Raw nuts and seeds are loaded with protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and healthy fats and oils. They are known to help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, assist with heart health, bone density, regulate blood sugar levels, hormone levels. Nuts and seeds also have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, that help neutralize free radical damage and promote cellular renewal. They assist with colon health and encourage detoxification and elimination of wastes.
They are incredibly versatile with enormous culinary potential -- bringing a crunchy texture and gorgeous nutty flavour to stir-fries and salads, making milks, butters, dips, spreads, creams, and sauces; enriching baked goods; creaming up soups, stews and curries; binding slices, power bars, patties and burgers; topping and garnishing yoghurts, custards, cereals, and fruit; or grabbing a quick energy snack;
I have touted these nuts and seeds as "raw". However, some things that we embrace as “raw”, are not strictly raw.
A lot of nuts that are labelled “raw”, are actually not. They are simply, just “not roasted”. Most commercially produced nuts have been steamed or roasted out of their shells. However, there are some companies that adhere to very high standards of production. They harvest and shell their nuts without heating the raw nut, and split open the shells by hand or soak them, leaving the nut raw. These truly “raw” nuts are sublime. Their taste and nutritional profile is superior, leaving their substandard counterparts steaming!
But to be honest, these nuts and seeds are extremely expensive, making them cost prohibitive for most of us on an average grocery budget. I find even the most widely available “raw” nuts and seeds expensive. So for the purposes of those of us in the “mainstream world”, who are happy to slightly “lower our standards”, we will label every raw nut as “raw”.
Eating a lot of raw nuts and seeds does not agree with some people. Even those without specific nut allergies. Nuts have a lot of the amino acid arginine which can encourage viral outbreaks. Raw nuts and seeds also contain toxic enzyme inhibitors and anti-nutrients that protect the plant from germination and destruction until the ideal conditions are present. It is not until they get wet and there is sufficient moisture that they germinate, ensuring their survival. This natural protective phenomenon is a wonderful thing for the survival of the nuts and seeds. But if not neutralized before consumption by humans, it can really wreak havoc in our digestive systems if consumed in vast amounts. Have you ever noticed after eating a lot of nuts and seeds that you have a horrible stomach ache? These toxic substances that protect nuts and seeds from destruction from insects and microbes act as enzyme inhibitors, interfering with the natural human digestive process and spells bad news for our health if we get too greedy without soaking them!
Another problematic component contained in only some nuts is the presence of phytates. Phytic acid inhibits the absorption of iron, calcium, copper, zinc and magnesium, which makes it a very undesirable little pain if not properly eradicated.
I recommend soaking all raw nuts and seeds to neutralize these toxic inhibitors and activate the full nutritional potential making them much easier to digest. Read more about soaking in the resources section.
Purchase raw nuts and seeds from a health food store or online source with a high turnover to ensure maximum freshness and quality. Whole nuts that have not been shelled have the longest shelf life. Look for shells without cracks and holes that do not rattle when shaken. Shelled nuts are most widely available. Always purchase nuts that are full and plump without any shriveling. I always purchase whole shelled nuts instead of nut pieces. These have an even shorted shelf life. I prefer to use my food processor and chop them up myself or grind them as I need them. The fat content and the delicate nature of the raw fats and oils makes nuts and seeds highly susceptible to rancidity.
Always store them in a sealed glass container in the fridge and consume within a few months. Alternatively, freeze them in sealed containers for use later. Always soak, dehydrate or sprout them before consumption in order to make them the most easily digestible.
Almonds are commonly referred to as nuts. But they are technically the seeds of the fruit of the almond tree, which is closely related to the peach and apricot trees. But unlike peaches and apricots, which yield fruits with a sweet fleshy pulp around their stone-like seeds, almonds develop a hard leathery shell. It is the hard brown-skinned pit beneath this shell that we enjoy as the almond nut.
Almonds come in sweet and bitter varieties. Bitter almonds are used to make amaretto, but are not eaten raw as they contain poisons like cyanide, which must be processed and leached out before being safe for human consumption. We typically consume sweet almonds, and these are the variety most commonly available. Almonds can be purchased complete in their outer shells, or shelled -- which is the most common way to purchase them. Shelled almonds are sold raw, roasted or blanched, where they have been treated with hot water to remove the thin brown-skinned coating to reveal the creamy flesh. Blanched almonds come whole, sliced or slithered. We are really fortunate in the United States, with California producing the bulk of the world’s almonds that are of superior quality.
I absolutely love almonds. I eat them literally every single day, and utilize them in every possible way I can. I munch on them raw as a quick snack; I use them to make almond milk and almond butter for use in smoothie. I crush them to make crusts and desserts, and use almond meal and almond flour in baked goods. I use them to make LSA; as well as sprinkling them on cereals, yoghurts and custards. I will also often use blanched almonds to cream soups, stews and curries. Cold pressed organic sweet almond oil is fantastic to natural moisturizer for your skin as an alternative to coconut oil.
Almonds are loaded with essential nutrients. They are high in monounsaturated fats, which are the heart-healthy fats good for lowering high-density lipoproteins and stabilizing cholesterol levels. Better still, almonds are one of the only alkaline nuts, and have a relatively large protein content of almost 20%. Did you know that ¼ cup of raw almonds contains more protein than an egg? Raw almonds are a fantastic energy booster, and have been shown to lower the glycemic index of other foods when eaten together, and can therefore be helpful in lowering blood sugar levels and controlling diabetes. They have also been linked to gall bladder and colon health too. Almonds are also a good source of B2, magnesium, copper, manganese, phosphorus, and an excellent source of Vitamin E for healthy skin. Almonds contain over twenty different antioxidant flavanoids, which offset free radical damage. They have immune boosting and anti-inflammatory properties as well.
