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Natural Weight-Loss Foods: Nuts and Seeds PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 19 January 2009 06:47

Most nuts and seeds are high in fat, but that isn't necessarily bad, as long as you stay in control. Eating portion-controlled amounts of the good kind of fat can placate your cravings and keep you from over-indulging in something far more unhealthy.

This category encompasses some foods that aren't true nuts but have similar nutrition. This includes peanuts (really legumes) and Brazil nuts and cashews, which are technically seeds.

Because almost all nuts and seeds are super high in fat, it may surprise you that we are calling them fat-fighting foods. But the fat is unsaturated and may actually aid weight loss and does have disease-fighting properties. As long as you can restrain yourself, nuts and seeds can indeed be fat-fighters and help with weight loss. By taking the place of more traditional
protein sources, nuts and seeds can actually reduce the saturated fat and calories in your overall diet.

Nutritional Values

Peanut Butter,

Smooth Style

Serving Size: 2 Tbsp
Calories: 188
Fat: 16 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g

Monounsaturated fat: 8 g

Polyunsaturated fat:

5 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg

Carbohydrate: 7 g
Protein: 8 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 147 mg
Niacin: 4 mg
Vitamin E: 3 mg
Copper: ,1 mg
Magnesium: 50 mg
Manganese: ,1 mg
Phosphorus: 115 mg
Potassium: 208 mg
Zinc: 1 mg

Serving Size: 1 oz (14 halves)
Calories: 185
Fat: 18 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g

Monounsaturated fat: 3 g

Polyunsaturated fat: 13 g (omega-3 fat 2.5 g)
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 4 g
Protein: 4 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 1 mg
Copper: ,1 mg
Iron: ,1 mg
Magnesium: 45 mg
Phosphorus: 98 mg
Zinc: ,1 mg
Folate: 28 mcg

Sunflower Seed Kernels
Serving Size: 1 oz. dry roasted with salt
Calories: 165
Fat: 14 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g

Monounsaturated fat: 3 g

Polyunsaturated fat: 9 g

Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 7 g
Protein: 5 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 116 mg
Folic Acid: 67 mcg
Niacin: 1 mg
Vitamin E: 14 mg
Copper: ,1 mg
Iron: 1 mg
Magnesium: 36 mg
Manganese: 1 mg
Phosphorus: 323 mg
Zinc: 2 mg

Health Benefits

Nuts and grains are high in protein and nutrients, though their fat content (75 to 95 percent of total calories) means you shouldn't eat too many at a time. Macadamia, the gourmet of nuts, is the highest in fat. Walnuts and Brazil nuts are your best bet because they're rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Of all the nuts, peanuts provide the most complete protein. Other nuts are missing the amino acid lysine. But all are easily complemented by grains. As an alternative protein source, they also provide a good dose of healthy fats, including oleic acid, the healthy fat found in olive oil. Peanuts are rich in antioxidant polyphenols like those found in berries. Studies indicate that roasting actually increases the amount of polyphenol called p-coumaric, making roasted peanuts a true protector of cells.

Research has heartened nut lovers. Studies at Loma Linda University in California found that eating nuts five times a week (about two ounces a day) lowered participants' blood cholesterol levels by 12 percent. Walnuts were used, but similar results have been reported with almonds and peanuts. It appears that replacing saturated fat in the diet with the monounsaturated fat in nuts may be the key. It makes sense, then, to eat nuts instead of other fatty foods, not just to gobble them down on top of your regular fare.

Some nuts, notably walnuts and Brazil nuts, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may contribute further to the fight against heart disease and possibly even arthritis. These healthful nuts also may play a role in weight loss and help you manage your weight better. Also, seeds and some nuts contain significant amounts of
vitamin E. As an antioxidant, vitamin E can help prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which can damage arteries. More heartening news: Seeds are a good source of folic acid. Researchers have found that folic acid helps prevent the buildup of homocysteine. High levels of this amino acid have been linked to heart disease, dementia, and broken bones in people with osteoporosis. Eat plenty of folate to keep your homocysteine levels in check.

Seeds, peanuts, and peanut butter are super sources of niacin. Nuts are chock-full of hard-to-get minerals, such as copper, iron, and zinc. Seeds are among the better plant sources of iron and zinc. Iron helps your
blood deliver oxygen to your muscles and brain, while zinc helps boost your immune system. And nuts do their part to keep bones strong by providing magnesium, manganese, and boron.

One caution: Toxicity problems do not usually occur from eating foods, only from taking too much of a vitamin or mineral in supplement form. However, Brazil nuts contain an astonishingly high amount of selenium: about 70 to 90 micrograms per nut. In 2000 the National Academy of Sciences set the tolerable upper limit (UL) for selenium at 400 micrograms per day for adults. So, go easy on Brazil nuts, eating maybe one or two per day since you get selenium from other
food sources, too.

