Weight loss in a nutshell

Fibre and proteins are known to appease one’s hunger while trying to diet. So also fat. A little fat in the dieter’s menu adds to the satiety of his meal, apart from the various nutritional reasons why even those on a weight reducing diet should consume fats.

What if you can have a food that has all of these – fibre, proteins and fats?

Also, what if this food nourishes you abundantly – providing you with antioxidants, essential fatty acids (omega 3 and omega 6), phytonutrients, plant sterols, minerals and vitamins thus providing the added benefit of reducing risk of cardiac diseases and stroke (by lowering cholesterol) protecting against rheumatoid arthritis, gallstones, cancers of the breast and colon, asthma, Alzheimer’s and perhaps even have anti-aging properties.

All this in a nutshell, literally! Welcome to the world of nuts and seeds. The nutritional worthiness of these tiny edibles will put any other food group to shame.

Peanuts, pine nuts, pistachio, almonds, cashew, seeds of melons, pumpkin, sesame, etc are all part of Indian cooking since the olden ages. Of these sesame seeds have the highest phytosterols and contain 2 special kinds of lignans (fibre) known as sesamin and sesamolin.

How much to eat

Researches show that eating 1 ½ ounce of nuts a day will bestow health benefits. This does not mean that you can eat a diet high in fatty foods and include nuts or seeds additionally.

The fats from nuts and seeds should replace other sources of fat in the diet. On a 1500 kcal diet, an ounce of nuts or seeds will provide approximately half of the permitted fat intake.

How to use them

How could something that is so full of fat and calories, be part of a weight reduction plan, you may ask. Intelligently and sparingly used, seeds and nuts can add flavour and variety to salads, soups, chutneys, fruits, curries or become a snack.

Eat them as a snack: Buy only nuts or seeds – pumpkin seeds, melon seeds, peanuts, pista – in their shells and shell them as you eat on. This takes time, and so it prevents you from popping a whole lot into your mouth all at once. Chew well or you will end up with stomach pain or constipation. Drink a glass of water after you finish eating.

Make a chutney: Dry roast your daily quota of peanuts; grind it along with chopped small onions, ginger, dried red chillies, a bit of tamarind and curry leaves to coarse chutney – a healthy chutney to have with your dosas!

Make a spread: Grind white sesame seeds into a fine paste. Add chopped, wilted methi leaves and mix. Use it as a spread instead of commercial peanut butter. The flavour is so strong you do not even need to season it.

Add to salads: Just like anardana, peanuts add character to fruit or green salads. The crunchiness calls for more chewing and makes you feel full. Or season your raita with yellow mustard powder. Mix into dough. Mix black sesame seeds into your whole-wheat chapati dough to add extra protein and fibre.

Grind into dishes: Most nuts can be finely ground and added to dishes to thicken and give a creamy texture to vegetable dishes and thus replace cream or coconut milk.

Add to milk: Don’t like the taste of skimmed milk? Add a tablespoon of char magaz (almonds and seeds of watermelon, sweet melon and pumpkin) flavoured with cardamom to it. This nutritious drink is sure to fill you up. Or add a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds to low fat curds.

Use as garnish: Why just stick to usual almonds, cashew or pine nuts to garnish your rice and curry dishes. Go creative. Try toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

Low fat cooking need not be unattractive or tasteless. A little creativity and calculation can make your dieting process both a palatable and nutritious experience.

Parvathy R Krishnan
The author is a trained Nutrition & Dietetics expert with over 20 years’ of experience in hospitals like Vijaya Hospital in Chennai and the Armed Forces Hospital and New Mowasat Hospitals in Kuwait. She is presently a member of the Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India. Parvathy blogs at http://premadiet.blogspot.in/

More by this author:
How to reduce cholesterol in the Indian diet
What do you eat to manage diabetes?

Image: Flickr Creativecommons Arenamontanous