I always purchase and consume my almonds raw, in order to get the maximum nutritional benefit without any carcinogens. Choose fresh, good quality organic almonds from a health food store with a high turn over to ensure maximum freshness. I like places that keep their nuts in the fridge. Almonds that are still in the shells have the longest shelf life, and would be preferably stored in hermetically sealed containers. Choose shells that are not split or stained. They should smell sweet and nutty. If they smell bitter, they are rancid.
Almonds are really susceptible to rancidity because of their high fat content, so always store them in a sealed glass jar in the fridge. Then they will keep for a few months. You can freeze almonds for up to a year, but they don’t even last a week in my house! Almonds that have been broken up have an even shorter shelf life. For this reason, if I need to use blanched almonds for a recipe, I prefer to blanch my own. Just plunge in boiling water for a few minutes until the thin brown skin starts to swell. Rinse them under cold water and then rub in a tea towel, or with your bare hands. The skins should slide right off.
Roasted almonds are delicious and make a popular snack. But I never eat roasted nuts, as roasting at such high heat destroys the delicate health-promoting oils and produce carcinogens that create toxins in the body.
Almonds contain enzyme inhibitors that can be harmful to health. Always soak almonds prior to eating.
Almonds are high on the allergen list and should be avoided by people with nut allergies. However, individuals should be tested for each nut. Almonds may not affect you.
Brazil nuts are not strictly “nuts”, but seeds. The Brazil nut tree is native to South America, and is one of the many jewels from the virgin Amazon rain forests. The majority of the world’s supply is harvested in Bolivia. Brazil and Peru. Brazil nuts are picked from pristine forests in the wild, rather then from cultivated plantations. The tree envelopes the seeds and forms a large capsule-like coating similar to a coconut, that, when opened, contains a number of (about 10) three-sided shelled seeds which we know as Brazil nuts.
When shelled, these seeds are rich and creamy with a dark brown skin, and are loaded with beneficial nutrients. They are one of the richest sources of selenium (about 2,500 times more than any other nut), making them a fantastic “complete vegetarian protein” with a full amino acid profile. Just two raw Brazil nuts accounts for the daily requirement! Selenium intake has been linked to heart and prostate health, as is known to boost immunity. Some studies have also shown it to have anti-aging properties. They contain the amino acid Methionine, which promotes antioxidant production that combats free radical damage and premature aging. Brazil nuts are also a good source of calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium and Vitamin B. Like all nuts, they are a good source of protein, but are about 2/3 fat with 20% of that being saturated fat, which is one of the highest levels of vegetable saturated fats of all nuts. Brazil nuts are a good source of Omega 6 fatty acids, but should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
I really love Brazil nuts and eat just two a day for the selenium. But I don’t tend to eat them as much as some of the other raw nuts. Having said that, they are wonderful when combined with raw almonds, raw cashews and raw macadamias for dips and spreads. I also love pure Brazil nut butter with fruits and vegetable sticks, and the pig in me cries out for home made raw Brazil nut milk for smoothies and puddings.
Things to be aware of when purchasing Brazil nuts: the shells contain aflatoxins, which have been linked in some studies to liver cancer. The EU have strict importing regulations for whole Brazil nuts for this reason. Always purchase raw shelled Brazil nuts from a health food store with a high turnover to ensure maximum freshness and quality; and always store Brazil nuts in a sealed glass container in the fridge, as these nuts are even more susceptible to rancidity due to their very high fat content.
You can purchase delicious roasted salted Brazil nuts. But as with all other nuts, this greatly compromises the nutritional integrity of the nut and heating them produces carcinogens, which create toxins in the body. Brazil nuts also contain some of the highest concentrations of phytic acid and should always be soaked and dehydrated before consumption to make them more easily digestible. See my soaking for health page in the resources section.
Please note: excessive consumption of Brazil nuts can lead to selenium toxicity which can result in a metallic taste in your mouth, garlic odour in the breath, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, skin rashes and blotches, diarrhea, runny nose, cough, nerve pain, brittle nails, and hair loss. I wouldn't eat more than 1 cup a week.
Cashews are not strictly “nuts” but the seeds that dangle from the “cashew apple” fruit of the cashew tree – a jewel native to Brazil. This is good news for tree nut allergy sufferers, who may not be affected by cashews. Whilst cultivation began in Europe, it is the Portugese introduction to India that has seen them become the major international suppliers of cashews, along with some African nations. You will never find cashews in their shells. This is because the precious seeds must be removed from the drupe and the outer double layer, which contains caustic resin that is harmful to health and irritates human skin causing horrible rashes. This toxic layer is removed by either roasting, steaming or soaking.
Try to purchase raw cashews that have been soaked or hand shelled. I know they are most popular when roasted and salted. But as scrumptious as this is, roasted nuts are carcinogenic, and you will get the most nutritional value out of your cashews if you leave them raw.
