Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

Archive for May, 2011

RESEARCHERS GO NUTS OVER ANTIOXIDANTS!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on May 31, 2011


Hippocrates (480 BCE-370 BCE), the Father of Western medicine, had the secret of antioxidants in a healthy diet, even though he may not have known it when he said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” He knew the power of foods from nature was both healing and preventive and emphasized that message to his followers. Though he didn’t have the scientific knowledge that foods from nature, such as tree nuts, contained powerful antioxidants, he witnessed healing taking place when patients ate pure whole foods. He recognized those foods contained remarkable elements that could not only prevent disease but also restore vigor.

Fresh, plant-based foods (nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes) do, indeed, contain powerful plant chemicals packed with antioxidants. What are these antioxidants and what can they do? While all plant-based foods contain these powerful healing elements, recent research has revealed the impressive antioxidant potential in tree nuts.

Researchers find nut benefits
Intensive tree nut studies have uncovered an array of antioxidant chemicals including lignans, napthoquinones, phenolic acids, phytosterols, polyphenols, flavonoids, proanthocyanidins, and tocopherols that can reduce inflammation in the blood, lower cholesterol, act against viral invasion, and protect the body from tumor growth.

Because we now know that antioxidants can scavenge and prevent unstable molecules called free radicals from destroying our cells, we can take joy in devouring a delicious handful or two of tree nuts every day to reap the many benefits from their excellent antioxidant properties.

In a 2009-study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Diet, researchers tested thirteen subjects to study the effect of a polyphenol-rich diet of walnuts or almonds on the blood. The subjects fasted overnight, had blood tests, and then were given either a walnut or almond smoothie or one that contained no nuts. After a week, each participant switched to a different smoothie, and each time, blood was tested several times after beverage consumption. Researchers found a noticeable increase in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant, after subjects consumed the nut-based smoothies, but no change following the nut-free beverage. Noted were a significant increase in total antioxidant capacity and a reduction of blood oxidation in those participants consuming the polyphenol-rich nut smoothie.

Pecans have their own antioxidant story
In another study conducted at Loma Linda University, meals including whole pecans and blended pecans were compared with a control meal with no nuts to test for antioxidant activity. This small trial of sixteen healthy men and women used the crossover method where participants were given each meal at controlled intervals with a week in-between. Blood levels of tocopherals, the vitamin E antioxidant, doubled in those consuming whole and blended pecans, while antioxidant levels increased 12% and 10% respectively two hours after consumption. After meals including whole pecans, LDL oxidation decreased considerably after consumption. Triglycerides decreased only after the participants ate whole or blended pecans in their meals.

Chemistry Professor Joe Vinson, Ph.D. presented his research at a meeting of The American Chemical Society in Anaheim, California in March 2011 showing that walnuts have more high-quality antioxidants than any other nuts. “Walnuts rank above peanuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios and other nuts,” said Dr. Vinson. “A handful of walnuts contains almost twice as much antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other commonly consumed nut. But unfortunately, people don’t eat a lot of them. This study suggests that consumers should eat more walnuts as part of a healthy diet.”

To roast or not to roast
After Dr. Vinson’s analysis compared the antioxidants in walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, and pecans, he found antioxidants highest in raw, unroasted nuts. Vinson says, “The heat from roasting nuts generally reduces the quality of the antioxidants. People usually eat walnuts raw or unroasted, and get the full effectiveness of those antioxidants.”

When nuts are commercially roasted in added fats, like partially hydrogenated oils that contain trans fats or coconut or palm oils that are high in saturated fats, they raise the risk of heart disease by elevating the bad cholesterol that can deposit plaque in the arteries. Commercially roasted nuts may also be roasted at high temperatures that possibly damage or reduce antioxidant levels.

Differing opinions persist regarding antioxidant loss when roasting nuts. An inquiry to the California Walnut Commission turned up this response from their nutrition consultant, registered dietician Carol Berg Sloan, “We have had independent nutrient analysis done on raw and toasted walnuts and there is no change in the nutrient profile.”

Plant chemicals in nuts improve heart health
Dr. Joan Sabate, professor of nutrition at Loma Linda University, and colleagues examined 25 nut studies from other countries. Their nut research has shown that regular consumption of nuts reduces the risk of coronary heart disease in several ways: lowering cholesterol levels, improving endothelial function, lowering oxidation in the blood, and reducing lipoprotein(a) levels. The researchers focused both on subjects with normal and high cholesterol and noted that nut consumption led to a marked improvement in both HDL and triglyceride levels. Along with their exceptional nutritional qualities, nuts contain an array of phytonutrients or plant chemicals with high antioxidant capacity.

An almond study at Tufts University unveiled 20 powerful antioxidant flavonoids in almond skins. Some of the flavonoids were the same antioxidants found in familiar foods like green tea that contains catechins and grapefruit that includes naringenin. The research team tested the antioxidants separately and together on blood samples that contained LDL cholesterol. Flavonoids in the almond skins improved the LDL resistance to oxidation by 18%, but when tested together with vitamin E in the meat of the almond, the resistance to oxidation increased by 52.5%. This research illustrates the benefits of the synergy that occur in nature and the importance of eating the whole nut, including the skin.

