3. INCLUDE LEGUMES, SEEDS AND NUTS
Many studies have linked seed, nut and bean consumption with various health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and also cancer.
Legumes are dry fruits contained within a pod such as peas, lentils and beans. They use nitrogen from the atmosphere to make protein and therefore are an important protein source especially for vegetarians.
In addition to being a good source of protein and carbohydrate, legumes are also rich in fiber and folate. Folate is an essential vitamin that plays a vital role in many bodily functions, including cell repair and maintenance, DNA synthesis, amino acid metabolism, cell and tissue growth, and the formation of leukocytes (white blood cells) and erythrocytes (red blood cells). Compared to grains, legumes contain about twice as much protein, and they are a good source of iron, potassium, magnesium and other B vitamins as well.
Examples of legumes are kidney and black beans, Soybeans, fava beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), red beans, lima beans, green peas, snow peas, snap peas and split peas (green or yellow). Lentils are found in a variety of colors and sizes and are commonly used to make hearty soups and meatless patties.
Seeds — Grab a handful of any plant seed, and you're holding a small package full of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, The seeds of most plants are nutrient dense and can provide us with various health benefits. Some examples of the seeds are as follows:
Flaxseed is high in omega-3 fatty acid (one of the best plant sources of omega-3s!). It also contains lignans the fiber-like compounds that also provide antioxidant protection. Another unique feature of flaxseeds is their mucilage content (water soluble, gel forming fiber) that can provide special support to the intestinal tract. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of flaxseeds make them a good choice for cancer prevention and treatment.
Chia seeds (picture on the left — are loaded with vitamins and minerals as well. They are an excellent source of fibre, protein and antioxidants, and are one of the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. The seed is also an excellent source of B vitamins.
Chia seeds come in a blend of brown, gray, black, and white on the surface, and when soaked become gel-like. Chia Seeds can boost your energy levels and provide essential nutrients in your body which are the basic building blocks required to help in cancer treatments.
Both flaxseed and chia seed need to be grounded or thoroughly chewed to be of benefits, otherwise, they may pass through the intestine undigested. It is best to soak the seeds and mash/ground them (example Tahini) or mix them in your breakfast cereals or salads.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in protein and a good source of B vitamins like thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine and folates. Apricot seeds, apple seeds, and other bitter fruit seeds contain Amygdalin (Vitamin B17) which has incredibly powerful anti-cancer properties. Grape seeds have a great concentration of vitamin E, flavonoids, linoleic acid and polyphenols.
The pharmaceutical Laetrile (concentrated form of Amygdalin) has been successfully used in cancer clinics in various parts of the world to cure cancer.
Other seeds to be considered are organic sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.
Nuts are about 80% fat, but mostly naturally occurring unsaturated fats (both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats). Many nuts are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Nuts are low in carbohydrates, and a significant portion of the carbohydrates come from dietary fiber which helps stabilize your blood sugar levels, induce feelings of fullness and promote a healthy digestive system. They are also good sources of phytonutrients, proteins, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals such as magnesium (maintain the calcium-potassium balance in the body), B group of vitamins and folate (essential for a healthy brain), and vitamin E (responsible for maintaining a healthy circulatory system).
The following are some examples:
- Walnuts have high content of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fat. They also contain ellagic acid (an antioxidant that is beneficial for the immune system) and melatonin (a hormone that helps regulate sleep and offers antioxidant and anti-cancer benefits).
- Brazil nuts (picture above) on the other hands are very rich in selenium, a nutrient that helps protect cells from oxidative damages. They are also excellent source of Vitamin-E (a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant required for maintaining the integrity of cell membrane) and B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) and folates (vitamins that are crucial co factors in cellular metabolism).
- Cashew nuts are abundant source of essential minerals. They contain magnesium (a mineral that plays a crucial role in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body including nerve function and regulating heart rhythm) and have high concentration of iron. Other minerals in cashews are manganese, potassium, copper and selenium.
Other nuts are almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pistachio and pecans. When it comes to choosing healthy nuts, you really can’t go wrong. Each nut contains a slightly different nutritional content, all of which are great for your health. They are great as ‘snacks’ - as they all contribute a mix of valuable vitamins and minerals. Select raw or dry-roasted nuts rather than those cooked in vegetable oils. Mix these different nuts in an airtight container and eat these as part of a healthy diet.
Legumes, seeds and nuts are a great addition to any healthy diet. There are so many varieties to choose from, and you're sure to find at least a few that appeal to your tastes. Get to know the different legumes, nuts and seeds and begin adding them into your diet (if you haven’t done so). As in all our food advice, eat varieties, go organic and in moderation.