Nuts and Seeds for a Healthy Vegan Diet
Nuts and seeds are one of the staple food groups for a healthy plant-based diet. They’re an excellent source of nutrition for vegans and omnivores alike and are linked to positive health outcomes, especially for heart disease, weight management, certain types of cancer and mortality. Overall, most people would benefit from including more nuts and seeds into their daily routine.
This page details:
- 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 with Nuts and Seeds from Lettuce Veg Out
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What are Nuts? What are Seeds?
Technically speaking, nuts are the fruit of a plant that is surrounded by a hard shell. The botanical definition of a nut implies that this hard shell doesn’t open to release the seed.
In the culinary and nutrition world, we define foods by their application in recipes and by nutrient content. That’s why we never use the botanical definition of a fruit because that would include nuts, whole grains and many vegetables.
Seeds are a bit more self-explanatory. They are the seeds of a plant whose purpose is to grow into a new plant. Again, the culinary definition specifies seeds as being edible for human consumption.
For the purpose of this article (and everything else on this site) the culinary definition is being used. Nuts and seeds contain many similar nutrients and uses in cooking, which is why they can be grouped together into one of the six food groups for a healthy vegan diet.
Health Benefits of Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of essential nutrients while also containing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds; these can be beneficial for long term health 1, 2. Some of the compounds include: carotenoids, phenolic acids, phytosterols, polyphenols (flavonoids, proanthocyanidins, stilbenes), phytates, sphingolipids, alkylphenols, and lignans 2.
Research has found that people who consume nuts and seeds on a regular basis, compared to those who do not, have better heart health 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, weight management 16, 17, 18, 19 and lower the risk of some types of cancers 1, 8, 10, 20, 21. Eating nuts and seeds may also be helpful for those with type 2 diabetes 1, 3, 10, 13, 22 and is associated with reduced all-cause mortality 3, 4, 7, 8, 10, 15, 23.
Nutrition Content of Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds contain many essential nutrients to benefit human health 1. Each variety of nut or seed has its own unique profile of nutrients but as a group, they all typically contain:
Each individual nut or seed contains varying levels of these nutrients so including a variety in your diet can provide the widest range of nutrition 1.
Why It’s Important to Eat Nuts and Seeds as a Vegan
While the nutrients found in nuts and seeds can be beneficial for both vegans and omnivores, they are especially helpful for vegans. Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of nutrients that vegans can find challenging to consume enough of. Specifically, nuts and seeds are a great way for vegans to get in plant-based protein, healthy fats including omega 3s, vitamin E, zinc, iron, calcium, and selenium.
This is why I list nuts and seeds as one of the six food groups for a healthy vegan diet. Omnivores can also reap the benefits of including this fantastic food group into their daily routine.
I shouldn’t have to say it but if you are allergic to anything, don’t eat it.
- Pine nuts
- Brazil nuts
- Macadamia nuts
There are also many different seeds that can be part of a healthy vegan diet including:
- Chia seeds
- Flaxseeds (aka linseeds)
- Sesame seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Poppy seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
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 easy to toss them into whatever you are preparing.
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 (or a combo of any) can be a great reminder to add some seeds to your meals. Just open the jar and shake onto your breakfast or snacks!
- Use nuts and seeds as a garnish: Nuts and seeds make a tasty garnish for dishes like stir fry’s, curry, soups, wraps, oatmeal, smoothie bowls etc.
- Use them to add crunch to a salad: Nuts and seeds are a fantastic addition to salads. They add a nice crunch as well as healthy fats and protein to keep you feeling full and satisfied.
- Add nut and seed butters in sauces, dips, soups and spreads: Add nut and seed butters to add a rich 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: Often time, when people aim to make healthier snack choices, the snacks end up lacking fat and/ or protein. Adding nuts and seeds or nut and seed butters to a snack can make for a well-balanced choice.
- Make some vegan cheese alternatives: Homemade vegan cheese alternatives often use nuts and seeds to create a creamy, rich flavour and texture. Homemade vegan Parmesan is a super easy way to start learning how to make vegan cheese substitutes at home!
Summary: Nuts and Seeds for a Healthy Vegan Diet
Nuts and seeds can be a great addition to a healthy vegan diet (or any diet). Eating nuts and seeds has been associated with numerous health benefits. Nuts and seeds provide a range of nutrients that could be challenging to get enough of on a vegan diet. Eating a variety of nuts and seeds can provide the widest range of nutrition. There are many ways to incorporate nuts and seeds into your diet; find ways (and recipes) that work best for you!
- The Wonders of Nuts and Seeds
- Tree nut phytochemicals: composition, antioxidant capacity, bioactivity, impact factors. A systematic review of almonds, Brazils, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts
- Health benefits of nut consumption
- Consumption of nuts and risk of total and cause-specific mortality over 15 years
- Nut consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease risk and type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies
- Meta-analysis of prospective studies on the effects of nut consumption on hypertension and type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Nut consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis
- Nut consumption on all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of epidemiologic studies
- Nuts, hypertension and endothelial function
- Nuts and Human Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review
- Fatty acid composition of nuts – implications for cardiovascular health
- Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil or Nuts
- Benefits of Nut Consumption on Insulin Resistance and Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Multiple Potential Mechanisms of Actions
- Nut intake and stroke risk: A dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies
- Association of Nut Consumption with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
- A review of the effects of nuts on appetite, food intake, metabolism, and body weight
- The effect of the addition of daily fruit and nut bars to diet on weight, and cardiac risk profile, in overweight adults
- Nut intake and 5‑year changes in body weight and obesity risk in adults: results from the EPIC‑PANACEA study
- Nut consumption, weight gain and obesity: Epidemiological evidence
- Nut consumption and prostate cancer risk and mortality
- Intake of fiber and nuts during adolescence and incidence of proliferative benign breast disease
- Regular Consumption of Nuts Is Associated with a Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Women with Type 2 Diabetes
- Frequency of nut consumption and mortality risk in the PREDIMED nutrition intervention trial
Please note that this is a curated list of references for the topics above and is not intended to be comprehensive.
Disclaimer: it is always advised for you to speak with your doctor before making any changes to your diet; please read our full website disclaimer.