Now that Diwali is over, you must be wondering what to do with all the boxes of assorted nuts you've been gifted. Well, the good news is that nuts are nutritional powerhouses - high in fibre, protein and healthy fats. Which means they are perfect for your family to snack on, provided you eat nuts in moderation.
All nuts are not 'true nuts.' Most nuts you know are not 'true' nuts, but either seeds, legumes or drupes. Here is how you can differentiate between them: True or botanical nuts: Seeds within hardened outer shells that need to be cracked open. Eg: Hazelnuts, walnuts, acorns. Seeds: Edible seeds are also considered as nuts. Eg: Brazil nut, macadamia nut. Legumes: Pods with many seeds that open out when ready to be harvested. Eg: Peanut. Drupes: Fleshy fruits which contain a hard shell housing a seed within. In this case, we eat the seed of the drupe instead of the fleshy fruit. Eg: Pistachio, almond, cashew. But, we commonly refer to all of them as 'nuts'!
Nuts reduce acidity. Almonds, chestnuts and cashews are alkaline in nature - and your body loves to function in an alkaline condition. Today's highly processed foods with added sugar can make your body very acidic. To neutralise the effect, your body draws various minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium from your bones, teeth and other organs. This can make you nutrient-deficient in the long run. So, eating nuts neutralises the acids and preserves the nutrients in your body.
Soaking nuts improves nutrition. Grains, nuts and seeds are high in anti-nutrient substances like phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. When consumed as is, they can interfere with your body's ability to absorb nutrients by binding to them. Simply soaking nuts in warm salt water overnight, can remove these anti-nutrients. Remember to drain the water thoroughly before offering the nuts to your child. If you are soaking large batches, dry roast until crisp and store in an airtight container. Soaking and mashing nuts is a good way to add them to your child's diet.
Flavour your curries and salads: While you can simply munch them, you can also use nuts to enhance your favourite recipes - be it your salads, or your rich creamy curries. So, head right to the market, pick up some nuts or use the ones you got as Diwali gifts. Innovate ways to use them in your everyday diet.
Nut milk not a replacement for cow's milk. If your child is allergic or intolerant to milk, you are probably considering replacing it with nut milk. It's important to keep in mind that nut milks and regular cow's milk are nutritionally very different. Cow's milk is rich in protein, calcium, vitamins A and D, whereas nut milks are relatively low in protein and calcium. The closest alternative can be almond milk fortified with nutrients. Vegan parents, take note.
Nuts are full of minerals. Nuts are little powerhouses of extraordinary nutrients. If you are a vegetarian, you may not have a range of options to get adequate amounts of minerals like zinc, copper, selenium and magnesium. Nuts are a good option and contain all these essential minerals. They are also rich in vitamins B and E. When it comes to vitamin E, there are several variants and your nut friend delivers them all to your child.
A word of caution:
Avoid giving whole nuts to children below five years of age as these can be a choking hazard.
Some children may be allergic to nuts. So, make sure you introduce one nut variety at a time into your child's diet and watch for any allergic reaction.
Seek medical help immediately if your child exhibits any of the following allergic reactions:
Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea
Has difficulty swallowing
Redness, swelling and itching of skin, tongue, face or other parts of the body
Shortness of breath, stuffy, runny nose
A sore throat and watery eyes
Or any other abnormal reaction.
Make your own:
If you love nut butter or want to make out-of-the-world smoothies with nut milk, you can do it right at home. You need just one ingredient - nuts.
To make nut butter:
Take a handful of nuts, roast for about 5 minutes and cool. Put the roasted and cooled nuts in a blender and pulse until smooth and creamy. Your nut butter is ready.
Note: Within a few minutes of blending, the nuts will naturally ooze out oils. This is your first sign of victory. Resist the impulse to add anything else (no oil, water, sugar, salt). You need to run it for about 10 minutes to get a creamy consistency.
To make nut milk:
Soak 1 cup of nuts in 3 cups of water overnight. Drain the water, add the soaked nuts to a blender. Add up to 4 cups of water and blend well. Strain the blended mixture using a muslin cloth to extract nut milk.
Note: This nut milk can be refrigerated for about 2-3 days. If you are especially looking at making a protein smoothie, choose peanut milk.
Nuts are a storehouse of essential nutrients. Good to eat as is or mixed with other food, nuts are the ideal food for the entire family. Introduce the goodness of nuts to your child as early as six months. So yes, go nuts over nuts!
With inputs from Kiran Patel, a Mumbai-based dietician.
Looking for expert tips and interesting articles on parenting? Subscribe now to our magazine. Connect with us on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube