As Christmas approaches, the supermarkets and farmers markets are full of in-shell nuts. In shell as opposed to shelled are a good option for 2 very good reasons:
1. The very process of cracking a nut and fishing out the juicy fresh flesh from the shell, will greatly slow how quickly you eat and subsequently how many you eat. Whatever we’re eating we should eat slowly, chew well and focus on what we are eating rather than mindlessly stuffing, barely chewing and not paying attention to our food. Unconscious eating invariably leads to significant over eating but also greatly affects your whole digestive capacity. If you barely chew and are not connected with what you’re eating, the digestive system does not fully register, resulting in poor digestion and absorption of the nutrients in your food. It can also lead to irritation within the digestive tract that can eventually lead to irritable bowel syndrome.
2. Freshly cracked nuts ensures the healthy fats contained within nuts are in prime condition. Omega 6 and omega 3, the 2 essential fatty acids found in various foods and nuts in particular, are very volatile, meaning they spoil easily. Heat, light and oxygen will affect the quality and taste of these very beneficial fats, so the sooner they are eaten post-shelling, the better. Walnuts are especially high in the omega oils and subsequently go off very readily. When you eat some pre-shelled walnuts, give them a sniff. If they smell stale and sour, the fats have turned rancid and nasty and need to be disposed of. All nuts can go off like this, but walnuts are especially vulnerable.
Whole nuts are a really well-balanced food. They are highly nutritious, containing good levels of vitamins and minerals while also offering gut-friendly fibre, tissue building protein and brain-balancing healthful fats. There are some carbohydrates in most nuts, providing energy, but crucially, the impact on your blood sugar when eating nuts is minimal due to the fat, protein and fibre slowing the release of the carbohydrates hitting the bloodstream.
Chestnuts are by far the highest in carbohydrates and lowest in fat, so they do not fit the usual nutritional profile of nuts. Macadamia nuts have the highest fat and lowest carb content. Macadamias or choc-full of highly beneficial mono-unsaturated fats, making them a really healthy snack opinion –a few go a long way.
Brazil nuts are unique for their selenium content – a mineral generally lacking in our foods these days, and essential for a healthy immune system and for thyroid function.
Almonds are probably one of the most balanced and overall nutritious nuts, even better if soaked in water overnight at room temperature. This is true of all nuts and seeds as they are dehydrated before packaging to extend shelf life.
By soaking, you re-hydrate the nuts, making them gentler on digestion as the enzymes inside the nuts become active, making it far easier for your body to breakdown and absorb the nutrients in the nuts. This is true of seeds too.
Almond flour (ground almonds) is a common and very healthy substitute for flour (it will make a heavier, more moist bake, but far better for you) and nut butters (almond, cashew, hazelnuts) rather than peanut butter (a pulse not a nut), are a lovely addition to smoothies, to put on a piece of apple to make a very nutritious snack, or mix with coconut oil, cacao powder and dates for tasty energy bombs.
So dig out the nut cracker – or invest in a new, good one – a decent nut cracker greatly enhances the pleasure of freshly cracking your nuts.