In my other two blogs about building a healthy and well-stocked pantry, I started with the basics, which are: natural oils – namely extra virgin olive and coconut oils; beans (kidney, black and pinto); whole grains, which include pasta, couscous, quinoa, and of course, rice.
Next is something I consider to be one of the most indispensable ingredients of a well-stocked pantry – nuts.
Unless you or someone you’re cooking for suffers from a nut allergy (more on that in a minute), stocking up on different kinds of nuts and using them creatively in dishes can help turn an ordinary meal into a gourmet one. And I don’t mean seasoned mixed nuts or peanuts covered in corn syrup, but rather bagged, natural ones with no additives or preservatives.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
Almonds: Sliced, diced or chopped, almonds can add lots of extra calcium and vitamin E to a dish. And ones with the skin left on are even better, as almond skin is full of healthy flavonoids.
Try using almonds as a topping on veggies, breakfast cereal and baked or broiled fish (to which they should be added during the last few minutes of cooking).
Pecans: This nut is my absolute favorite. Nutrition-wise, pecans are great for heart health as compounds in them have been found to lower cholesterol. They are also good sources of oleic acid, a healthy type of fat, as well as vitamin B3.
Pecans are a great addition to tuna salad, tossed greens, breakfast cereals and almost any veggie. Unlike almonds, they don’t need to be toasted or added during cooking as they are soft and ready to eat from the bag.
Walnuts: Don’t leave the store without some! If you’re looking for the king of antioxidants, look no further than walnuts. They contain loads of heart-friendly fats, can help lower bad cholesterol and are high in valuable omega-3 fatty acids.
Walnuts go great in pasta dishes. I even use them as a swap for pine nuts when making homemade pesto.
About nut allergies: Last year, results from a study that looked at over 11,000 moms and their kids right up through adolescence found that the more nuts women ate while pregnant the less likely their kids are to have allergies. With nut allergies in kids seeming to increase year by year, this might be one of the clues.
If you are expecting, bring this up with your doctor or nurse, as it seems that the “rules” for eating nuts while pregnant may have changed recently.
For more on that study, check out his article: Pregnant women peanuts