Back in September I drastically changed my eating habits and embraced a vegetarian lifestyle with strong vegan tendencies. The choice is motivated by health and ethical reasons (not the subject of this blog post). I do want to highlight, however, that I find myself eating a much more varied diet and trying so many more new foods than I ever did as an omnivore. Because of this, I am constantly discovering new favorite foods. This post will be about one such category of food: nuts and seeds. I eat nuts and seeds every day. They are calorically concentrated and a great source of healthy fats and protein. Eat them in their whole food state to get the best benefit and see if you can't incorporate them into all three of your meals! While not a comprehensive list, here are some of my favorites, as well as how I commonly eat them. Go nuts!
Perhaps one of my favorite nuts, these little guys are harvested from pine cones and come encased in a hard coat, which is then split open to reveal nut meats. Harvesting pine nuts is very labor intensive, which unfortunately makes them pretty expensive (I pay $28/lb). They have a delicious, piney, rich taste and I enjoy adding them to pasta dishes, roasted vegetables and sauteed greens. They are also delicious in cookies, although the cost per pound may be a deterrent. Pesto recipes traditionally call for pine nuts. They are about 190 calories per ounce.
A great source of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as protein, walnuts are 185 calories per ounce, are rich in flavor with a slight bitterness. I like to use them in baked goods such as cookies, muffins and quick breads. I often add them to a lunch salad or mix them in with my oatmeal. You can toast them in your toaster very easily, it takes less than five minutes.
Enough about nuts, on to the seeds! Of all the seeds, sunflower are probably the most delicious to me. I add these to my salad nearly every day and buy them in bulk, pre-roasted and salted. I also like sunflower seed bread, but I buy that in the store and have not attempted to make it myself (yet). They are about 165 calories per ounce.
I use ground flax seeds a lot because of their healthful and useful properties. Flax seeds are the most concentrated source of omega-3 fatty acids anywhere, so I make a point of adding a tablespoon of ground flax meal to my oatmeal. It also adds a rich, nutty flavor. You can also add finely ground flax to smoothies, soups or salads and shouldn't notice much of a change in taste. Ground flax whipped with water also makes an excellent egg replacer in baking, without the cholesterol. I use it for breads and cookies, and recently made a successful and delicious batch of latkes. Ground flax is about 35 calories per tablespoon.
I use pepita or pumpkin seeds in similar ways to sunflower seeds. I like to add them to my salads, and I have also mixed them with sauteed greens and vegetables for a delicious effect. It is easy to make your own, especially in the fall and winter, when squashes are abundant. Just scoop the seeds from the gourd's center, wash in cold water and roast with salt and some oil in a hot oven. They are about 170 calories per ounce.