Your guide to being a healthy vegan  
or a healthy vegetarian! 
 
Health Guide:  
 Exercise
 Fruits & Vegetables
 Legumes / Beans
 Oils & Fats
 Vitamins & Minerals
 Whole Grains
Additional Info:  
 Caffeine
 Herbs & Spices
 Nuts & Seeds
 Organic Produce
 Salt & Sodium
 Soy & Tofu
 Sugar & Sweeteners

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Seeds and NutsNuts and Seeds

Nuts are very healthy and nutritious. In addition to being excellent sources of protein, nuts and seeds have many other benefits such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other chemicals that may prevent cancer and heart disease. Although many people are hesitant to eat nuts because they are high in fat, eating nuts can provide a sense of fullness or satisfaction that actually causes you to eat less of other high-calorie, high fat foods. Additionally, nuts are high in essential amino acids and healthy fats, making them an important part of any vegan or vegetarian's diet.

Quick Page Summary: Eating nuts and seeds are a great way to add vitamins, minerals, fiber, and essential fatty acids (like omega 3 and omega 6), to your diet. Some great choices include almonds, cashews, flaxseeds (ground), peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts. If you have time, you may want to purchase raw nuts and seeds and soak them in purified water for up to 24 hours; this starts the germination process, which makes them much more nutritious.

Healthy Choices

The world's healthiest nuts and seeds include:

  • AlmondsAlmonds – Almonds are a good source of protein, vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, copper, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and phosphorus. Almonds are also concentrated in protein; a quarter-cup contains more protein than the typical egg. Although one-quarter cup of almonds contains about 18 grams of fat, most of it (11 grams) is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Eating almonds can lower bad cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease, provide protection against cardiovascular disease and diabetes, boost energy, and help prevent gallstones. Whole almonds (with skins) provide the most heart-healthy benefits.
     
  • CashewsCashews – Cashews are high in antioxidants and have a lower fat content than most other nuts; additionally, 75 percent of their fat is unsaturated fatty acids. Cashews are also a good source of monounsaturated fats, copper, and a good source of magnesium and phosphorous. Eating cashews promotes good cardiovascular health, even in individuals with diabetes.
     
  • FlaxseedFlaxseeds – Flaxseeds, also known as linseeds, are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseeds may provide anti-inflammatory benefits, protect your bones, and protect against heart disease, breast cancer, and diabetes. Eating flaxseeds also lowers blood pressure in men with high cholesterol. Flaxseeds are also rich in fiber and manganese and are a good source of folate, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), magnesium, phosphorous, and copper, and lignan phytonutrients. You'll need to grind them up first (or purchase ground flaxseed) to gain the most nutritional benefits.
     
  • PeanutsPeanuts – Peanuts are a good source of heart-healthy monosaturated fat, flavonoid (resveratrol), antioxidants, phytosterols, phytic acid (inositol hexaphosphate), and folic acid, making them heart-healthy, a good way to reduce your risk of stroke, and possibly even cancer. Peanuts are also a good source of vitamin B3 (niacin), folate, copper, manganese, and protein, and are a significant source of resveratrol, a chemical studied for potential anti-aging effects.. Peanuts and peanut butter may also help prevent gallstones and protect against Alzheimer's disease. It wise to ensure that peanuts, especially raw ones, are stored in a cool, dry, environment (such as a refrigerator or freezer), as an extremely toxic and highly dangerous fungus (aflatoxin) can easily grow on peanuts when the temperature is between 86-96°F (30-36°C) and humidity is high.
     
  • Pumpkin SeedsPumpkin seeds / pepitas – Eating the green, hulled, pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) may promote prostate health, protection for men's bones, anti-inflammatory benefits for those with arthritis, and help lower cholesterol. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of the essential fatty acids, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, and copper, protein, and vitamin K.
     
  • Sesame SeedsSesame seeds – Sesame seeds and tahini are rich in beneficial minerals. Not only are sesame seeds a very good source of manganese and copper, but they are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, vitamin B1 (thiamin), zinc, dietary fiber, and healthy (monosaturated) fats. They contain powerful antioxidants called lignans, which are also anti-carcinogenic. They also contain phytosterols, which block cholesterol production. Sesame contains one lignan unique to it called sesamin. Eating sesame seeds may help lower cholesterol, provide relief for rheumatoid arthritis, and support vascular and respiratory health. The nutrients of sesame seeds are better absorbed if they are ground or pulverized before consumption.
     
  • Sunflower SeedsSunflower seeds – Eating sunflower seeds may help provide anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefits, lower cholesterol, and prevent cancer. Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E. Sunflower seeds are also an excellent source of linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid), dietary fiber, protein, and minerals such as magnesium and selenium, and are high in cholesterol-lowering phytosterols.
     
  • WalnutsWalnuts – Walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids. Walnuts are also a good source of manganese, and copper. Walnuts are also an important source of healthy (monounsaturated) fats. Eating walnuts may benefit your cardiovascular system, improve cholesterol in individuals with type 2 diabetes, help brain functions, protect bone health, and help prevent gallstones. Walnuts also have bio-available melatonin, which helps regulate sleep. A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (Oct. 17, 2006) found that eating walnuts after a meal high in unhealthy fats can reduce the damaging effects of such fats on blood vessels. Walnuts also contain l-arginine, which is an essential amino acid that the body uses to produce nitric oxide, necessary for keeping blood vessels flexible.

*According to the George Mateljan Foundation. See the "World's Healthiest Foods" web site for more information.

Mixed NutsTo Soak or Not to Soak...

Although eating nuts and seeds, even when roasted, can be very healthy, it may be beneficial to purchase your nuts and seeds raw and then soak them in clean water for a few hours before eating them. Soaking raw nuts and seeds stimulates the process of germination, which increases the vitamin C, B, and carotenes (pre-vitamin A) content. It may also neutralize phytic acid, a substance present in the bran of all grains and seeds that can inhibit some absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc. Raw nuts and seeds also contain enzyme inhibitors that are neutralized by germination.

If you choose to soak your nuts and seeds, please follow these general guidelines:

  1. Getting ready: Use raw, preferably organic, nuts and seeds. Make enough for three days only. Use a glass or stainless steel bowl or jar (plastics may contain toxins). Rinse your nuts or seeds (purified or distilled water is generally preferred).

  2. Soak them: Place your nuts and seeds in in the bowl or jar and then cover it with something breathable, like a towel or pantyhose. Let them soak according to the following schedule (all times approximate).

    • Almonds, germination time 8 – 12 hours at room temperature
    • Cashews, whole, germination time 2 – 2 1/2 hours at room temperature
    • Sesame seeds, germination time 8 hours at room temperature
    • Sunflower seeds, germination time 2 hours at room temperature
    • Walnuts, germination time 4 hours at room temperature
    • All other nuts, germination time 6-24 hours at room temperature

    Over the course of the soaking, drain and rinse the nuts or seeds two (2) or three (3). Each time you do this, make sure you rinse them until the water drains clear. This is especially important with nuts and seeds that soak for longer amounts of time.

  3. Afterwards: After you've soaked them, you may want to do a final rinse with grapefruit seed extract or organic apple cider vinegar, as these can will clean them of bacteria without being absorbed. You now have germinated nuts and seeds! You're ready to eat them. You can store the leftovers in the refrigerator for up to three (3) days.

Vegan / Vegetarian Nuts & SeedsIf the idea of soaking your nuts and seeds seems too time-consuming an endeavor for you, don't worry—many nutrients cannot be heated out of foods, like protein, vitamin E, and fiber, which are found in ample quantities inside nuts and seeds of all kinds, both cooked and uncooked.

Resources

Where can I buy healthy vegan alternatives?
Our sister site, Vegan and Vegetarian Products Guide, lists hundreds of tasty alternatives to dairy, eggs, meat, pet food, supplements, and more that can be found in many grocery stores.

Disclaimer
This web site is intended for information purposes only and is not intended to be professional medical advice. This site is provided by health-minded volunteers, not professionals. Always confirm the information you read with verified medical journals and articles before using the information. Always seek the advice of your physician, dietician, or other qualified health provider before changing your diet or taking supplements.

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The information above is for informational purposes only.
Always remember to talk to your physician if you have questions or plan on changing your diet.


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