While some athletes love eating nuts and seeds as the perfect superfoods, others usually don’t include them in their diet, because some experts claim them are extremely fatty.
Even though nuts are full of calories, research has revealed that individuals who consume nuts are not overweight compared to those who don’t eat nuts. Surprisingly, they may even be thinner and less prone to fatty deposits over time. If you are wondering how this can be true, let us tell you that nuts keep you feeling full and satisfied for many hours.
The nutrients and fiber present in nuts are often missing in junk and processed foods. Each type of nut offers its own unique nutrition and health benefits. Thus, dietitians recommend consuming a variety of nuts in your diet to gain health and weight management benefits.
Without making you wait to know the health benefits of these supreme foods, let’s start with our list of 15 nuts and seeds that every athlete should eat. Also, do read the eating ideas added with each food so that you can easily incorporate them into your diet.
1. No Ifs, And or Buts, Only Walnuts: Bringing You Healthy Fat Alpha-Linoleic Acids
Walnuts are loaded with fiber and protein. They are a good source of healthy fat, alpha-linoleic acid, ALA. There are numerous studies that link a consumption of ALA to a diminished threat to cardiovascular diseases, including stroke in men. You just need a one-fourth cup of walnuts per day.
Let’s check a few of the health benefits you can get from walnuts:
- Along with making your heart healthy and happy, walnuts work to strengthen your bones.
- Walnuts deliver large amounts of the amino acid, L-arginine. This amino acid converts itself to nitric oxide. This chemical causes the dilation of blood vessels and improves the flow of blood to all your muscles.
- Walnuts also keep cancer at bay. The vitamin E present in walnuts is the gammatocopherol type, which helps prevent the risk of prostate cancer.
- They keep your arteries flexible and soothe any inflammation.
- In addition, walnuts are a rich source of copper and manganese that destructs any free radicals, which enhance aging and cause cell breakdown.
- Introduce them to your breakfasts. Add a handful of chopped walnuts to your cereal, yogurt or oatmeal. Add a spoonful of honey, too.
- Incorporate them into side dishes. Drizzle small pieces of walnuts on casseroles, vegetables and salads. You may also add them into whole-grain couscous, cooked rice or chicken salad. For desserts, sprinkle them on ice cream and pudding, and add them to baked treats, like cookies and brownies.
- Enhance the goodness of your smoothies. Add a one-fourth cup of walnuts when you blend your smoothies.
- Chow on walnuts as a substitute to cookies and chips. Mix them with dried fruit for a healthy trail combination.
- Prepare a healthy dip. Combined with sliced raw vegetables, this dip is a healthy alternative to the store-bought varieties. Here’s what you need to make this recipe:
- One cup chopped walnuts
- One half cup plain low-fat yogurt
- One teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Two cloves peeled garlic
- Two tablespoons canola oil
- Throw all the ingredients in a blender or food processor.
- Pulse until smooth.
- Use this dip with whole grain crackers and vegetable sticks instead of fatty cream-based dips.
Buying Tip: Ensure that the walnuts have intact shells that appear heavy. You may also buy sliced or chopped walnuts that are available in prepackaged containers. Your walnuts should stay fresh in a cool, dry and dark place.
2. Super Chia Seeds: Reasons These Tiny Seeds Deserve a Place in Your Smoothies
A tablespoon of chia seeds, approximately 12 grams, provides the following nutritional benefits for you:
- 1 grams of alpha-linolenic acid, ALA
- Four grams of fiber
- Two grams of protein
- Just 58 calories
ALA is an effective antioxidant that works to produce energy in your body. As an athlete, it is imperative that you keep your energy levels high. To do that, you need to get nutrition from sources your body can easily break down into smaller parts for a higher rate of absorption.
Including only a single tablespoon of chia seeds per day is enough to help your body get much of your needed nutrition. You should be aware of the fact that a high amount of ALA is not bad for your health. When you work out, you put loads of stress on your body and the higher levels of ALA will only work to diminish inflammation.
Chia Seed Eating Ideas for You
Understanding that chia seeds have no particular flavor will help you incorporate these tiny seeds into many of your food items. You can add them to just about anything. We are sure that most of the time you won’t even notice them. Here are a few ideas:
- Mix them in yogurt or cottage cheese.
- Sprinkle them in vegetable salads.
- Add a spoonful to your smoothies and pudding.
Let’s try this recipe:
Chia Fresca: An Effective Natural Drink
- 10 ounces of fresh drinking water
- One tablespoon dry chia seeds
- A few teaspoons lemon or lime juice
- Honey to taste, optional
- Add the chia seeds into the water.
- Let them sit for about five minutes.
- Mix again, and let them sit for as long as you like.
- After soaking in water, the seeds will become gel-like.
