Humanity's culinary chameleon and a death sentence for some, seeds and nuts have nourished our ancestors since the very beginning! Everyone these days talk about glow-ups, but no one and nothing has had a glow-up that seeds and nuts have. Look at a package of anything, and there will likely be a nut or seed in the ingredient list somewhere. So, if you're in the 1.8% of the population that is allergic to seeds and/or nuts, this article is informational, at least. But, to the rest of us, buckle up... it's about to get delicious.
Seeds & Nuts: A History
Researchers at Auburn University have found skeletal anomalies in human skulls recovered in Africa. The anomalies come from changes in the skeletal structure around the premolars of our ancestors. This points to the fact that they ate vast quantities of hard-shelled nuts and seeds in lean seasons when their preferred means of sustenance was scarce. Researchers have dated these remains to well over two million years ago. So, seeds and nuts have really been with us from the beginning.
Now, fast forward to today! Thanks to global supply chains, internet shopping, and improved technology, every type of seed or nut you could ever want are at your fingertips. A simple trip to your local grocery store will have you spitting sunflowers on the diamond, drinking peanut butter whiskey or TazaRay Sunflower Spirits, spreading any sort of nut/seed butter you can imagine on power seed bread, having a dessert of seed cakes, and checking millions of pre-packaged items to make sure they don't contain them (which most do).
While seeds and nuts exist in virtually every cultural cuisine, let's take a look at some statistics.
The US, far and away, is the largest exporter of edible nuts. Fun fact: Germany is the world's largest edible nuts and seeds importer.
Ok, but how about consumption? Well, with the US leading the way in growing and exporting, let's look at our consumption rates.
If you want to see a graphical representation of what pop culture/fad diets do to an industry, look no further. Coming out of the fat-free 90s, the average American consumed around 2.6lbs of nuts and seeds a year. Twenty years later, we have a much better understanding of the health benefits of the fats locked away in seeds and nuts. Of course, this is in moderation. However, the average American now takes in more than 5lbs of nuts and seeds annually.
Unshelling The Health Facts On Nuts & Seeds
In one scant ounce of mixed nuts and seeds, you'll find:
Fat: 16g. Most of it (9g) is monounsaturated fat.
Protein: 5g (not too shabby for a handful of plant matter)
Selenium (56% RDI): This protects you from signs of aging, heart disease, and even some forms of cancer. Selenium also helps boost the immune system; Brazil nuts are the best mineral source in the whole store! Just one of those bad boys has 100% of your RDI.
Copper (23% RDI): I come from a long line of electricians. Copper is important, but not just for your energy needs. It assists in creating red blood cells, bolstering bones, and improving our nervous response.
Phosphorus (13% RDI): Aids in the formation of bones and teeth and plays an essential role in how the body uses carbohydrates and fats.
Magnesium: (16% RDI) Vital for energy creation, protein formation, gene maintenance, muscle movement, and nervous system regulation.
I would like to note that carb content varies between the different seeds and nuts. Our friend, the delicious cashew, has 8g of digestible carbs as compared to just two or three in other nuts.
Aids In Weight Loss
This one comes with a big disclaimer. Seeds and nuts are NOT low-calorie food. I mean, fourteen almonds have as many calories as well... just look!
So, how does this work? Well, you don't actually absorb all those nutrition facts listed on your favorite pack of nuts. A portion of the fat that makes these treats so calorically dense stays trapped within the fiber of the nuts and seeds as you eat them. That means that you're getting full off of a handful of nuts and seeds that stick around for a while after you ingest them. Not only are you unable to absorb all the calories they offer, but they also keep you from filling up on other snacks that stack the scale against you.
Not only that but certain seeds and nuts can also aid in lowering triglyceride levels and raising your HDL (the "good" cholesterol). Notably, pistachios do a great job with the former while almonds and hazelnuts handle the latter.
There you have it! Nuts and seeds have sustained us since time immemorial. Luckily, we dno longer have to forage or shell our own. So head on down to your local grocery mart, and pick up some of these healthy snack items. Use them in recipes, set them out in bowls, make your own butters, or just enjoy them the next time you try to figure out what you want out of the pantry.
Finally, as a Southerner born and raised, I leave you with this.