Nuts and seeds are one of the six food groups for a balanced vegan diet. Other healthy fats like avocado, coconut, olives, and oils also fit within the category.
This article explores the health benefits of nuts and seeds, their nutritional value, and why vegans should include them in their diet!
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- What are Nuts? What are Seeds?
- Health Benefits of Nuts and Seeds
- Nutrition Content of Nuts and Seeds
- Why It’s Important to Eat Nuts and Seeds as a Vegan
- List of Nuts and Seeds to Include in a Vegan Diet
- How to Include More Nuts and Seeds into Your Diet
- Recipes Using Nuts and Seeds
- Summary: Nuts and Seeds for Vegans
What are Nuts? What are Seeds?
Technically, nuts are defined as the fruit or seed of a plant encased in a hard shell. Seeds are the part of a plant whose purpose is to grow into a new plant.
Botanical definitions aren’t necessarily relevant for classifying food groups. In the culinary and nutrition world, we categorize foods based on their nutrient content and use in recipes.
Nuts and seeds, rich in healthy fats, are grouped together due to their similar culinary applications.
Health Benefits of Nuts and Seeds
Some of these compounds include: 2
- Phenolic acids
- Polyphenols (flavonoids, proanthocyanidins, stilbenes)
Research indicates that regular consumption of nuts and seeds is associated with reduced risk of:
- All-cause mortality 4, 5, 8, 10
- Cardiovascular disease 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10
- Total cancer risk 5, 8, 10, 14
- Some site-specific cancers 14
- Diabetes 5
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease 6
- Respiratory diseases 5, 10
Research on nut intake in relation to diabetes and cancer is mixed, with some studies showing a positive effect (whereas others are neutral and don’t show a benefit of nut consumption).
Nutrition Content of Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds contain many essential nutrients that benefit human health 1. Each nut or seed has its own unique profile of nutrients but, as a group, they typically contain:
- Vitamin E
- B-vitamins (excluding B12)
- Omega 3 fats (specifically ALA)
Including a variety of nuts and seeds in your diet can provide the widest range of nutrition 1.
Why It’s Important to Eat Nuts and Seeds as a Vegan
While nutrients found in nuts and seeds can be beneficial for both vegans and omnivores, they’re especially helpful for vegans.
Nuts and seeds provide essential nutrients that can be challenging for vegans to obtain from other sources. This includes plant-based protein, healthy fats (including omega 3s), vitamin E, zinc, iron, calcium and selenium.
This is why I consider nuts and seeds as one of the six food groups for a balanced vegan diet.
Since nuts and seeds offer plenty of healthy fats, other plant-based sources of fats also fall within this food group.
List of Nuts and Seeds to Include in a Vegan Diet
You can include many delicious nuts and seeds into your vegan diet.
Some fantastic choices for nuts include:
- Pine nuts
- Brazil nuts
- Macadamia nuts
There are also lots of seeds suitable for a vegan diet including:
- Chia seeds
- Flaxseeds (aka linseeds)
- Sesame seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Poppy seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
Nut and seed butters, made by blending one or more nuts and seeds together, can also be a delicious and creamy addition to a vegan diet!
How to Include More Nuts and Seeds into Your Diet
Nuts and seeds are incredibly easy to add to your daily diet. Keeping a variety of nuts and seeds on hand makes it convenient to add them to your meals.
My best tips for including more nuts and seeds into your diet include:
- Keep a jar of seeds on the counter: Having a jar of chia, hemp and/or ground flaxseed serves as a reminder to sprinkle seeds on your breakfast or snacks.
- Use nuts and seeds as a garnish: Nuts and seeds make a tasty garnish for dishes like stir fry, curry, soups, wraps, oatmeal, and smoothie bowls.
- Add them to salads: Nuts and seeds add a nice crunch, healthy fats and protein to salads, making them more satisfying.
- Include nut and seed butters in sauces, dips, soups and spreads: Use nut and seed butters to add creaminess to any sauce (including salad dressings), soups, dips or spreads! Or, simply spread some nut or seed butters onto whatever you are eating that could use a boost of healthy fats!
- Get snacking: When making a balanced snack, nuts and seeds can provide the necessary fat and protein for a filling and satiating option.
- Make vegan cheese alternatives: Homemade vegan cheese alternatives often use nuts and seeds to create a creamy, rich flavor and texture. Homemade vegan Parmesan is a super easy way to start learning how to make vegan cheese substitutes at home!
Recipes Using Nuts and Seeds
If you’re looking for tasty recipes that feature nuts or seeds, here’s some of my favorites:
- Sunflower seed “parmesan”
- Avocado peanut butter banana smoothie
- Tahini pasta sauce
- Cashew mayonnaise
- Cucumber rolls with pistachio-avocado filling
- Kale salad with almonds and miso-tahini dressing
- Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies
- Vegan pesto with spinach and walnuts
- Lentil walnut tacos
Summary: Nuts and Seeds for Vegans
Nuts and seeds are a valuable addition to balanced vegan diets and offer numerous health benefits. They provide a range of essential nutrients that can be challenging to get enough as a vegan.
Including a variety of nuts and seeds in your vegan diet can provide the widest range of nutrition. There are many ways to incorporate nuts and seeds into your meals, so explore recipes and find what works best for you!
Always speak with a doctor before changing your diet or taking new supplements. Please read our full website disclaimer.
About Nicole Stevens
Nicole is a vegan Registered Dietitian (RD) and founder of Lettuce Veg Out.
She helps people thrive on a vegan diet with balanced recipes and easy-to-understand nutrition science.