With nuts and seeds having many beneficial health claims recently, you may have noticed that the peanut butter aisle is more diverse than a few years ago. Nuts are a rich source of monounsaturated fats, which can help decrease our internal inflammatory responses. They also contain a good source of both fiber and protein helping you feel fuller longer. Recent studies have shown that a serving of nuts may help with weight loss as it curbs appetite. Other promising research has linked improvements in cardiovascular health and a reduced risk for diabetes with modest nut consumption. Cheers to that!
You may be thinking, wait, aren't nuts and seeds high in calories?!
You are right! Now, just because they are healthy, that doesn't mean you can have a free for all on the nut jar. Watch your portion size because they are high in calories. One serving equals 1/4 cup, which is about 180 calories. You may find a variety of brands of nuts and nut spreads available with the ever expanding flavor options. Steer clear of nuts and nut butters that are candied or very salty. Make sure to read the nutrition label and choose products that have no added sugar. Another reason I'm nuts about nuts is because they are easy to take with you on-the-go! I throw some in a small container and keep them in my car or bag for a filling snack. This helps me steer clear of the baked goods aisle or grabbing a lower quality snack while out.
If you are looking for extra health benefits, such as omega-3, walnuts are the only nut containing the plant- based source ALA (also found in flaxseed, hemp, and chia seeds). Maybe you have a peanut or tree nut allergy and need an alternative? Tahini (made from ground sesame seeds) is a safe option and currently in the lime light. It can be found in desserts, salad dressings, hummus and more! Experiment with a variety of nuts and seeds to find out what works, and tastes best, for you!
Okay, we can't have a discussion about nuts and NOT talk about their delicious partner in crime, jam. If I had enough space in my refrigerator, I would have at least 5 different varieties of jam! However, jams and jellies have added sugar meaning added calories and lower quality nutritional value. When you choose jams and jelly, make sure the first ingredient is fruit. The added sweetness should preferably be from a natural juice. You could also mash up some whole fruit like strawberries, raspberries or banana and use them in place of fruit spreads. This way, you are not only getting in natural sweetness but some fiber too!
PB & J Oatmeal Bars
Makes 12-18 bars
1/2 cup unsweetened peanut butter (or almond butter)
1/4 cup honey
1/2 stick butter or 1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup oats
1/3 cup dried blueberries
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds or another favorite nut/seed
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut
pinch of salt
Melt together the peanut butter, honey and butter or oil. Remove from the heat once adequately mixed together. Add in the oats and stir until fully combine. Next, add in the remaining ingredients and mix well. Press into a 8 x 8 pan lined with parchment paper. Chill for 2 hours then cut into squares. Store in the refrigerator.