- Add sweetener to taste.
Warning: Even though you can eat dry chia seeds, you should be aware of the consequences. When you eat them raw, they can swell up with your saliva and form a viscous mass that can be difficult for you to swallow.
Do not consume raw chia seeds if you have any history of swallowing difficulties or esophagus constriction. It is always safer to soak them in liquid beforehand.
3. Flaxseeds: Fuel to Help You Be Active for a Longer Time
Flaxseeds are a restorative addition to your meal because they work to optimize athletic performance. They are full of fiber and lignans, which provide defense against cardiovascular health disorders.
Flaxseeds do have omega-3 fatty acid content, which positively help athletic performance. Omega-3’s healthy benefits are:
- Lessens inflammation.
- Enhances cardiac pumping.
- Increases body’s immunity.
- Provides anti-arrhythmic effects.
- Decreases muscle oxygen consumption.
- Improves fat oxidation. This phenomenon saves carbohydrates, so that your body can use them during your workouts when you want to strive for a longer session.
Flaxseed Eating Ideas
You can enjoy flaxseeds in a variety of different ways. Just be creative and use your imagination.
- You can sprinkle flaxseeds into cereals, granola, yogurt, pasta dishes, salads and sandwiches.
- Drizzle a tablespoon of flaxseed over your breakfast cereal or oatmeal each morning.
- Add to your yogurt with fruit.
- Sprinkle on peanut butter.
You Can Replace Unhealthy Oils with Ground Flaxseeds in Your Recipes
Let’s find out how.
You may substitute half of the oil used in baked goods with the same amount of ground flaxseeds, along with twice the amount of water. Check this simple example:
You can replace one-fourth cup oil with one-fourth cup ground flaxseeds. You will also need half a cup of water. Add the flaxseeds to the water and let the mixture stand for 10 minutes before you throw it into your recipes.
4. Hemp: A Restorative Protein Powder to Enhance Muscle Development
The hemp plant belongs to the mulberry family. The hemp protein powder is the richest source of vegetable protein on the planet. It has a comparable nutritional profile to eggs, meat and milk.
It contains a variety of special nutrients such as:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin E
- Essential amino acid
- Alpha, beta and gamma globulin
- Valuable minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc and copper.
Hemp protein powder is popular among athletes. It is easily digestible, so it doesn’t use up too much of your energy. This is because it contains the highest percentage of edestin, which is the most edible and readily digestible form of protein by far.
Hemp protein powder helps to:
- Repair and recover muscles.
- Enhance your energy levels.
- Promote your muscle development.
- Refuel your body quickly.
- Encourage your body to burn fat more efficiently.
- Enhance your athletic performance.
- Improve your endurance.
- Maintain a strong heart and blood vessels.
- Delay the signs of aging.
Hemp Protein Eating Ideas
Hemp protein powder has a lip-smacking, creamy, slightly nutty flavor that you will surely enjoy. Here is how to use it:
- Stir it into your milkshakes.
- Add it into smoothies.
- Mix it with juices and protein drinks.
It is gluten-free, so you can enjoy it, even if you are on a gluten-free diet.
5. Sunflower Seeds: Your Top Source of Protein and Carbs
Sunflowers produce grayish-green or black seeds that remain embedded in the small gray or black shells. These seeds are rich in oil, and so they are one of the prime sources of polyunsaturated oil.
Sunflower Seed Health Benefits
- One of the reasons why numerous performers delight in eating sunflower seeds is that they supply plenty of carbs and protein. Both of these are imperative to maintain high energy levels while you are exercising, training or performing.
- Sunflower seeds work to stimulate your liver to secrete glycogen into your blood. Glycogen also provides you with a quick boost of energy.
- The presence of minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, zinc, selenium and iron optimizes your body’s functions and participates in numerous significant processes.
- Vitamin E helps to stop the formation of free radicals within your body. Vitamin E-rich sunflower seeds also optimize circulatory system functioning.
How to Eat Sunflower Seeds
- Roast sunflower seeds in a dry skillet with your choice of spices such as cumin, chili powder and garlic.
- You can sprinkle them on salads and soups, or eat them by the handful as a quick snack, too.
6. Almonds: Your Invigorating Go-To Healthy Snack for Endurance
Almonds are full of healthy nutrients, such as vitamin E, copper, B vitamins, magnesium, manganese, healthy fats, phytochemicals, fiber and other necessary minerals, including vitamins and antioxidants.
Almonds work effectively to maintain the healthy diet of any sportsperson. Almonds also assist with sports recovery. Here are a few ways to incorporate almonds into your diet:
- Sprinkle chopped almonds on your yogurt, ice cream or pudding.
- Make yourself some trail mix with dry roasted almonds.