Which nuts lead the antioxidant parade?
Of all the tree nuts, walnuts, pecans, and chestnuts contain the greatest amount of antioxidants. Although peanuts are technically legumes, they are nutritionally similar to nuts. Like walnuts, peanuts are packed with high levels of antioxidants. Be sure to consume nuts whole to gain their full benefit, since much of the antioxidants are contained in the skins.

Antioxidants and plant chemicals are not the only healthful attributes of nuts. Nuts are an excellent source of protein, a quality that has placed them in the USDA MyPyramid Dietary Guidelines for Americans alongside meat, poultry, and fish. Nuts are also a powerhouse of minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, selenium, and copper that work as a cooperative team to bring excellent health and maximum immune function to the body.

Go nuts for nuts sake
It’s easy to include nuts in the diet. Nut researchers are now finding that two handfuls a day of tree nuts are better than one at delivering health benefits. Enjoy them as a snack, sprinkled in salads, blended into smoothies, ground into salad dressings, blended into nut milk, or included in muffins, cookies, and confections.

Buy them raw and keep them in the refrigerator for freshness. Though people tend to gravitate to one or two favorites, they will benefit from a variety of nuts because each kind contains different quantities of minerals, good fats, and beneficial antioxidants.

To enjoy roasted nuts, consider roasting them at a low temperature to preserve their valuable vitamin E and antioxidant flavonoid and polyphenol contents. Place the nuts on a baking sheet and dry roast them at 150 to 170 degrees F. for 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a dish to cool and taste their exceptional flavor and pleasantly crisp texture.

References:
Antonio AL, Ferreira IC, Bento A, Botelho ML. “Influence of Gamma Irradiation in the Antioxidant Potential of Chestnuts (Castanea sativa Mill.) Fruits and Skins.” Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2011 Feb 28.

Barreira, J.C.M., Ferreira, I.C.F.R., Oliveira, M.B.P.P., and Pereira, J.A. “Antioxidant Activities of the Extracts from Chestnut Flower, Leaf, Skins, and Fruit”. Food Chemistry: 104:(3), 1106-1113.

Bolling, B.W., McKay, D.L., Blumberg, J.B. “The Phytochemical Composition and Antioxidant Actions of Tree Nuts.” Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010; 19(1):117-123.

Chen, C.Y., Milbury, P.E., Lapsley, K., Blumberg, J.B. Flavonoids from Almond Skins are Bioavailable and Act Synergistically with Vitamins C and E to Enhance Hamster and Human LDL Resistance to Oxidation. Journal of Nutrition. 2005; 135(6):1366-73.

“Chestnuts. Antioxidants. Gamma Irradiation.” http://nutraceutical.sujanani.com/news/?p=25001719

“Chestnuts.”belly bytes: where it’s all about food. http://www.bellybytes.com/food/chestnuts.html

Hudthagosol, C., Haddad, E.H., McCarthy, K., Want, P., Oda, K., Sabate, J. “Pecans Acutely Increase Plasma Postprandial Antioxidant Capacity and Catechins and Decrease LDL Oxidation in Humans.” Journal of Nutrition. 2011. Jan: 141(1): 56-62.

“Professor Vinson’s Research Shows Walnuts as ‘Top Nut’ for Heart-Healthy Antioxidants.” The University of Scranton. March 29, 2011. http://matrix.scranton.edu/news/articles/2011/03/Professor-Vinson-Antioxidants.shtml

Sabate, J., Oda, Keiji, Ros, Emilio. “Nut Consumption and Blood Lipid Levels; A Pooled Analysis of 25 Intervention Trials.” Archives of Internal Medicine. 2010;170(9):821-827.

Sloan, Carol Berg, RD. “Roasting Walnuts.” Email from the author responding to my inquiry to the California Walnut Commission about whether roasting walnuts lowers their antioxidant levels. 15 May 2011.

Torabian S, Haddad E, Rajaram S, Banta Jim, Sabaté J. “Acute Effect of Nut Consumption on Plasma Total Polyphenols, Antioxidant Capacity and Lipid Peroxidation in Healthy Volunteers.” Journal of Human Nutrition and Diet 2009, 22:64-71.

Posted in almonds, Antioxidants in Nuts, chestnuts, Nut Nutrition, nut research, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health, pecans, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Move Over KFC! Step Aside Burger King! Make Way for the Whoppin’ Big Lentil Burger!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on May 21, 2011

Imagine a lusciously seductive sandwich with boldly flavored lentil burgers standing in for the bread. Layered with juicy, fresh and roasted vegetables, the sandwich morphs into KFC’s and Burger King’s rival because it’s just a little nutty–walnutty, that is!

Limit the fillings somewhat so the lentil burgers will stay firm. Fillings can be as familiar as lettuce, tomato, and onions with mustard and veggie mayo or as diverse as roasted peppers and onions, sliced avocados, thick, roasted eggplant slices, roasted zucchini or Mexican squashes, steamed sweet potato slices, caramelized onions, or sautéed mushrooms or any combination of these.