Selection and Storage

Fresh nuts are available in fall and winter. Seeds and shelled nuts are available year-round, but check for a freshness date. If you buy bulk, they should smell fresh, not rancid. Aflatoxin, a known carcinogen produced by a mold that grows naturally on peanuts, can be a problem, so discard those that are discolored, shriveled, moldy, or taste bad.

Aflatoxin ingestion has been virtually eliminated, though, thanks to current storage and handling methods. Plus, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enforces a ruling stating that no more than 20 parts per billion of aflatoxin are allowed in foods. If purchasing raw peanuts or grinding your own peanut butter from raw peanuts, check to see that they have been stored in a cool (less than 85 degrees Fahrenheit), dry place. Roasted peanuts have a lower risk of containing aflatoxin. Use dry roasted ones so you don't have less-than-healthy fats mixing with the healthful oils in the peanuts themselves.

Because of their high fat content, you must protect nuts from rancidity. Unshelled nuts can keep for a few months in a cool, dry location. But once they're shelled or the container is opened, refrigerate or freeze them. Seeds with the hulls intact keep for several months if cool and dry; seed kernels don't keep as long.


Natural Weight-Loss Foods: Peppers

Peppers don't have that spicy image for nothing. This vegetable is an excellent way to spice up otherwise bland dishes, keeping you interested in your new healthy-eating lifestyle.

Peppers come in a beautiful array of colors and shapes. They add flavor, color, and crunch to many low-calorie dishes.

Health Benefits

Nutritional Values

Red Sweet Bell Pepper, Fresh
Serving Size: 1/2 cup sliced Calories: 12
Fat: 0 g
Saturated Fat: ,1 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 3 g
Protein: ,1 g
Dietary Fiber: 1 g
Sodium: 1 mg
Vitamin A:
 green pepper 170 IU
 red pepper 1,440 IU
Vitamin C:
green pepper 37 mg
red pepper: 87 mg
Iron: <1 mg
green 268 mcg
red: 1,146

Hot Chili Pepper,

Fresh Serving Size: 1 pepper
Calories: 18
Fat: ,1 g
Saturated Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 4 g
Protein: 1 g
Dietary Fiber: <1 g
Sodium: 4 g
Vitamin A:
  green pepper: 538 IU
  red pepper: 428 IU
Vitamin C: 64 mg

All peppers are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, but red peppers are simply bursting with them.
Antioxidant vitamins A and C help to prevent cell damage, cancer, and diseases related to aging, and they support immune function. They also reduce inflammation like that found in arthritis and asthma. Vitamin K promotes proper blood clotting, strengthens bones, and helps protect cells from oxidative damage.

Red peppers are a good source of the carotenoid called lycopene, which is earning a reputation for helping to prevent prostate cancer as well as cancer of the bladder, cervix, and pancreas. Beta-cryptoxanthin, another carotenoid in red peppers, is holding promise for helping to prevent lung cancer related to smoking and secondhand smoke.Besides being rich in phytonutrients, peppers provide a decent amount of


Hot peppers' fire comes from capsaicin, which acts on pain receptors, not taste buds, in our mouths. Capsaicin predominates in the white membranes of peppers, imparting its "heat" to seeds as well. The capsaicin in hot peppers has been shown to decrease blood cholesterol and triglycerides, boost immunity, and reduce the risk of stomach ulcers. It used to be thought that hot peppers aggravated ulcers. Instead, they may help kill bacteria in the stomach that can lead to ulcers.Both hot and sweet peppers contain substances that have been shown to increase the body's heat production and oxygen consumption for about 20 minutes after eating. This is great news; it means your body is burning extra

calories, which helps weight loss.

Selection and Storage

Sweet peppers have no capsaicin, hence no heat. They do have a pleasant bite, though. Bell peppers are most common. Green peppers are simply red or yellow peppers that haven't ripened. As they mature, they turn various shades until they become completely red. Once ripe, they are more perishable, so they carry a premium price. But many people favor the milder taste that these varieties provide. Cubanelles, Italian frying peppers, are a bit more intense in flavor and are preferred for roasting or sauteeing.

Hot chili peppers, or chilies (the Mexican word for peppers) are popular worldwide. Ripe red ones are usually hotter than green ones. Still, shape is a better indicator of heat than color. Rule of thumb: the smaller, the hotter.

For example, the poblano, or ancho, chile is fatter than most peppers and only mildly hot. Anaheim , or canned "green chilies," are also fairly mild. Jalapeno is a popular moderately hot pepper. Among the hottest are cayenne, serrano, and tiny, fiery habanero.

With all peppers, look for a glossy sheen and no shriveling, cracks, or soft spots. Bell peppers should feel heavy for their size, indicating fully developed walls.

Store sweet peppers in a plastic bag in your refrigerator's crisper drawer. Green ones stay firm for a week; other colors go soft in three or four days. Hot peppers do better refrigerated in a perforated paper bag.

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