For adding a little crunch and loads of nutritional value to your food you can always rely on nuts. Technically speaking ‘a nut is a fruit composed of a hard shell and a seed, where the hard-shelled fruit does not open to release the seed’.
But in kitchen and cookery lingo the term nuts refers to dried seeds that are used to increase the calorific value of food and improve its taste.
I am sure you are familiar with a large number of nuts. Let us see how many you can name quickly. Did you know that walnuts are probably the oldest food known to man that is obtained from a tree?
Today scientists hail walnuts for their anti-oxidant content which helps keep the immune system charged up and fight the growth of cancerous cells.
Archaeologists have found a number of tools that our forefathers must have developed to crack open the hard shell at various sites of excavation.
Nuts have always been prized due to their high oil content thus making them a rich source of energy for the human body. It is interesting to know that as numerous are edible nuts known to us, so are the ways in which they are consumed. Some are used in cooking, some eaten raw, some are roasted and eaten as snacks while others are pressed for their oil which is used in cooking as well as to make cosmetics.
Another interesting fact about nuts is that they belong to a variety of botanical families. For example pine nuts belong to the coniferous family, whereas peanuts belong to the family of legumes.
Eating nuts as part of a healthy diet has gained importance over the years. Various studies have shown that people who consume nuts routinely have a lower risk of developing a heart condition. This is because nuts contain unsaturated fatty acids and other heart-friendly nutrients which help lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) levels in the blood.
Nuts also contain Omega 3 fatty acids, fibre and vitamins, all of which help to lower cholesterol and boost general health of our tissues and skin.
Almonds, probably the face of nuts, are an excellent source of bone building mineral and Vitamin E. The skin of an almond is rich in heart protecting compounds called flavonoids.
Cashew nuts are rich in minerals like iron and zinc. They are a great source of magnesium which is supposed to aid memory functions like recall and retention.
I am sure you all love pistachios. Can you recall a summer cooler that is made with a generous use of this lovely green nut? Did you scream kulfi? Yay! I say.
Pistas are a rich source of Vitamin B6 which is important for maintaining hormonal balance in the body. They are also rich in potassium and two antioxidants — Lutein and Zeaxanthin — important for good eyesight.
Nuts have been mentioned in ancient culinary texts the world over. The Bible mentions almonds, walnuts and pistachios. Almonds have also been part of various religious, social and cultural activities over the ages. Betel nut is chewed all over the world and is known as a psychoactive drug. In India it is used in mouth-freshners and sweet treats.
Coconut too is consumed the world over in various forms. Then there are nuts like macademia and hazelnut which are popularly used in making chocolates and flavoured spreads.
Oil produced from many of the nuts mentioned above contains almost the same goodness as the nut and now are being used more and more. Leading the race is olive oil which is also known for its uses in skin care.
The world of nuts is amazing wouldn’t you say?