Add nuts, seeds & beans to cooking with ease
As plant-based diets begin to soar in popularity, so do vegetarian plant proteins such as beans, nuts and seeds. The stumbling block for some people remains “what do I do with those ingredients??” Here’s your primer on why you want more of these tasty little morsels in your diet, and what to do with them!
Eat more plants
The term “plant-based diet” describes people who make most of their meals out of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and replace meat and poultry with beans, nuts and seeds. Evidence-based dietary patterns like the Mediterranean Diet, DASH Diet and MIND Diet are all largely plant-based meal plans. Studies show that these diets can help reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, high blood pressure and some types of cancer.
What is it about these plant-based foods that makes them so effective at battling disease? It’s not just one thing. Rather, it’s the synergy of healthy fats (including omega 3s), antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber, which work together to protect our health. Plus, when we eat more of these whole, real, plan-based foods, we leave less room in the diet for processed foods and less nutritious animal-based foods, such as deli meat, hot dogs and ice cream (sorry, ice cream!)
Pulses, beans, lentils, legumes – the terms are thrown around in every article you read about healthy eating. But, the items are not making it onto our plates. Soybeans are popular in China and Japan, and lentils and chickpeas are popular in India, but North America and Europe are slow to catch up!
Eating legumes a few times a week can help lower LDL cholesterol levels, reducing heart disease risk. Beans are affordable, readily available, non-perishable and are filled with protein, fiber and a slew of vitamins and minerals. They can be purchased in three ways (listed from most to least convenient!):
- Canned: the most convenient way – simple pop the top, rinse and add to a salad. When choosing canned beans, look for varieties with no added salt, and use your own seasoning.
- Frozen: lima beans and edamame (soy beans) are freezer staples, but chickpeas and kidney beans are making their way to the freezer section too. In five minutes, these can be boiled and ready to eat.
- Raw: You can buy beans in bulk bins and bags, but they require cooking (a lot of it!) before they are edible. This is the least expensive but most time-consuming method. Beans need to be soaked and boiled – often for an hour or more. A pressure cooker cuts down on cooking time (if you have one). Note: lentils do not require soaking and they cook in the fastest time!
Once ready to use, try beans in some of these recipes:
- Broccoli & lentil salad with turmeric yogurt dressing
- Black bean enchilada soup
- Chickpea & cauliflower curry
- Sweet & smoky lentils
Go nuts for nuts
Almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, pine nuts and hazelnuts are examples of nuts, and they all come with health benefits. In fact, there’s no single nut that’s better than the others, since they each are high in a particular nutrient! Go for mixed nuts to get the best benefits:
|Almonds||Calcium, vitamin E, fibre|
|Cashews||Vitamin K, iron, zinc|
|Pistachios||Potassium, vitamin B6|
Nuts have been well-researched for their health benefits. Studies show that just a small handful of mixed nuts (about 20 grams) daily can help lower heart disease and cancer risk by 20 percent. So, what are you waiting for? You can buy them in bulk, box or bag, and eat them straight out of the container – no prep required! Aim for 1 oz. (1/4 cup) serving size (it’s easy to overindulge!)
Crunchy and versatile, add nuts to your salads, soups, trail mix, breakfast bowls, stews and more. Get started here:
- Fish tacos with walnut slaw
- Quinoa kale risotto with pistachios
- Pecan-crusted chicken
- Almond coconut chocolate chip no-bake balls
So many seeds
Nuts often get all of the attention, but seeds boast many of the same health benefits. Smaller in size, they have different culinary uses, but offer the same value in reducing heart disease, diabetes and cancer risk. Here are six favourites:
|Chia||Omega-3 fat, protein, magnesium, antioxidants|
|Flax||Omega-3 fat, fibre, B-vitamins|
|Hemp||Omega-3 fat, protein, potassium|
|Sesame||Calcium, magnesium, iron|
|Sunflower||Vitamin E, selenium|
Like nuts, they are ready to use when you buy them, but their flavour benefits when you lightly toast them in the oven or in a skillet.
A few notes on culinary use:
- Chia seeds absorb a ton of water. Ever feel constipated? A tablespoon of those and lots of water will do the trick! Use them in overnight oats, puddings, smoothies or anything else with liquid.
- Flax seeds should be ground to release the nutrients inside the tiny shell, otherwise they may go through the gastrointestinal tract undigested.
Try these recipes:
- Berry chia overnight oats
- Veggie hemp summer rolls
- Winter squash soup with spicy toasted pumpkin seeds
Cara’s book, Nourish: Whole Food Recipes featuring Seeds, Nut and Beans, is available on Amazon.
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