Plant Powered Protein Day 7: Nuts // Easy Granola Bar Recipe

It's day 7 of our #PlantPoweredProtein series and we're going a little nuts on the blog! Today, we're going to dive into five different kinds of nuts that are a great source of protein / other yummy health benefits as well as a really easy granola bar recipe.

Almonds:

  • Almonds promote a healthy heart, support strong bones / teeth and aid in weight loss.
  • Protein: A 1.5oz serving of almonds provides over 9g of protein.
  • Vitamin E: A 1oz serving of almonds dishes around 37% of our recommended daily intake of Vitamin E and is considered to be one of the best sources for it out there. What's great about Vitamin E is that it does things like: fights free radicals in our bodies and helps to prevent disease, repairs our skin by improving moisture and elasticity and fights of inflammation.
  • Antioxidants: Almonds are a wonderful source of antioxidants, many of which are found in the brown layer of skin.

 

Cashews:  

  • Cashews promote heart health, increase our levels of energy, boost brain function and support healthy bones and blood.
  • Protein: Cashews offer 6.5 grams of protein per a 1.5 oz serving.
  • Blood health: The copper and iron content in cashews are a great combination that help our bodies form and utilize red blood cells, which keep our immune system, bones, nerves and blood vessels healthy and functioning properly. Cashews contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which are essential fatty acids that have been associated with lower levels of unhealthy LDL cholesterol and higher levels of healthy HDL cholesterol. Consuming these healthy fats may help decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Eye health: Everyone knows that carrots keep our eyes healthy, but did you know that cashews do, too? Cashew nuts contain small amounts of zeaxanthin - an important antioxidant - which gets selectively absorbed into the eye and protects our eyes from harmful high-energy light waves like ultraviolet rays in sunlight..
  • Awesome "cream" substitute: cashews are used a lot in the plant-based community as a substitute for cream and/or cheese. I have made "cheese" cream sauces, ricotta "cheese", pesto sauce, dips, etc. using cashews and you can hardly tell the difference! In fact, I think it makes the dishes taste even better.

 

Pistachios:

  • Pistachios boost brain health, support blood sugar regulation and weight loss and improve good cholesterol. 
  • Protein: 9g of protein can be found in 1.5oz of pistachios and 20% of a pistachio's weight is in protein. Plus, they're amongst the lowest-calorie nuts.
  • Fiber: Pistachios are high in fiber, with over 3g per serving. In other good news for our guts: pistachios can increase the number of butyrate-producing bacteria in our gut, which help reduced the risk of developing digestive disorders and heart disease.
  • Vitamin and mineral-rich: Pistachios are rich in essential vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, etc.
  • Fun to eat: Plain and simple, pistachios are just fun to eat, and, they're a great snack for weight loss. Since the process for eating pistachios is a little more involved by having to crack the shell, you're more likely to recognize when you're full vs. just mindlessly snacking.

 

Walnuts:

  • Walnuts promote heart health, support blood sugar regulation and insulin response and reduce inflammation.
  • Protein: 1.5oz of walnuts contain almost 7g of protein.
  • Brain function: Not to be weird, but have you ever noticed how a walnut looks like a little brain? It's no coincidence that they're great for brain health. Walnuts have a high concentration of DHA (a type of Omega-3 fatty acid), which has been shown to protect brain health in newborns, improve cognitive performance in adults, and help prevent age-related cognitive decline, according to Brain HQ. 1/4 cup of walnuts gives us almost 100% of the recommended daily intake of DHA.
  • Cardiovascular benefits: Walnuts can help lower cholesterol, protect us against free radicals and decrease unhealthy inflammation in our bodies.

 

Peanuts:

  • Peanuts promote heart health, support brain health and reduce inflammation.
  • Protein: Over 10g of protein can be found in 1.5oz of peanuts, with the protein content ranging from 22-30% of peanuts calories.
  • Healthy heart: While peanuts may get a bad rap because of their high fat content, they contain heart-healthy fats like monounsaturated fats, which as we've talked about throughout this series, are associated with lower cardiovascular risk.
  • Essential vitamins and minerals: Peanuts are great sources of biotin, copper, folate, manganese, Vitamin E and magnesium.

A few other things to note...

  • Always try to buy your nuts raw (check the bulk food bins!) and either eat them raw or roast them yourself at home. If you're unable to find raw nuts, look for nuts that are dry roasted. Dry roasted nuts are less likely to have oil or other additives that you don't want / need. When you're roasting nuts at home, simply turn your oven on to 350 degrees, place the raw nuts on a baking sheet and roast until they're a little darker on color and fragrant. No need for oil and you can mix the nuts with any spices after they're done roasting and are still warm.
  • Read your food labels. I'm such a huge advocate for reading food labels because I really want to help people understand just what's going into their food, and in turn, what they're putting into their bodies! If you're going to buy packaged nuts, make sure that the label has ingredients that you recognize and can read/pronounce. A good rule of thumb: the shorter the list of ingredients, the better:
    • "Cashews, almonds, sea salt."
    • Avoid options that have an ingredient list like: "Cashews, almonds, peanuts, peanut oil, corn syrup, sea salt, fructose, cornstarch, xanthan gum."
  • Best way to store nuts is in a cool, dry pantry or cupboard. If your pantry is stocked to the brim and you're out of storage, keep your nuts in the freezer -- they'll stay crunchy and fresh. Always be sure to store them in an air-tight or sealed container.

 

And now for today's recipe, I love making granola bars that are simple and easy. These are great for a "grab and go" breakfast on your way out the door or just a snack throughout your day.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup packed Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup chopped almonds
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 TBS of chia + hemp seeds
  • ½ cup dried blueberries

 

Instructions:

  • Line a baking dish with parchment paper, leaving some overhang on the sides for easy removal. Set aside.

  • In a food processor, mix dates and maple syrup together until they kind of form a paste.

  • In a large bowl, combine oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds, chia + hemp seeds and dried blueberries.

  • Add date mixture to the rest of your ingredients and mix until combined (I used my hands to mix everything -- much easier to handle!).

  • Scoop mixture into baking dish and firmly press into an even layer.

  • Chill in freezer for about 30 minutes until firm. When your 30 minutes are up, take the dish out of the freezer and lift sides of parchment paper to remove. Cut into bars and serve. Enjoy!