Regular readers have picked up on a theme: I eat a lot of nuts, nut oils, nut butters. Never sweetened, but often salty. Loads of almonds, sometimes raw. It’s hazelnut and walnut and grapeseed oil (along with olive oil, of course), making up my salad and cooking oil selection.
My goal of a daily first course of a cup or two of greens, dressed in a tiny bit of hazelnut or walnut oil and salt and pepper, keeps me from overeating anything else at supper time.
I counted calories, of course, while losing weight, and allowed for a full 35 to 40 percent of my calories to come from fat, so long as I knew I was getting my fat calories from good sources, from nuts and seeds and fish oils that build, rather than tear down my health. That’s a lot of calories from fat, but fighting insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes, made that a good choice for me.
Almonds and unsweetened almond butter that I get from a natural foods store are nearly a daily treat. Now that I’ve cut cracker, pretzel, and chip consumption out of my diet (well, that’s my rule anyhow, sometimes broken), almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin and sunflower seeds in the shell have taken over to fulfill the salty/crunchy craving.
I’m generally pushing deadlines at work, and rarely take the time for a proper meal. When I haven’t stopped to eat lunch, a tablespoon of almond butter a couple of times in the day will at least get me home to that pile of greens. Almost a magic food for me, a tablespoon of almond butter or an ounce of almonds will turn hunger off like a switch for a good two hours.
I don’t worry about my cholesterol count, because it’s always been really low, even when I was heavy. My nut consumption may be playing a part in that, it turns out. Studies are showing that fatty acids commonly found in nuts and seeds may help lower bad cholesterol, increase good cholesterol, help ward off heart disease.
Grapeseed oil is my new favorite cooking oil after olive oil. It has a lighter flavor and has a higher smoking point. I never fry anything, mainly because I can’t be bothered with the mess, but will quickly grill or saut‚ just about anything, for the speed and flavor. Grapeseed oil goes a long way. I use less of it, a brush on non-stick pans, when quickly cooking up asparagus, summer squashes, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, fennel, onions and peppers. It’s a ginger-flavored grapeseed oil for saut‚ed celery, one of my favorite veggies alongside pork this time of year. Grapeseed is my oil for proteins, too, especially tofu, fish and shrimp.
Because nuts helped rather than hurt my own weight loss efforts, I wasn’t surprised to see a WebMD.com article about a weight loss study that showed daily almond consumption helping a bunch of dieters lose weight more comfortably while improving their health.
It may be hard to get over the fear of nuts and seeds if you’re too young to remember life before the low-fat craze hit, because they are calorie-dense foods. But they have a place in your diet. Give them a try.
And please use moderation and the common sense you were born with when choosing and consuming your nuts and nut products. The FDA recently gave a nod to food producers who will soon label their products with a heart-healthy claim for foods containing almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, and peanuts. Proceed with caution. The healthiest nut consumption, as for any food, happens with nuts and seeds that have been handled as little as possible. Raw is best. Lightly roasted next. Oils should be cold-pressed rather than heat-expelled. And fresh, fresh, fresh. Buy in small quantities, store in cool and dark, and use these foods soon.
The soaked, slivered, sugared, parched nut flakes and nut dust you’re about to see adhered with syrups to every conceivable brand of highly processed cereal and gummy baked goods? Those won’t count for much, lovies.
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