Raw cashews are a great source of protein and a good source of magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, folate, vitamin E, B vitamins, and some calcium. Studies have shown cashews can help maintain heart health; protect against high blood pressure; and can also help with fatigue, headaches, muscle soreness, and spasms. They can also help to support healthy bones, teeth and muscles; and help the body utilize iron and eliminate free radicals. It is important to mention that cashews do have a high fat content. However, because of the high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids, such as oleic acid, they can assist with heart health and lowering cholesterol. Cashews are actually considered one of the low fat nuts, with a lower fat content per serve than peanuts, almonds, walnuts and pecans. They have a high energy density, and lots of dietary fibre.
I use cashews as a topping for salads, curries, and stir-fries; to crunch up fruit salads; enrich baked goods and raw treats; for making milk and and butter; as a base for creams, cheeses and sauces. I will also use a handful to bring a rich creaminess to soups, stews and curries.
There are several varieties of chesnuts which vary in size, flavour and texture -- the main varieties being European (or sweet), Japanese, Chinese and American. Don’t confuse these with Chinese water chestnuts which are actually aquatic vegetables. In the Winter (about September to February), a lot of countries in the Northern hemisphere enjoy fresh chestnuts, which are then roasted for the holiday season. The Italian chestnuts are delicious and are used widely in Italy for gelato, pastas, desserts and baked goods. But you can now find fantastic chestnuts grown in Asia, Australian and New Zealand. The chestnut industry in Victoria, Australia is growing strongly. I purchase delicious chestnut puree to make cakes.
Chestnuts can also be found in cans or jars preserved in water or syrup. You can also purchase dried chestnuts from health food stores, which can be ground into chestnut flour for use in baked goods. This way chestnuts can be enjoyed all-year round, making them a versatile addition to recipes. Chestnuts have a high water content, They have a naturally creamy, slightly sweet flavour that is quite subtle, which makes them sensational for adding moisture to cakes and breads.
Chestnuts are much lower in calories than most other nuts and seeds. They also contain very little fat, that is mostly unsaturated; but the carbohydrate content is a lot higher. Chestnuts contain a lot of starch, which is slowly converted into sugars as the plant matures. Chestnuts remain a treat food rather than a staple for me. I must admit that I don’t eat chestnuts nearly as much as the other nuts and seeds.
Chia seeds are grain-like seeds that are harvested from the Savia Hispanica plant which is related to mint. Chia has been revered for centuries as a complete superfood. It was so valuable in ancient civilizations that it was used as currency. It was a staple food in the diet of the Aztecs and the Mayans, and has gradually gained momentum in the natural health community since the 1990’s. for its superior nutritional profile and incredible culinary versatility.
Chia is whole grown containing all componants of the grain -- bran, germ and endosperm. It is grown in central and south America and is available in three major varieties – black, white or mixed. Chia is the highest plant-based source of Omega 3 fatty acids, protein and fibre. The protein has a complete amino acid profile, which is easily utilized by the body; the omega 3 to omega 6 ratio is extremely well balanced at 3:2; and the fibre is soluble. Chia is also a rich source of calcium, containing more than the same weight of dairy milk; three times more iron than spinach; fifteen times more magnesium than broccoli; and a truckload of antioxidants. It also increases endurance.
Chia seeds have a mild nutty flavour that does not alter the flavour of dishes and is very easily digested. It can be eaten raw – sprinkled or crushed over cereals, salads, stir-fries, curries and soups; or prepared in numerous ways for a variety of dishes. It makes a fantastic nutritious porridge; a wonderful binder for burgers, patties, slices and power bars; and is a phenomenal way to enrich baked goods and smoothies. Chia sprouts are also incredibly tasty for use in salads, wraps, sandwiches and stir-fries.
Chia can also be used as a gel. The seeds are highly absorbant and develop a highly gelatinous quality when soaked in water or juice. The seeds absorb up to nine times their weight in liquid. Whisk about 1 tablespoon of chia seeds into 1 cup of liquid and store in a sealed glass jar in the fridge for about a week. This gel can be added to smoothies, soups, sauces and desserts. This gel-like quality assists the body with retaining fluids and electrolytes, and helps to lower the glycemic index of foods by slowing down the conversion of complex carbohydrates to sugar. It has also been shown to aid the absorption of calcium and assist in muscle and tissue building; and bulks up food in the colon helping with cleansing and elimination. This gel also helps to boost the nutritional profile of all of your favourite foods. Chia gel increases the vitamin and mineral levels, adds protein and omega fatty acids, and promotes weight loss. I make up a batch every few days!
I also like to add chia seeds to coconut water and juice to make energizing workout drinks. I also thicken raw jam with chia seeds.
Flaxseeds, or linseeds, as they are known in Australia, come from the flowers of the flax plant and can be found whole, ground into meal, or pressed into oil. Flaxseeds look like little flat beads that are a little bit larger than sesame seeds. They have a smooth shiny appearance that is either reddish brown or amber depending on whether they are a golden or brown variety.
These little seeds may be tiny, but they pack a huge nutritional punch. Consuming raw ground flaxseeds (which makes them more available to the body) is one the best things you can do for your health. Raw flax meal is a fantastic source of essential omega fatty acids 3, 6 and 9 which have been linked to decreasing the risk of heart disease and cancer and combating inflammation. Flaxseeds are a phenomenal source of fibre – both soluble and insoluble, which helps aid digestion and colon health; lower blood pressure and cholesterol; and stabilize blood sugar levels assisting with diabetes. They are also a good source of most of the B Vitamins, magnesium and manganese. Linseeds are also high in phtyochemicals, including powerful antioxidants. They are on the richest sources of lignans that convert to substances that help balance female hormone levels in the body. Studies have shown this to prevent breast cancer, reduce menopausal symptoms, and increase fertility.
