NUT as in NUTrition: Still a Gatherer’s Delight
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It’s amazing how many people put nuts on their grocery list because they plan to make a certain recipe for a special occasion. Over the years, however, certain nuts were very special and had important social implications.

The early Romans distributed sugared almonds as gifts to great men at public and private events.  In India crushed almonds mixed with water is considered “brain food.” They drank this potion before crucial business meetings. Still others have believed a few almonds taken before drinking will reduce the severity of a hangover. Distributing sugared almonds wrapped in small sacks as a wedding favor is a tradition that dates back to early European times. In the Middle Ages, due to the lack of refrigeration, animal milk did not stay fresh thus cooks frequently depended on almond milk made from ground nuts mixed with water. Because of its high fat content, almond belt, like animal milk, can be churned into butter.

Nuts were a major part of the human diet as far back as 780,000 years ago. Wild almonds, prickly water lilies, acorns, pistachios and water chestnuts were popular. During the Pleistocene period the people devised clever nut crackers. The early hunger-gatherers spread nut butters on wild fruit they found.

Years later, Indians discovered peanuts in South America. As time passed Spanish and Portuguese slave traders introduced them to Africa and Europe, and the slaves later brought them to the US.

Most of the nuts discussed here are tree nuts, however the peanut is vastly different. The plant blooms above ground, then sends tiny, pointed tendrils about the size of a toothpick down to pierce the surface of the earth.  And, and after it is about two-inches deep, the pointed “pin” matures to become a peanut …”  The peanut, is not a nut but a legume, or a bean. Legumes enrich growing soils with nitrogen.

Another botanical exception is the cashew. Clusters of fragrant, red and yellow flowers form on the tree’s branches, yielding bright fruits, called cashew apples. The actual nut, as it comes from the tree, is a thick-shelled, single-seeded, kidney-shaped nut. Inside the nut is the edible kernel covered with another thinner shell. Between the outer and inner shells is a thick, toxic oil called “cardol,” which is removed after roasting. Because there is a lot of labor associated with processing, cashews are expensive.

Generally, most other nuts grow on trees and are less labor-intensive, as they fall to the ground themselves or trees are shaken at a suitable time. Most nuts are shelled as soon as possible and stored in a cool dry place or frozen. .

NUTRITION

The USDA places nuts right up alongside of meats, because they are so high in protein. Longer human life has been credited to the consumption of nuts. However it has been conceded regular nut eaters probably eat little or no junk food.

Dr. Sears, on his website, Ask Dr. Sears, ranks the following nine nuts for having the most protein, fiber, B-vitamins, calcium, minerals, and vitamin E for the least amount of saturated fat:

1.    Almonds

2.    Filberts (hazelnuts)

3.    Peanuts

4.    Chestnuts

5.    Pistachios

6.    Walnuts

7.    Cashews

8.    Pecans

9.    Macadamias

Sears ranks almonds as their “Top Nut,” because of the following nutrients from one ounce of them:

166 calories

5 grams of protein

14 grams of fat (90 percent unsaturated)

4 grams of fiber (the highest fiber content of any nut or seed), unblanched

80 milligrams of calcium

1.4 milligrams of zinc

1 milligram of iron

6.7 milligrams of vitamin E

some B-vitamins, minerals, and selenium”

There is probably no better on-the-run protein fix than a spoonful of peanut butter when you cannot find time a mid-day meal. Dr. Sears reminds us two tablespoons of peanut butter contains:

8.5 grams of protein

4 milligrams of the B-vitamin niacin (one-third the RDA for a pre-teen child)

a touch of fiber, calcium, folic acid, zinc, and iron

all this in 200 calories that provide a high source of energy for a busy child.

Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic reminds us a couple of the reasons nuts are good for us are due to the heart-healthy fats they contain, both the monounsaturated and the polyunsaturated fats and their facility to lower bad cholesterol. The second advantageous fat is their Omega-3 fatty acids which help maintain healthy heart rhythms.

Nuts can aid in weight-loss, because a few nuts are so filling, the dieter has a tendency to feel fuller longer and eat less of other foods. One ounce of nuts is between 160 and 200 calories.

Increase the flavor of nuts by toasting them lightly in a dry skilled or on a cookie sheet in a medium over. Watch carefully so as not to burn or scorch.

Never fail to inform strangers who dine at your place of any kinds of nuts in your recipes. Certain nut allergies can be fatal.

SUGGESTED USES

Nut pie crusts

Add to stir fries

Ground nuts instead of flour

Nut dust (with coffee grinder)

Most all nuts make nut butter

A peanut stew, hearty African main dish.

Nut/olive pestos

Spiced snack nuts

Nuts in salads

Stuff dried fruit

Nut pancakes

Nut marmalade

Nut dessert toppings

Meats dredged in ground nuts

Add to farro or couscous

Add to roasted vegetables

Nut bars

Add to Tuna, egg or chicken salad

Homemade pimento cheese with pecans

Tarts

Tortes

Fish baked in crushed nuts

Curries

Soup toppings

Casserole topping

In or on ice cream

Peanut Satays

Asian peanut dipping sauces

Add to pies, puddings, cookies and cakes

Add to hot or cold cereals

Tuck into lunch boxes

Pulverize nuts into butter, oil or paste

Handy websites:

About Marty Martindale

Foodsite Magazine and Marty aim to help the cooking-challenged avoid dependence on others due to lack of cooking knowhow. We concentrate on quick breakfasts, portable lunches and “good-4-u” night meals. With readily available web translation, the magazine explains separate foods, a little of their history, their nutrition, suggested “go-withs,” serving ideas and links to foodsites with recipes.

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