- Bake up some homemade muesli bars with almonds and dried fruit.
- Try a pasta dish with vegetables, pesto and toasted almond slivers.
- Mix chicken salad with toasted almonds for a quick and delicious dish.
- Make a healthy bowl of chicken and almonds with noodles.
- Enjoy your breakfast cereal with sliced almonds and low-fat milk.
7. Cashews: Your Low-Fat Powerhouse of Nutrition
Cashew nuts are full of nutrition and can be a perfect part of any athlete’s meal. They maximize your energy levels and synthesize muscle. Only one ounce of cashews has four grams of protein and nine grams of carbs. Carbs are necessary to maintain normal blood sugar levels, while protein helps to increase your muscle mass and repair damaged muscle cells.
The best part of cashews is that they are low in fat and high in iron and magnesium, which helps athletes maintain their energy and produce healthy red blood cells.
Cashew Eating Ideas
- You can eat a small snack within half an hour after your workouts. Eating only 16 to 18 cashews per day will help provide you with 160 calories.
- You can eat cashews either raw or roasted.
- Keep cashews handy in your locker or a gym bag, so that you can easily grab them after your exercise routine for quick energy.
8. Pumpkin Seeds: A Natural Energy-Boosting Snack You’ll Love
Pumpkin seeds are packed with antioxidants, vitamin E, zinc and magnesium. Athletes’ bodies are usually low in magnesium, because they are prone to sweating. Pumpkin seeds are also a rich source of leucine, an amino acid that can stimulate fat oxidation and provide you with extra endurance.
Pumpkin seeds are effective in increasing your body’s immunity because of their zinc content. The presence of omega-3 fatty acids provides additional anti-inflammatory benefits.
Eating Ideas for Pumpkin Seeds
Just one handful, or approximately 32 grams of pumpkin seeds is enough to keep you full of energy. You can also try pumpkin seeds this way:
- You may eat pumpkin seeds raw.
- If you prefer them roasted, simply place them on a baking tray and toast for 15 minutes at 160 degrees C.
- Throw them over muesli or oatmeal.
- Use them in homemade protein bars or vegetarian burgers.
- Toss toasted pumpkin seeds into cooked dishes or salads.
- Incorporate them into a granola-style cereal.
9. Pistachios: A Portable Snack to Fuel You Up Before and After Workouts
Pistachios, the “Skinny Nut,” are acclaimed for their low-fat and low-calorie status. Pistachios are a rich source of phosphorus, potassium, vitamins A and C, and several of the B complex vitamins, too.
One serving of pistachios, which is approximately 49 nuts, offers you:
- Six grams of protein.
- Eight grams of carbohydrates.
- Three grams of fiber.
Fiber is imperative to control your blood sugar and to keep you feeling full for a longer time. Pistachios contain three types of antioxidants: polyphenols, carotenoids and tocopherols, which all help boost your immunity. They also aid in tissue repair, exercise recovery and improve blood flow to your cells.
Eating Ideas for Pistachios
Pistachios are an effective addition to many of your regular meals. Consume roasted pistachios without salt to keep these nuts as wholesome as possible for you. Here’s how to enjoy the little powerhouses:
- Eat a handful for a snack.
- Toss into a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.
- Couple them with low-fat plain yogurt.
- Add pistachios to your bread and muffin recipes.
- Slice the nuts and throw them over grilled fish or steak.
- Top your green vegetable salad with a handful.
10. Sesame Seeds: The Perfect Food With the Necessary Nutrients You Need
Tiny sesame seeds are a storehouse of essential nutrients such as zinc, manganese, copper and iron. Iron is necessary for the body as it helps to prepare hemoglobin, which delivers oxygen to muscle tissues. Insufficient amounts of iron can cause severe lethargy, miserable moods and headaches.
Athletes and bodybuilders are extremely prone to zinc deficiency. The lack of zinc is the main cause of diminished endurance, low energy and fatigue. When you include sesame seeds in your diet, you get the nutrition of all of the important minerals, including zinc.
Sesame Seed Eating Ideas
You can find sesame seeds in two varieties: black and white. Even though both are a healthy source of nutrition, black sesame seeds are more potent. Here’s how to eat more sesame seeds:
- Use them when baking bagels and breads to add a nutty flavor.
- Add them to your salad dressings.
- Blend sesame seeds with soy sauce and toss with steamed veggies.
11. Pecans: Powerful Little Nuts Packed With Healthy Nutrients
The fats you will find in pecans are both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, meaning that they will work to reduce the levels of bad cholesterol in your body. Just eating a handful of pecans per day keeps you healthy and reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Along with the many other minerals, vitamins and antioxidants that pecans can provide, they also contain some of the highest levels of phytosterols. These are a group of plant chemicals that help to keep your body healthy and energetic.