Flaxseed oils are very unstable and should never be heated. Always store flaxseeds in a glass air-tight container in the fridge and try to purchase as fresh as possible from a health food store with a high turnover. I like to look for stores that keep the flaxseeds, flax meal and oil in the fridge. I don’t purchase pre-ground flaxmeal as I don’t know how long it has been sitting in the store bins. I prefer to purchase whole flaxseeds, which have a longer shelf life, and grind my own. I use a spice or coffee grinder.
You need to grind flaxseeds in order to make the nutrients available and easily absorbed. Otherwise, they just pass through the body under-utilized. Flaxseed oil is touted as a wonderful nutritional supplement and does have enormous health benefits. However, it does not contain the phytochemicals or fibre of the whole seeds. I prefer to grind the seeds and get the oil and all of the other goodies. Flaxseeds have a subtle earthy nutty flavour, they are a wonderful way to enrich smoothies, baked goods, and raw desserts. They make a fantastic egg free binding agent in slices, bars, cakes, and desserts; and are great in breads. You can also just sprinkle the flax meal over fruit, yoghurt, ice cream, stir-fries, soups, salads, stews and casseroles. It is also one of the principle ingredients in LSA.
You will notice if I use flaxseeds in recipes, I will add it separately at the very end. This is because the soluble fibre in flaxseeds causes liquids thicken and if left sitting will alter the consistency of a batter or mixture. Stir it through or fold it in as close to baking as possible.
Hazelnuts are the nut from the Hazel tree and I don’t tend to use hazelnuts as much as other nuts. They are generally reserved for decadent treats like pralines, chocolates tortes, ice creams, hazelnut butter and chocolate spread, and chocolate pancakes!
You can eat hazelnuts raw or toasted. I don’t eat them very often and most often make a rare exception and roast them to enhance their mild sweet flavour for use in treats. I always skin them to remove the bitterness that is contained in the brown skins. You can blanch them or roll them in a tea towel to skin them. You can use hazelnuts for savoury dishes. But in my opinion, they fair better in desserts and sweet spreads.
Turkey is the largest producer of hazelnuts. But they are also harvested in the U.S, Italy, Canada, Chili, Australia and New Zealand. Having grown up in Australia, I grew up eating copious amounts of Cadbury hazelnut chocolate. In fact, Australia is on the largest importers of hazelnuts to satisfy this traditional Aussie addiction. Try making your own naturally sweetened pralines or chocolates using hazelnuts. They are to die for and slightly less naughty. Homemade hazelnut sauce made with raw cacao nibs, coconut butter, hazelnuts and sweetener is fantastic drizzled on ice cream or fruit. I do occasionally use hazelnut oil in some recipes.
You can purchase hazelnuts shelled and unshelled. Hazelnuts have a smooth, brown glossy shell that should have no cracks or holes. To check if they are fresh, pick them up and shake them. If the nut rattles inside they have lost their moisture and spoiled. Shelled hazelnuts should be plump; any shrivelled hazelnuts have passed their prime. Always purchase hazelnuts from a health food store with a high turnover, and store in the fridge or freezer. They really should be used within a month. I only purchase hazelnuts as I need them.
Hazelnuts do have a high fat content, are are considered decadent; but they are also rich in protein, dietary fibre, magnesium and B Vitamins; and have the highest antioxidant content of any nuts; and the lowest percentage of saturated fats (as well as almonds and pinenuts) of any nuts. Hazelnuts also contain significant amounts of calcium, iron and zinc; and are a good source of oleic acid and other heart-healthy fats. They are also one of the richest sources of Vitamin E; and are known to help combat heart disease and cancer.
Hemp is an incredibly powerful food, and I highly recommend including it in your weekly diet in any way possible. Hemp comes in four forms: hemp seeds, hemp protein powder, hemp oil, and hemp milk.
Hemp seeds are extremely rich in vitamins, minerals, healthy plant based fats, antioxidants, fibre, live enzymes, and natural chlorophyll. Hemp is also an amazing source of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty essential fatty acids, and contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which helps to repair tissues, particularly after exercise.
Hemp seeds also contain complete protein -- containing all 10 essential amino acids. In fact, the amino acid, Edestin is present only in hemp. This amino acid is considered integral to our DNA. Hemp is considered the closest plant based source of protein to our own human amino acid profile. Not only is hemp protein of excellent quality, it is highly digestible. It is very easily aborbed by the body, not requiring much energy, which leaves more available for muscle regeneration and fat metabolism.
Hemp protein powder is produced by pressing the raw hemp seeds, and then milling this "flour" even more finely to remove some of the starch. Hemp protein powder makes a wonderful addition to smoothies, desserts, salads, or on top of soups.
Hemp oil is cold/expeller pressed hemp seeds. This oil is incredibly delicate, and needs to be refrigerated, and once opened, consumed quite quickly to reap the full benefits. Just a tablespoon added to smoothies every day is extremely beneficial. Hemp oil should never be heated. Always consume raw.
