer, as well as autoimmune diseases.
It is no small coincidence that our propensity for, and our over indulgence in so-called “quick” and “processed” foods have a strong connection or link to the incidence of the above mentioned diseases and associated syndromes. The bottom line, is that processed foods, our dependency on them, coupled with a lack of adequate exercise (daily), has brought us to the brink of a near pandemic. Add to that unsustainable environmental and agricultural practices, and a grime picture begins to unfold for the human race; but a solution for one problem at a time please.
In simple terms, nuts can be defined as “small dry hard-shelled dry fruit or seed with a separable rind or shell an interior kernel” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition). A much more detailed definition is provided by the National Institutes of Health (see National Institutes of Health website) which states that nuts are “nutrient dense foods with complex matrices rich in unsaturated fatty and other bioactive compounds: high-quality vegetable protein, fiber, minerals, tocopherols, phytosterols, and phenolic compounds.” Translation? nuts constitute a dense powerhouse store of complete nutrients (i.e. fats, fibre, carbohydrates, etc).
All that being said, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. While nuts are nutrient dense, they do contain fat and that means you must balance their intake with other sources of vital nutrients that contain fewer calories as well as fats. The key take away here is “BALANCE”; in terms of nutritional intake (i.e. amount per serving, etc) as well as lin proportion to other nutrient sources. For instance, a balanced intake of nuts (and or seeds, i.e. sunflower walnuts) at one sitting relative to other nutrient sources, would be equivalent to 1/3/ cup or 1 and 1/2 oz of nuts 3-4 servings per week for a 1,600 calorie diet and 4-5 servings per week for a 2,000 calorie diet (American Heart Association: 2013 Healthy Diet recommendations;Eckel, Robert H. et al. “2013 AHA/ACC).
While similar to seeds in terms of nutrient content, seeds are, in simple terms, the embryonic stage of a plant housed in a protective outer shell or hull. The dietary guidelines for seeds are similar to those for nuts, but the caveat remains the same; balance, balance, balance, is the mantra we should all stick to when it comes to nutrition, health (mind-body) and fitness. Why am I pushing them? I’m a firm believer in balance and the pivotal role it plays in our health and fitness within the context of a healthy and free lifestyle. My own personal experience alone has driven home the inherent power of a well-balanced and nutrient dense diet; not only that, from a physical fitness perspective, a poor diet will doom you to failure and injury (i.e. failing to fuel your body the nutrients required for both recovery and muscle growth).
From a female perspective, I’ve come to learn the importance of incorporating dietary balance into my daily regime as a means of negating undesirable effects of changes in hormonal levels, stress, and illness recovery. While nutrition and fitness alone can not wholly stave off the negative impacts of illness, disease, time, and so forth, they are powerful resources in our arsenal that are available to help us achieve optimum fitness, health, and the freedom to pursue our goals and passions.
Remember, getting fit and healthy requires that you first make the decision, develop a plan, and take action. For more information as well as assistance regarding how to get started on your journey, join the FitTribe of fellow women who are getting stronger everyday!
Eckel, Robert H. et al. “2013 AHA/ACC Guideline on Lifestyle Management to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk.” Circulation, vol. 129, no. 25 suppl 2, Dec. 2013, doi:10.1161/01.cir.0000437740.48606.d1.
Ros, Emilio. “Health Benefits of Nut Consumption.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc3257681/.