Nuts in the Vegetarian Diet

Nuts and seeds are a major source of protein in the vegetarian diet, as well as a very good source of most of the B vitamins, the antioxidant vitamin E, and many of the major and trace minerals, such as copper, iron, manganese, and zinc.

Because they are a concentrated source of energy, nuts are also a significant source of fat and calories. However, the fats present in nuts are the heart-healthy kind. The calories should not be an issue, if you eat them in moderation, or eat them instead of another protein or fat source, rather than in addition to. For instance, spread some nut butter on a whole grain cracker instead of having a slice of cheese with it.

There are plenty of nuts to choose from to add a little crunchy variety to the vegetarian diet. All of them are available from NutsOnline.

Healthy Snacks with NutsOnline!

Almonds – One serving provides over 100% of the RDA for vitamin E and manganese. They make a great addition to granolas, pilafs, and salads, homemade dark chocolate almond bark, and are delicious roasted with spices.

Brazil Nuts – One serving of Brazil nuts provides thirty times (!) the RDA for selenium, and over 100% of the RDA for copper and magnesium. They pair well with fruit for a healthy snack.

Cashews – Cashews are a good source of vitamin K. Their texture is creamy, making them ideal for sauces, spreads, and pestos, but not for baking, as they become very soft.

Hazelnuts (Filberts) – One serving of hazelnuts provides over three times the RDA for manganese. Try them with green beans in place of those crunchy fried onions at the holiday table.

Peanuts – technically a member of the legume family rather than a nut. One serving of peanuts provides over 100% of the RDA for manganese. Part of a popular, spicy sauce in Thai cuisine. Delicious spread on two halves of an apple or on toast. Slice up a banana and top each round with a dollop of peanut butter and a fresh blueberry.

Pecans – One serving of pecans provides two-and-a-half times the RDA of manganese. In addition to being a staple food of the American South (pecan pie, praline candy), they’re my favorite part of those cans of roasted, salted mixed nuts, and are a tasty alternative to walnuts in various baked goods.

Pinons (Pine Nuts) – One serving of pinons provides nearly six times the RDA for manganese. Lightly toasted, they make the best pesto of all the nuts, and a pungent addition to salads. They are integral to my version of the Mediterranean dish called Dolmas. Store in the freezer if you are not going to consume them quickly, as they go rancid faster than any other nut.

Pistachios – Pistachios are higher in iron and potassium than other nuts. Try chopping them up and making homemade dark chocolate pistachio bark for a rich, antioxidant treat. They are also tasty in pesto sauces and tossed in salads, and are featured in the Greek pastry Baklava.

Walnuts – One serving of walnuts provides twice the RDA of manganese. Walnuts are probably the most common and versatile nut you will find, baked into brownies, cakes, cookies, casseroles, pastries, and vegetarian “meat” products, as well as candied, roasted or toasted to add to salads, dips, cereal, granola, or yogurt. Store in the freezer if you are not going to consume them quickly; an unusually bitter taste is the tipoff that they have gone rancid.

A final word regarding salted nuts: Roasted/salted nuts are high in sodium. If you eat a diet that is generally low in sodium, salted nuts in moderation are not going to suddenly create a number of health problems for you. However, if you prefer not to add any additional sodium to your diet, most nuts are available raw or roasted/unsalted as well.