In case you are going to ask, organic hemp milk, hemp protein powder, and hemp oil do not contain any THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) found in marijuana and are perfectly safe and legal.
Always purchase organic hemp seeds from a health food store or online source with a high turnover. Just with other raw nuts and seeds, the valuable oils are highly susceptible to rancidity, and should always be placed in the fridge, and consumed relatively quickly.
Thank you Australia, for giving us the glorious macadamia nut. I know it was Hawaii that put them on the international stage, but at the risk of sounding parochial, Australia is still the largest producer of macadamias and they are of superior quality! Aussies grow up eating macadamias – raw, salted, sweetened, chocolate covered. We will take them any way we can get them.
I use macadamias a lot to cream soups and stews; as a base for dips, spreads, salad dressings and frosting; and to enrich baked goods. They are so naturally rich, buttery and creamy that they are invaluable in the plant based world, as they lend themselves beautifully to sweet or savoury flavourings. The combine well with chocolate, vanilla, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted vegetables and herbs. My favourite decadent smoothies are made with macadamia nut milk, chocolate and banana; and try making ice cream with raw home made macadamia butter. I will occasionally eat a few as a snack. But I find them incredibly rich, and will always grab for some raw almonds first.
Raw macadamias are highly nutritious and alkalizing. They have the highest amount of the good beneficial monounsaturated fat oleic acid (omega 9) of any nut; and they are cholesterol and sodium free. Macadamia Nuts contain about 10% protein and 10% carbohydrate, which is lower than most nutty counterparts. But they contain the highest amount of selenium; second only to Brazil Nuts. And they are loaded with zinc. They contain potassium for healthy brain, metabolic function, and muscle strength; manganese, which lowers blood sugar, and aids in the absorption of calcium, and therefore, bone function; thiamin for heart health and digestive health; and fibre, which we know helps with good colon health.
The only draw back to macadamias is that they are really expensive. This is largely due to the fact that the outer kernel is so hard and difficult to crack open. You very rarely find unshelled macadamias for this reason. Macadamias are extremely high in fat and are incredibly susceptible to rancidity. They should always be purchased as freshly as possible and stored in a sealed glass container in the fridge. I mainly use them in raw dishes so as not to heat or roast them in order to preserve the delicate fats and oils. But I will puree raw macadamias into soups and stews.
This delectable nut comes from the fruit of Hickory Tree or Pecan tree native to the Americas. Pecans are another decadent wonder we acquired from the Native Americans, who enjoyed pecans for centuries. The European settlers were a bit slow off the mark, and it was the Mexicans who started the first plantations in the 17th century, with plantations cropping up all over North America some time later. Mexico still grows pecans in plentiful amounts today. But it is the United States that produces over 80% of the world’s pecans. They are also grown in Australia, as well as parts of Central and South America, China, Israel and South Africa.
As with so many other nuts, pecans are technically a drupe (a fruit with a single stone) that matures and splits. Pecans resemble walnuts in appearance and taste. They are an excellent source of protein and healthy unsaturated fats that can lower cholesterol and protect against heart disease. They also contain significant amounts of Vitamin E, which has powerful antioxidant properties. They also contain calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and Vitamins A and B. Pecans are also a great source of fibre, and are sodium and cholesterol free.
As with all other nuts, pecans should be eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Pecans do contain significant amounts of Omega 6 fatty acids, but only about half as much as walnuts. They can be eaten raw, but I find them too rich and buttery for snacks; and like walnuts, can be a little bitter by the handful! I only ever use them to make sweet treats like desserts, baked goods, ice cream, and pralines. Home made pecan butter is delicious! Try stirring through some pecan butter or chopped pecans and maple syrup for a quick praline ice cream.
Pecans can be purchased whole or shelled. Always buy pecans from a health food store with a high turnover to ensure maximum freshness. The shells should not have any cracks or holes and the nut should not rattle if shaken. Most pecans available are shelled. The nuts should be full and plump. Never buy pecans that have shrivelled. These nuts are past their prime. Pecans have a high fat content and are highly susceptible to rancidity. Store in a sealed container in the fridge or freeze.
Unlike raw almonds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds and sunflower seeds, which are always on hand in my fridge, I do not keep pecans in the house unless I need them for a recipe. I will buy them fresh as I need them.
Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pine. Pine “nuts” are actually seeds in the botanical sense. About 20 species have seeds that are large enough to harvest. Each species of pine yields pine nuts of slightly different personalities (size and shape with thick or thin shells) and nutritional profiles. Different countries in Europe and Asia use their native varieties. Europe mainly uses the Stone Pine, which yields plump, ivory seeds that are buttery and bursting with a slightly sweet flavour. They also contain the most protein. North America mainly uses Pinyon pines to obtain seeds. These are the largest pine nuts and are the easiest to shell. Pine nuts are very important to the Native American community in the United States. There is actually legislation in place to protect their right to harvest pine nuts. Asian pine nuts generally come from the Chinese Nut Pine. China is now the largest exporter of pine nuts. Their nuts are more triangular, have a milder flavour and are about a third of the price of other varieties. They are of inferior quality, in my opinion, and have often been sprayed by toxins before packaging.
I prefer the European varieties. But you will pay for them! Most pine cones are very hard and need to be heated or sun-dried in order to crack the shells open and collect the seeds. Collecting pine nuts is hard work! They are very often harvested and shelled by hand, which accounts for the really high price.