Eating Ideas for Pecans
- Toast pecans in the oven or on the stove top to bring out their full, rich flavor.
- Mix sliced pecans into a bowl of cinnamon raisin oatmeal.
- Toss pecans into your salsa or guacamole dip.
- Add baked acorn squash with a few drops of maple syrup and a tablespoon of roasted pecans.
- Sprinkle some pecan bits over mashed sweet potatoes and shake on a pinch of nutmeg.
- Fill a bowl with creamy Greek yogurt, fresh berries and roasted pecans for a healthy, refreshing snack.
12. Peanuts: Full of Hard-to-Get Nutrients Your Body Needs
Peanuts provide key nutrients that can help keep your metabolism at its best. Only a single serving of peanuts provides you with proteins, fiber and the necessary vitamins and minerals you need to maintain your energy and stamina. Even though peanuts are high in fat, this fat is primarily of the monounsaturated kind, which is friendly for your heart.
Eating Ideas for Peanut Butter
- Eat a handful of dry roasted peanuts with a glass of juice.
- Throw cooked brown rice with sesame oil, scallions, chopped peanuts, red pepper and parsley.
- Spread peanut butter on your whole grain toast, waffles or crackers.
- Enjoy peanut butter with sliced apples.
- Make “Ants on a Log,” by spreading peanut butter on celery ribs, and then sprinkling raisins over them.
13. Brazil Nuts: Your Prime Source for Selenium
Intense workouts can be tough on your body, and thus, an appropriate recovery becomes necessary to improve your strength. Brazil nuts are a rich source of fats, proteins, selenium, magnesium and B-vitamins. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that keeps your body’s metabolism in good working order.
Eating Ideas for Brazil Nuts
Just a few nuts daily can promote your natural recovery processes, and help you build and maintain strong bones and muscles.
14. Hazelnuts: A Rich Source of Energy to Perk Up Your Energy Levels
Hazelnuts are a rich source of energy because of their healthy fat content. They contain vitamin E, which prevents the oxidation of polyunsaturated fats. Apart from keeping your heart, muscles and reproductive system healthy, they increase your body’s resistance by stopping the absorption of red blood cells.
The low glycemic index and high amount of fiber make hazelnuts an effective food for feeling full. The consumption of hazelnuts also helps you burn a high amount of calories during digestion. This loss of calories stimulates both the digestive system and metabolic rate by 10 percent.
Eating Ideas for Hazelnuts
A 100 gram serving of hazelnuts offers 328 calories. Here are some ways to get more of them into your daily diet:
- Consume a handful of hazelnuts for snacks and enjoy their innumerable health benefits.
- Pair them with foods that bring out the flavor, such as oatmeal and cereal.
15. Macadamia Nuts: Fatty, But in a Good Way
Macadamia nuts are the most calorie-dense nuts, but they also have the largest amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat per serving. This healthy fat lowers your bad cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Macadamias are also rich in thiamine, a type of B vitamin that works to metabolize carbohydrates into energy. These nuts contain a good deal of fiber, too.
Eating Ideas for Macadamias
Macadamia nuts contain 200 calories per ounce; thus, it is imperative to pay attention to your portion size. You can consume them in their raw state or roasted.
Remember This: Macadamia nuts have a high fat content; so you should store them properly to keep them from turning rancid. Nuts in unopened containers remain good in the refrigerator for up to six months or in the freezer for up to a year. When opened, keep in the refrigerator and consume them within two months.
Where You Can Buy These Healthy Nuts and Seeds
You can buy most of these nuts and seeds at your local grocery store or supermarket. For the hard-to-find ingredients, try checking online stores. Just make sure that you purchase fresh and healthy ones.
Athletic Energy: Best Times for You to Eat Nuts and Seeds
- Afternoon Snacks: Consuming nuts in the afternoon helps you feel full for a longer time. This keeps you from binging on less satisfying snacks that will lead you to overeat later.
- Pre-Workout Food: You can include nuts and seeds as a pre-workout food. The fats and proteins found in these foods will keep cravings away for a long time. However, do include a few healthy carbohydrates to fuel your muscles.
- Post-Workout Food: Nuts and seeds offer protein that helps repair muscle. When coupled with carbs, your body recovers and rejuvenates more quickly. A few healthy combinations of nuts and carbs include peanut butter on a bagel, apple or banana. You can also add dried fruits and nuts to your oatmeal and cereal.
Don’t be scared of nuts and seeds because of their caloric nature. It’s perfectly healthy to go nuts. You will notice by consuming a balanced diet that includes recommended portions of nuts and seeds, you will experience an energy boost for the entire day. And, when you are pepped up with energy, you can perform better and endure longer workouts.