As part of our ongoing education to help our readers find natural ways for immune support, we focus on nuts and seeds. We spotlight these crunchy morsels as sources of B-vitamins, zinc, selenium, vitamin E, antioxidants, prebiotic fibers and healthy fats. All nuts and seeds are great source of plant-based proteins, which support and protect the immune system at the cellular level and rid the body of damaged cells. Nuts and seeds are particularly high in the following nutrients:
Food sources of B-vitamins (B1, B6 and folate) are necessary to fight off infection and reduce inflammation commonly associated with chronic health conditions. Pistachios are particularly high in B1 and B6 nutrients. Almonds and flaxseeds contain good amounts of folate, which is important for DNA repair.
Zinc and selenium in foods provide nutrients that support the body’s master antioxidant, called glutathione, which is critical for immunity and cell signaling. Pine nuts, peanuts, cashews and almond contain zinc for immune support and body tissue reparation. Brazil nuts are a beneficial source of selenium, which strongly influences inflammation and immune response.
Nuts and seeds contain both alpha-tocopherols and gamma-tocopherols, which are forms of vitamin E that reduce inflammation. Sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, and pine nuts contain alpha-tocopherols. While gamma tocopherols are in English and black walnuts, sesame seeds, pecans, pistachios, flaxseed, and pumpkin seeds. One ounce of sunflower seeds contains 2/3rds of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin E, while the same volume of almonds contains half the RDA. The body needs 15mg of vitamin E per day, but most people do not get enough to meet this requirement (Read more here).
Prebiotics and fiber are important aspects of immune health. Nuts contain beneficial prebiotic fibers that improve gut microbiome diversity and support healthy probiotic gut bacteria, which enhances the immune system and protects against infection.
Seeds like chia, flax, pumpkin and hemp are abundant in healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, as well as important amino acids for overall immune function.
Nuts and Seeds In Your Daily Diet
Other than snacking, how else can you add nuts and seeds to your daily eating habits? Here are a few ideas you may not have considered:
- Thicken soups/Add water soaked and then pureed nuts to your favorite soup to thicken it, in place of cream or rice. Almonds, pistachios, and hazelnuts need about 8 hours of soaking, softer nuts like cashews, macadamias, and pine nuts need 2-4 hours of soaking and nuts like pecans, walnuts and Brazil nuts need only about an hour of soaking time. See our Food as Medicine EBook for a creamy vegan mushroom soup recipe with cashews.
- Add protein to non-dairy smoothies/If you’ve switched to nut or grain milks, they don’t always contain a significant amount of protein, B-vitamins or other important micronutrients. Add nuts or seeds to your smoothies to add important nutrients, boost the protein levels and increase satiety.
- Create a nut confit/Instead of roasting nuts in an oven, infuse them in olive oil for a rich flavor and texture tender. Try this recipe from Cooking Light. Serve the drained nuts on a cheese board, in salads and as a meat replacement. Save the infused oil to season vegetables, salads and baked goods).
- Wait! Don’t toss out squash and melon seeds, instead roast the seeds from winter squash and summer melons. It’s a fun kid’s cooking project and tasty nutritious snack. See our recipe here.
- Use ground nuts in place of flour/While almond flour is all the rage, other nut flours are just as tasty. The Italians have been using chestnut flour for centuries in baking, fresh pastas and crepes. Pecan flour works well for gluten-free, paleo/keto brownies, cookies and batter breads. When substituting a soft wheat or gluten free flour recipe, you can easily use a 50/50 split nut flours with all-purpose wheat or gluten-free flour blends. If using all nut flours, it will take some experimentation (look for an adapted recipes online).
Roasted Carrots with Chamoy and Almonds
If you don’t know Chef Yotam Ottolenghi, consider this fair warning. Regardless of the recipe you choose from any one of his cookbooks, you are in for an intense flavor experience that puts vegetables and plant-forward recipes in the center of the plate. The following recipe is an adaptation from his recent Flavor cookbook. He transforms the humble and affordable carrot into a tantalizing pop of sweet and tart thanks to an apricot and sumac chamoy, a sauce inspired from Mexican cuisine. Recipe adapted by Kimberly Lord Stewart from Flavor cookbook (one of New York Times best cookbooks of the year, 2020).
2 lbs of carrots, washed well
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 teaspoons maple syrup
Salt and pepper
6 ounces dried apricots (we used organic sulphur dioxide free)
2 teaspoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons sumac
3 Tablespoons lime juice
1/2-to-1 teaspoon crushed chile pepper flakes
1 clove garlic
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Apricot Herb Finish
1/3 cup mint leaves, minced
1/4 cup dill, minced
6 dried apricots (organic sulphur dioxide free), thinly sliced, scissors work well
1/3 cup roasted, salted almonds, roughly chopped
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons lime juice
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Scrub carrots well, remove tops and cut on an angle into 2-3 inch stubs.
- Stir together olive oil, maple syrup in bowl and toss with carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Spread on pan and roast in hot oven for about 15-18 minutes until caramelized but still a bit firm (watch carefully as ovens vary).
- Meanwhile, place chamoy ingredients in a food processor. Puree until a slightly lumpy paste forms.
- When carrots are cooked, place in a serving bowl and toss with chamoy.
- Stir together mint, dill, sliced apricots, chopped almonds, olive oil and lime juice. Stir into carrots. Season with salt and pepper.