Pine nuts are a good source of protein, zinc, manganese, Vitamin B and dietary fibre. But more importantly, they are absolutely loaded with flavour! They are mostly available shelled and absolutely must be refrigerated. They have the shortest shelf life of all the nuts and seeds and are the most highly susceptible to rancidity. They can go rancid in a matter of days in hot humid conditions. In fact, a lot of the pine nuts hanging up in the grocery store aisle have already gone rancid, and, as a result have little flavour. Try to purchase from a health food store with a high turnover that keeps their pine nuts in the fridge. You want to ensure a quality product with the best flavour. For this reason, I do not keep pine nuts in the house. I buy as fresh as possible when I need them. Sometimes I will even order them in.
We are all familiar with the delicious Italian pesto that can be made by adding pine nuts to fresh herbs and roasted vegetables. But pine nuts are sensational sprinkled on pizza, salads, stir-fries, casseroles, stews and soups. I often add them to seamed vegetables with some coconut oil. I love them sprinkled over wilted spinach! They also add a gorgeous depth of flavour to rice pilafs and other grain dishes. They are also a delightful addition to baked goods. I typically use pine nuts in savoury dishes. But I will make Italian and Middle Eastern cookies and desserts that are delicious.
Typically pine nuts are toasted to bring out the crunchiness and flavour. As with all other nuts and seeds, I don’t do this. I almost always eat them raw to protect the delicate fats and oils. If you purchase quality pine nuts from a good fresh source, the raw flavour is sublime. Try making a raw paste with some pine nuts, olive oil, salt and lemon juice. Delish! Or for a sweet treat, some pine nuts, honey and almonds, Oh My! But I will admit, that when I am feeling home sick for Italy, I will make a paper cone, toast and salt them, and eat them like popcorn, just like the street vendors serve them. Gotta love those Italians. They sure know how to eat!
Pistachios, like many of the other “nuts” are not botanical nuts but the seed of the fruit or drupe of the pistachio tree. Pistachios are native to the Middle East and are commercially produced in Syria, Iran, Greece, Turkey, Italy, China, Morocco, Australia and Mexico. The United States (mainly California) and Iran remain the largest producers of pistachios. Pistachios have a hard beige shell that expands when it ripens to crack open so we can get our little fingers into that delicious purple/green meat. It’s almost like they are begging to be devoured.
It is hard to quit eating pistachios – they are so morish! They make such a delicious power snack, or perfect to have with drinks before dinner or to watch a movie. The ones that don’t open -- it is nature’s way of saying “don’t eat me”. These are kernels that have not grown properly and should be discarded. Pistachios lend themselves beautifully to sweet or savoury flavourings and can be added into any baked goods or sweet treats. I will give absolutely anything “pistachio-flavoured” a go!
Pistachios are loaded with protein, fibre, calcium, iron and Vitamin E. They have been linked to reducing cholesterol levels and are full of antioxidants.
You can purchase pistachios roasted and salted. But like all the other nuts, I prefer to eat them raw to capitalize on the delicate fats and oils. You can also purchase “pistachio meat” which has been shelled and makes life so much easier. These have a shorter shelf-life and I prefer to purchase my pistachios in the shell. Having them shelled just takes al of the romance out of it! I love to make raw vegan pistachio ice cream, puddings, and smoothies, and I cannot pass up gluten free pistachio biscotti and sweet pistachio cookies. They are also delicious tossed in salads, stir-fries, and casseroles.
Those of you with food allergies: pistachios do contain urushiol, which is an irritant that can cause allergic reactions. Pistachios have a high fat and low water content and should always be purchased from a health food store or gourmet grocer with a high turnover to ensure freshness and quality. Always store in a sealed glass container in the fridge. Try making your own pistachio butter in your blender by adding a tiny bit of grapeseed oil.
Poppy seeds are the tiny hard grain-like oilseeds of the opium poppy native to the Middle East, and now grown in China, India and Afghanistan. Ripe poppy seeds for culinary use do not have the narcotic properties of the plant. They have a mild, sweet nutty flavour and are used whole or ground.
Poppy seeds come in a variety of colours such as the blue poppy seeds or European poppy seeds that we typically find on the tops of breads, bagels, and other baked goods. These poppy seeds are mainly produced in Holland and Canada. Holland holds the mantle for the highest quality poppy seeds. Australia does produce blue poppy seeds. But I am sorry to say, that the quality is nowhere near that of the Dutch variety. White poppy seeds, sometimes referred to as Asian, Indian or Middle Eastern poppy seeds which are used in breads, pretzels, desserts and candies are also widely available. There is not a lot of difference in flavour and texture between the two varieties. It is really a matter of personal preference and availability. Blue poppy seeds are a little bit larger than white poppy seeds. But they are both tiny little kidney-shaped beads.
Poppy seeds have been used for medicinal purposes in ancient Egyption cultures and there are many culinary uses that range from a thickening agent for stews and curries; as a spice, condiment and filling, or as a garnish. Poppy seeds are incredibly tiny and I tend to only use them for aesthetics – to add a crunchy texture and appearance to baked goods. But having said that, they are yummy stir-fried in coconut oil and sprinkled on stir-fried vegetables. I don’t tend to use them as much as the other raw nuts and seeds. But wanted to include them in my list of favourite nuts and seeds as they do add a touch of decadence to baked treats.
