Pumpkin seeds are promoted by the World Health Organization for their zinc content. Zinc is a natural immune booster. Pumpkin seeds also contain a wide variety of vitamin E. Alpha-tocopherol is the most known type of vitamin E, but new types of vitamin E are being discovered in pumpkin seeds such as gamma- and delta-tocopherol, and alpha- and gamma- tocomonoenol. Vitamin E offers excellent support for the skin, eyes, and immune system. The research into these new types of vitamin E is revealing additional anti-oxidant effects as well.
Hemp hearts (often called hemp seeds) are a described as superfoods for a reason. The plant itself is eco-friendly, able to grow almost anywhere with little water and without fertilizer. It can also help with soil erosion control, among many other environmental benefits. Hemp hearts contain 21 amino acids, including 9 essential amino acids (“essential" meaning your body cannot produce it itself and must come from diet), making it source of complete protein. In fact, 4 tablespoons of this superfood contains a whopping 15 grams of protein.
Walnuts contain rare phytonutrients that act as powerful anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories. Studies have shown a decrease in both prostate and breast cancers in relation to increased walnut consumption. These little treasures are also high in omega-6, important for brain and nerve function, so are a good vegan substitute for fish oils.
Almonds are an excellent source of monounsaturated fats which have been shown to prevent heart disease by 30-45 percent when substituted for equivalent servings of carbohydrates, meat and/or dairy. Adding almonds to an already healthy diet has also been shown to lower LDL cholesterol (the cholesterol most often associated with atherosclerosis and heart disease). Yet another heart-healthy reason to eat almonds: ¼ cup contains 40 percent of recommended daily dose of vitamin E, which has strong anti-oxidant effects.
Although each of these foods has its own special characteristics, many of their health benefits overlap. The point is, the more we vary our food intake, the wider array of health benefits we receive. The good news is that nuts and seeds are very easy to incorporate into the diet. They can be wonderful additions to salads or stir-fries, or included in baked goods. Nut and seed butters can be added to smoothies or dressings and they make delicious sweet or savory pie crusts. Vegan creams and pâtés are nut-based as well...the list goes on! Now let's get in the kitchen and PLAY!
Heather Goodspeed-Walters is a chiropractor, food photographer, marathon runner, wife, and mother. She has sustained a 75-pound weight loss for 18 years through healthy eating and is passionate about teaching others the joy and deliciousness of healthy foods. Dr. Heather currently resides and practices in Nevada City, California. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org