The skinny on nuts and seeds

A tidy combination of protein, fat and carbohydrates can be found in delicious and convenient nuts and seeds. They have been an important component of the human diet since the days when mankind survived as hunter-gatherers.

The protein content of nuts ranges from 10 percent in walnuts to 17 percent in almonds. The fat content ranges from about 35 percent in coconuts to more than 70 percent in macadamia nuts. The remainder is carbohydrates, including a significant amount of fibre. Obviously, the higher the fat content, the lower the carb count, which is one of the reasons the macadamia nut is a darling of the Low-Carb Plan.

Almonds are a rich source of calcium, and along with sunflower kernels and hazelnuts, they are particularly rich in vitamin E. Nuts also provide a long list of other nutrients, including niacin, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, zinc, copper and potassium, plus a number of phytochemicals, including many antioxidants.

After the first two weeks of Carb Reduction on the Low-Carb plan, when you can introduce nuts and seeds into your menus, you will find they make excellent snacks and are often an unexpected and tasty ingredient in a main course or vegetable dish. You can also use ground nuts and seeds in lieu of breading before baking or sautéing chicken fillets, pork or fish.

Like all good things, nuts and seeds should be eaten in moderation. An ounce of most nuts or seeds contains roughly 5 grams of net carbs.

Tasty and nutritious, nuts and seeds should be a component of any healthy nutrition programme. Numerous studies have shown that regular consumption of nuts and seeds minimises the risk of coronary heart disease. A number of epidemiological studies (research of populations over time) have shown that people who eat nuts regularly are less likely to have a heart attack than people who do not consume nuts and oil-containing seeds.

Moreover, the greater the frequency of consumption, the lower the incidence of heart attack. Lignins in seeds and nuts lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol, as do the heart-protective vitamin E, betaine and arginine.

People on low-fat diets often eliminate nuts - and with them a powerful source of omega-6 fatty acids and other nutrients. When you follow the Low-Carb Plan, one of the many culinary pleasures is being able to enjoy the multiplicity of fat-rich and nutrient-dense nuts and seeds.

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