The Germans and Eastern Europeans makes exquisite poppy seed pastes to fill their scrolls and pastries. They are absolutely divine! Try grinding poppy seeds into a paste with some butter, vanilla, cinnamon and honey. It makes a delightful natural filling for croissants. I will say that poppy seeds are incredibly difficult to grind, and it is one of the only things I will not recommend grinding in a food processor. You can grind them in a spice grinder or coffee grinder after lightly toasting them. But you will get the best results if you soak them in boiling water for a few hours before grinding them with a mortar and pestle. Muscle up and you efforts will be worth it.
Pepitas or pumpkin seeds are the superfood seeds of the miraculous pumpkin, native to the Americas. Today the largest producers are the United States, Mexico, India and China. I have always said that pumpkin is the most underutilized food in the standard American diet. At least they make use of the nutrient-dense seeds! Pepitas are a common ingredient in Latin American, Mexican and North American cuisines. As squash was one of the first domesticated plants in the Americas, there is a long history of enjoying pepitas dating back to the native Americans and ancient Aztec civilizations.
Pumpkin seeds are one of the highest natural sources of protein with all of the essential amino acids. A handful of pepitas makes up almost half the recommended daily allowance of protein. They are also a rich source of iron. One cup of pepitas as a snack takes care of almost half of the recommended daily allowance of iron. Pepitas are also a good source of zinc, which has been linked to assisting with prostate health and bone density; and calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, and copper; as well as Vitamin A, B and E. They also contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats and essential fatty acids such as omega 3 and omega 6. Pumpkin seeds have also been shown to lower cholesterol levels and assist with heart health; as well as combat arthritis with their anti-inflammatory properties. The high amount of tryptophan contained in pepitas has also prompted researchers to use it to help people suffering anxiety and depression.
Pumpkin seeds have a subtle sweet and nutty flavour and chewy texture. Some have a creamy husk But the majority of pepitas sold are flat and dark green in colour. They are commonly sold roasted and salted or spiced for use as a snack. But I always purchase and consume them raw so I can soak them in order to preserve their delicate fats and oils, and the integrity of their nutritional profile.
I always have raw pumpkin seeds on hand for a quick power snack, along with raw almonds and sunflower seeds. I use them a lot to enrich raw power bars, slices, smoothies, puddings, and desserts; as well as throwing them in baked goods. They are fantastic in stir-fries, curries, casseroles and salads. As well as sprinkled on porridge and other cereals, puddings, yoghurts and custards. Try incorporating a mix of pumpkin seeds and almonds into your burgers.
Always purchase pumpkin seeds from a health food store with a high turn over to ensure maximum freshness and quality, and store in a sealed glass container in the fridge, and consume within a couple of months. You can easily makes your own by scooping them out of the pumpkins and then dehydrating them at a low temperature. Good news for people with food sensitivities -- pumpkin seeds are not a common allergenic food and contain less oxalates than other raw nuts and seeds.
Sesame seeds are the tiny flat oval edible oil-rich seeds from the sesame plant. The largest producers of sesame seeds are China, India and Africa. Sesame seeds come in a variety of colours ranging from cream, yellow, red and black; with the white and black being the most widely used. The famous phrase “open sesame” comes from observing the sesame pod which expands open as it matures.
Sesame seeds are used extensively in cuisines all over the world to add a rich nutty flavour and texture to breads, bagels, buns, muffins, and crackers; or as a garnish on stir-fries, sushi, salads, stir-fries, curries, and casseroles. Sesame seeds are used to make condiments such as Japanese gomasio, Egyption dukkah, and Indian Milakai Podi. The pale white sesame seeds are more widely used in Western and Middle Eastern dishes, whereas the black sesame seeds seem to be favoured by the Indians and Japanese.
Sesame seeds are one of the most versatile foods, lending themselves beautifully to sweet or savoury flavourings. They are exquisite blended with honey and other sweeteners for cookies, biscuits slices and candies. Sweet sesame paste is exquisite as a filling in pastries and pies; and sesame seed butter or tahini is phenomenal in ice creams, puddings, and cakes, as well as a principle ingredient in the ever popular hummus.
Try slathering some tahini on a rice cake for a power snack. Tahini, lemon juice and garlic makes a sensational dip or salad dressing. Or try sprinkling some sesame seeds over steamed vegetables. I like to make a lot of raw sesame seed bars for nutritional snacks. Middle Eastern and Asian desserts use sesame seeds a lot. A good piece of Halvah (a mixture of sesame seeds and honey) is absolutely delicious; as is a good black sesame Japanese sesame ice cream. The ladies of ancient Babylon would eat this as a beauty elixir, and Roman soldiers believed it would promote strength for battle.
Sesame seeds are incredibly rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, copper, Vitamin B and E; as well as phytooestrogens such as lignans that regulate hormone levels in women, and have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. They have also been shown to lower cholesterol and blood pressure; assist with heart and bone health; Sesame seeds are like flaxseeds, in that their nutrients are more easily available when ground up. Make some home made tahini and slather it on a vegetable stick every day as a snack and you are good to go!