Before piling on the fillings, slather the burgers with your favorite condiments like barbecue sauce, ketchup, Russian dressing, Dijon mustard, Vegenaise, or a sauce of your own invention. Be sure to serve these burgers with plenty of napkins–this is one darned good, delicious, dripping mess to die for!

If you would like to enjoy the lentil burger in a regular sandwich, slather it with plenty of condiments and your favorite sandwich trimmings.

WHOPPIN’ BIG LENTIL BURGERS
(A Vegan Delight!)

Yield: 12 burger patties or 6 servings

3 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons water, divided
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce, divided
1 cup brown lentils

1 cup walnuts, coarsely ground
1 small carrot, finely minced
3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup diced onions
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons flaxseed meal

1. Have ready 2 large jellyroll pans lined with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a 4 or 5-quart saucepan, combine 3 cups of the water, 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce, and the lentils. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over nigh heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until the lentils are softened but still retain their shape.
3. While the lentils are cooking, combine the walnuts, carrots, rolled oats, onions, 3 tablespoons of the remaining water, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the remaining soy sauce, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
4. Add the cooked lentils to the bowl, along with any liquid remaining in the pan, and mix thoroughly to distribute all the ingredients evenly. Transfer half the mixture to the food processor and pulse several times to form a slightly chunky puree. Return the mixture to the bowl and mix well.
5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup water with the flaxseed meal in the blender and process until it becomes a thick, gooey slurry. Add the slurry to the lentil mixture and mix well to distribute it throughout.
6. Using a heaping tablespoon of the lentil mixture, form into a large ball about 2 inches in diameter. Place the ball onto the parchment and flatten into a thin patty about 3 inches in diameter and 3/8-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining mixture forming 12 thin patties. Bake for 25 minutes, carefully turn with a metal spatula, and bake for 8 minutes longer. The patties will feel very firm and dry on the outside.

Posted in Bean Recipes, Nut Recipes, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

NUT GOURMET LAUNCHES CELEBRATION!!!!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on May 10, 2011

Yea!!! I’m celebrating the 5-year Anniversary of the publication of The Nut Gourmet cookbook and I’m thrilled to announce that it’s still going strong!

I guess you might say nuts are here to stay. They’ve certainly proven their longevity, since they’ve been part of the food chain for centuries. It was actually tree nuts and plant seeds, along with wild berries, wild leafy vegetables, roots, and fruits that sustained early man and allowed our paleo ancestors to thrive.

One reason tree nuts played such an important role in the diet of the hunter-gatherers is that they’re such good keepers–nuts could be stored for months without the benefit of our modern-day refrigerators. When kept in their naturally protective shells, most nuts will retain their flavor, moisture, and nutritional qualities for 6 to 9 months at room temperature, depending on climate conditions and variety of nut.

Because nuts are an everyday food in my house and because I’m such a spontaneous cook, I buy a wide variety of nuts already shelled and keep them in the refrigerator. If I find nuts at an exceptionally tempting price and want to buy them in quantity, I know I can freeze them in heavy-duty plastic bags for as long as a year.

I also have the good fortune to own a second refrigerator, an extra-large commercial type I keep in the garage. That allows me the freedom to create nut recipes whenever a fresh idea pops into my head.

Today, in celebration of The Nut Gourmet anniversary, I want to share a winning recipe from the book that’s easy, delicious, and just plain fun to eat. This scrumptious, one-dish meal features almonds and makes it easy to encourage kids to eat more veggies.

And since a one-dish delight might not fill a tummy gnawing with hunger pangs, serve this with a bountiful tossed salad, whole grain bread, and lightly steamed green beans.

NOODLES AND NUTS

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1 (14-to 16-ounce) package of Japanese soba noodles

2 tablespoons organic canola oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 large broccoli crown, coarsely chopped
3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup water
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon umeboshi vinegar or rice vinegar

1 cup whole almonds
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 green onion, finely chopped

1. Cook the noodles in boiling water until tender, according to the package directions. While the noodles are cooking, heat the canola oil in a large deep skillet. Add the garlic and ginger and cook over high heat for 1 minute.
2. Add the broccoli, tomatoes, celery, onion, water, bell pepper, sesame oil, and vinegar, and cook and stir for 2 to 4 minutes, until the vegetables are crisp-tender.
3. Grind the almonds into a fine, slightly chunky meal in the food processor. Add to the simmering vegetables and stir for 1 to 2 minutes, or until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Drain the noodles and add them to the vegetable mixture, a little at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon to distribute them evenly. Adjust the seasonings, if needed.
5. Heap the noodles and vegetables on a large platter and garnish with the green onion.

Notes:
Soba noodles are a type of Japanese pasta usually made from a combination of buckwheat and wheat.

Processing whole almonds starts out at a nearly deafening clatter. You may want to hold your ears and warn anyone in the room.

Posted in almonds, Celebrations, Nut Recipes | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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