Nuts & Seeds

Nuts & seeds between meals make the perfect snack

Chuck away the junk-food snacks and start snacking on nuts & seeds, with a few raisins thrown in to add sweetness and added fibre. I tend to buy my nuts & seeds in large packs to save money. Sainsburys for example sell 500g bags of almonds for around £7.00 in their large stores. Holland & Barrett sometimes does 'buy 1 get 1 half price' deals which are worth looking out for. My favourites are almonds and cashew nuts. As a personal trainer in London who spends a lot of time travelling by tube and train across the capital, nuts & seeds are always in my backpack for a handy snack on the go.

One of my recent personal training clients in Cheslea London SW3 wanted to know what she should eat between meals, instead of her usual crisps and energy drinks. I recommended nuts (particularly almonds, walnuts, and cashews - raw and unsalted of course) seeds (sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds), and chopped vegetables (a tupperware full of chopped carrots, radishes, whole baby sweetcorn, and whole cherry tomatoes).

Most people snack automatically without realising how much rubbish they're consuming. A biscuit here, a can of fizzy drink there, and before you know it, you're a few stone heavier by the end of the year. Ironically, many people snack endlessly on fruit, thinking this is the healthiest of all snacks. You'd be right if you stopped at two or three portions of fruit per day (make sure one of these is an orange for the vitamin C). But anything more than three portions will simply be converted to fat by your liver, because only the liver can metabolise fructose (fruit sugar) and it soon gets overloaded. Eating lots of fruit is one of the biggest mistakes people make when they're trying to eat more healthily.

Junk foods you should avoid like the plague

Avoid the so-called 'energy' drinks (they provide an artificial boost of energy quickly followed by a huge crash in energy, which totally messes up your metabolism, as well as raising the acid levels in your body and weakening your bone density over time), avoid crisps (scarily high in fat and salt, even the so-called 'low fat' varieties), and avoid  'healthy' flapjack bars (which are usually packed with sugar and additives). You should even avoid zero calorie fizzy drinks, because they contain aspartame, an artificial sweetener which tricks your body into thinking it's sugar, which in turn stimulates insulin production and causes a crash in blood sugar. Turn to nuts and seeds!

How many nuts & seeds should I eat a day?

Make sure you don't eat more than a dozen nuts a day (and don't eat them every day). Choose the unsalted ones. Almonds are my personal favourite. You can sprinkle them on your cereal (sugar-free cereal of course!) or add them to a bowl of live natural yoghurt or Icelandic Skyr (available in Asda). Seeds are great too, I sprinkle sunflower seeds on my yoghurt at breakfast, and sometimes pumpkin seeds.

Some nuts are healthier than others, even the 'healthy' ones will make you fat if you eat them in excess. And yes, cashew nuts are among the fattier ones. My all-time favourite nuts are almonds, and favourite seeds: pumpkin seeds.

So make Almondsnuts and seeds a regular part of your diet. Any personal trainer in London will advise you to eat nuts and seeds, in moderation of course (a dozen nuts every other day is a good rough guide). Avoid salted nuts like the plague. Excess salt increases your risk of high blood pressure, which is bad for your heart.

And dried fruit is healthy in moderation, not least for the fibre it provides, and it's a good source of iron too. Most good supermarkets sell dried apricots, which make the perfect snack between meals. Dried mango makes a good snack too, and mango has more fibre than any other fruit. Beware, dried fruit has a high fructose content, so eat in small quantities, and not every day.

Chia seeds

Derived from the South American plant Salvia Hispanica, chia seeds are classed as a superfood due to their high density of micronutrients. Chia is the ancient Mayan word for "strong", and they have been used by South Americans for centuries.Chia seeds contain iron, calcium, selenium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, potassium, and several B vitamins. They're vegan friendly, and an ideal food for vegans as they're higher in protein than most plant-based foods. You get a healthy dose of good fats (polyunsaturated), as well as fibre (great for digestive health and weight loss).

Sprinkle them onto your breakfast cereal, soups, salads, or add them to a bowl of fruit & yoghurt.

Almonds

A great source of minerals (magnesium, potassium, manganese), good fats (monounsaturated), and fibre. And a rich source of protein (22g protein per 100g of almonds). Potassium is one of the electrolytes - it helps regulate your fluid balance. Magnesium helps you to use the protein you eat for things like growth, repair, and production of hormones. And manganese, a trace mineral, helps with blood clotting, metabolism of all food groups, and calcium absorbtion (and therefore bone health). See how much goodness there is in the simple almond?

Brazil Nuts

One of the richest sources of magnesium. Especially high in the heart-protecting mineral selenium, which also has anti-ageing properties, and anti-cancer properties. A good source of protein (14g protein per 100g brazil nuts). Don't eat more than 4 brazil nuts a day, or you risk overdosing on selenium, a trace mineral which the body needs only in very small amounts. Brazil nuts are high in selenium.

Walnuts

Higher in polyunsaturated fats than most nuts, which are generally higher in monounsaturated fat. Both these types of fat are 'good fats' and help you store fat soluble vitamins, as well as helping to raise your 'good cholesterol' levels, and lower your 'bad cholsterol' levels. Walnuts have the same protein content as brazil nuts. And like almonds and brazils, walnuts are a good source of some of the B vitamins (B1, B6, folate).

Pumpkin Seeds

A great source of valuable minerals (potassium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, copper). Also rich in polyunsaturated fats (one of the 'good fats'). Pumpkin seeds make a healthy snack to help keep you off the crisps. If you eat crisps, stop now! They're generally full of saturated fat and salt. Not good for you. The low fat ones still have some fat, and not the 'good fats'.

Sunflower Seeds

High in vitamin E, good for the skin. Also rich in zinc, magnesium and manganese. As with all nuts and seeds, sunflower seeds are also a good source of essential fatty acids (both polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats).

Flax Seeds

Also known as linseeds. A good source of omega 3 fatty acids (one of the polyunsaturated fats). You can sprinkle them on your cereal. Alternatively you can put a dessert-spoon of flax seeds in a glass of water, pop it in the fridge overnight, and drink it in the morning (don't be deterred by the strange consistency!), as a quick and easy way to get a boost of omega 3.

As a personal trainer who travels to clients all over London, I always carry a supply of nuts and seeds to snack on. If you do the same, you'll never be short of a healthy snack.

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