Sesame seeds are available hulled and unhulled (sometimes called tan or dark). I always purchase them hulled, in order to get the goodness of the raw seed without the oxalates that render them difficult to digest. Un-hulled sesame seeds have a longer shelf life. But all sesame seeds are prone to rancidity and should be stored in the fridge in a sealed glass container and consumed within a few months. Another important thing to mention about sesame seeds is that contain high amounts of phytic acid, which is an anti-nutrient which retards digestion. They should always be soaked and dehydrated before consumption. This is why I always make my own tahini from soaked sesame seeds. Those of you with food allergies, make sure you are individually tested for sesame seeds. Allergies to sesame seeds appear to be on the rise.
Sunflower seeds are the fruit of the sunflower that is native to North America and was eaten by Native Americans for years. Sunflower seeds are small flat beige kernels which are covered in a black or grey striped shell. They are available as whole in-shell seeds or dehulled kernels. They have a mild nutty flavour and a tender texture that makes them a popular food in many countries. The whole seeds are a popular snack food in the Mediterranean in places like Turkey and Israel, and are commonly used in recipes. However, in the West, we typically consume the pale, hulled seeds. These have been mechanically processed, but are still available in raw or roasted varieties.
I purchase sunflower seeds raw and soak and dehydrate them before consumption. They are a wonderful alkaline snack food that is loaded with nutrients, they are one of the principle ingredients in LSA, and can be used to make delicious home made sunflower seed butter as a wonderful nut free alternative to conventional peanut and almond butters. I always have a jar of raw sunflower seeds on hand in the fridge for a quick snack, or for use in salads, raw power bars, baked treats, smoothies, and soups. I love to sprinkle them on porridge and cereals, and they are a yummy way to enrich ice creams. You can also sprout sunflower seeds for use in salads, stir-fries and curries.
Besides being delicious, they are a good source of fibre, protein, essential fatty acids, Vitamins B, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, manganese and selenium. They contain large amounts of Vitamin E. In fact, ¼ cup takes care of ½ of the recommended daily requirement. They also contain significant amounts of tryptophan like pumpkin seeds and may help with depression and anxiety. Sunflower seeds have been linked to lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and promoting heart health, as well as The Vitamin E provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Sunflower seeds have a high oil content and are subject to rancidity. Always purchase from a health food store with a high turnover to ensure maximum freshness and quality, and store in a sealed glass container in the fridge. Good news for those of you with food allergies, sunflower seeds are not a common food to cause allergies. But always be individually tested if you are aware of an existing nut allergy.
There are about twenty one species of walnut trees, but a lot are not harvested for culinary use due to the shells being too hard and the kernels being too small. They, like so many of the other “nuts” are actually drupes, which dry when matured to leave the outer layer, shell and seed that we eat as the walnut. The most popular varieties cultivated for human consumption are the Persian or English Walnut which was native to India and The Middle East, but is now found widely in Europe and other parts of the world; and the Black Walnut and White Walnut, which are native to North America.
Despite this, the English walnuts are the variety most commonly found in the United States. In fact, a large percentage of the world’s supply of walnuts are produced in California. But significant amounts of walnuts are cultivated in China, Iran, Turkey, Romania and France. English walnuts have shells that are easily opened with a nutcracker, and thin skins and large nuts that yield the most meat, making them very easy to use.
Walnuts are a wonderful source of essential fatty acids, and have the highest amount of Omega 3; in fact just 1/4 cup accounts for over 90% of the recommended daily allowance. These unsaturated vegetable fats are known to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and have been shown to boost brain activity and cognitive function; as well as assist with asthma, arthritis, bone health, ands skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. These healthy fats also lower cholesterol and blood pressure, assisting with cardiovascular health. No coincidence that walnuts look exactly like the two hemispheres of a brain!
Walnuts also contain powerful antioxidants such as ellagic acid, which boosts immunity and combats free radical damages and cancer. They are also a great source of copper and manganese, which boost these antioxidants, as well as calcium, iron and fibre. Another benefit of walnuts, which is of particular interest to me, is the amount of naturally available melatonin contained in walnuts. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the body that regulates sleep. For someone who travels as much as I do, crossing time zones and constantly suffering from jet-lag, walnuts are wonderful for promoting a nice restful sleep. Try sprinkling some raw walnuts on your salad or steamed veggies for dinner. Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant. The amount of melatonin our bodies produce decreases with age, so consuming a handful of walnuts a few times a week could be even more beneficial for older people.
You can purchase walnuts whole or shelled. The whole variety have a longer shelf life. Make sure the shells are not cracked or stained and do not smell rancid. Purchase from a health food store with a high turnover to ensure maximum freshness. Shelled walnuts are even more susceptible to rancidity due to the high polyunsaturated fat content, and need to be stored in a sealed container in the fridge. Always purchase plump (not shriveled) kernels from health food stores with a high turnover to ensure maximum freshness and quality, and consume within about six months.
I always soak and dehydrate my raw walnuts. They have a naturally bitter flavour, so I don’t tend to eat them by the handful on their own for a raw snack as I do with raw almonds and raw macadamias. But walnuts are gorgeous for complimenting sweet and savoury flavours, making them a versatile addition to a myriad of dishes. I often throw them with raw salads and fruits to balance out the sweetness, or toss them into grain pilafs for an added crunchiness and depth of flavour. They are also gorgeous in baked goods. I absolutely love using them with banana and maple syrup, chocolate, apples, carrot and zucchini.
Walnut pastes make a great base for dips, pates and spreads such as the fabulous Muhammara. Walnuts are a great topping for cereals, puddings and yoghurts. They also work beautifully with dried fruits and cheeses.