Excerpt from Healthy Diet and Nutrition for Women
While many of us enjoy adding seeds and nuts to our diet, there are certain guidelines to follow that will ensure that these seeds and nuts enhance your health and wellness, rather than become a health liability.
Buy nuts in their shells whenever possible. The old-fashioned habit of cracking nuts in their shell is actually the healthiest way to eat them. A variety of nuts and seeds are available preshelled in bins at health food stores and supermarkets. Unfortunately, the oils in nuts and seeds are very perishable and are partially rancid by the time you buy them. This is unfortunate since nuts and seeds are among our best sources of the essential fatty acid, linoleic acid, so necessary for female health. Some nuts and seeds, like walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and ground flaxseeds are also good sources of the other essential fatty acid, linolenic acid. These fatty acids are light- and oxygen-sensitive and degrade rapidly, losing their healthful properties when exposed to air and light in store bins.
To preserve the essential fatty acids and other oils, refrigerate all seeds and nuts (and their oils). Unless nuts are in their shells, all seeds and nuts and their oils should be refrigerated immediately after purchase. This will help to preserve their freshness and avoid rancidity. Cold-pressed bottles of seed and nut oils should be refrigerated immediately after opening. Very perishable seed oils, like flaxseed oil, are packed in opaque containers that keep out light and help to reduce their exposure to oxygen, so they should be refrigerated even before opening. Flaxseed oil bottles are dated to ensure that they are used quickly to preserve their freshness. Flaxseed oil can even be stored in the freezer, as can seeds and nuts, until you are ready to use them.
Eat seeds and nuts raw rather than roasted. Heat, like light and oxygen, can affect the integrity of the delicate seed and nut oils. Avoid eating roasted seeds and nuts whenever possible and select the raw versions instead. Also, avoid eating salted nuts and seeds. Many women find that they do not digest roasted and salted seeds well. The high-salt content of these foods can also worsen fluid retention and bloating in women with PMS or early menopausal symptoms.
Raw and unsalted seed and nut butters, especially almond and sesame seed butters, are now available in most health food stores. These are excellent, high-quality spreads which can be served on toast or crackers. They are much healthier and easier to digest than peanut butter. They are especially delicious when combined with fresh fruit preserves.