Nuts and seeds are some of the most nutrient dense and delicious foods on earth. They are an important part of fertility nutrition, pregnancy nutrition and beyond because they supply the body with ample fiber, protein, minerals and essential fatty acids.
What you may not know about nuts and seeds, is that they should be consumed and stored in a certain way to protect their nutritional content and your health. All nuts and seeds should be consumed in their raw form, or as close to raw as possible, to ensure all nutrients stay intact. Essential fatty acids and zinc are especially sensitive to heat and can be destroyed when heated. Before I get to that though, let’s learn about important key players in their nutritional profile. These are nutrients that impact fertility health.
Nuts and Seeds are a Fertility Nutrition Powerhouse!
Seeds and nuts are packed with very important nutrients for fertility. They are literally the seed of life for a new plant, so they are packed with key ingredients to generate life. Four of the most important are proteins, omega- 3 essential fatty acids, zinc and vitamin E.
Proteins are required for building and repair of the body’s tissues. This includes a growing baby in its mothers womb. The amino acids that make up protein are the building blocks of the body’s cells, including those of your baby. Protein is also an excellent source of energy.
Nuts and seeds with the highest content of protein:
* Peanuts (1 oz.) 6.7 g
* Sunflower seeds (1 oz.) 6 g
* Flax Seeds (1 oz.) 6 g
* Almonds (1/4 cup) 6 g
* Sesame seeds (1 oz.) 5 g
* Walnuts (1 oz.) 4 g
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
The popular EFA omega-3 supports healthy fertility by helping to regulate hormones, increase cervical mucous production, promote ovulation and improve the quality of the uterus by increasing the blood flow to the reproductive organs. It also helps to regulate inflammatory response, thereby aiding fertility issues such as endometriosis, PCOS, and uterine fibroids. Omega-3 is also important for proper sperm production. In pregnancy, omega-3 EFA can help support proper nervous system and brain development.
The best nuts and seeds for omega 3 are:
* Walnuts – 1/4 cup = 2,270mg
* Flax seeds – 2 Tbs = 3,510mg
* Hemp seeds – 3 Tbs = 3,000mg
* Chia seeds – 1Tbs = 2,300mg
Zinc works with more than 300 different enzymes in the body to keep it running smoothly. It is important for fertility because it plays an important role in proper development of ova and sperm, hormonal balance, prevention of chromosomal defects, and prevention of recurrent miscarriage.
The best nuts and seeds for zinc are:
* Pumpkin – 1/4 cup = 2.7mg
* Sesame – 1/4 cup =2.8mg
This vitamin is essential to fertility. In fact, the chemical name for the most active form of vitamin is alpha-tocopherol comes from the work tokos which means “offspring,” and phero, which means “to bear”. So in order to bear children, you must have adequate levels of vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant which has been shown to be supportive of nerve cells, red blood cells, the liver and the immune system.
The best nuts and seeds for vitamin E are:
* Sunflower Seeds – 1/4 cup = 18.10mg
* Almonds – 1/4 cup = 8.97mg
Important Note About Peanut Allergy & Pregnancy
Allergies to peanuts are serious. Some studies suggest that when a pregnant woman consumes peanut products, the fetus may be exposed to peanut allergens. This means a developing baby may be at higher risk for developing a peanut allergy later in life. This is especially concerning for parents with peanut allergy. It is suggested that pregnant mothers with a family history of peanut allergy on either side of the baby’s family, should avoid eating peanut products during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Nuts and Seeds
* Eat nuts and seeds that are organic and raw (see more below if you are sensitive to raw nuts)
* Purchase nuts still in their shell
* Choose raw nut and seed butters or make your own
* Grind small fresh seeds like flax, chia, sesame to get the full benefits. Seeds are so small the body doesn’t digest them, they usually pass through the digestive tract.
* Sprout raw nuts, this will help your body to digest them
* Make your own nut and seed milk
* Purchase nuts & seeds that have been stored in the refrigerated section of the store, this is a common practice in many health foods stores
* Store in an airtight glass container in the fridge or freezer (long-term)
What to Avoid
* Avoid roasted nuts and seeds, especially those roasted in oil. Nuts roasted in oil may be high in free radicals, which damages cellular health. Dry roasted is better, but raw or sprouted is best.
* Avoid salted nuts and seed, unless you lightly salt them right before eating. The salt for soaking in brine water is fine.
* Try to avoid purchasing nuts and seeds that have been stored on the shelf. The oils go rancid quite quickly.
* Avoid roasted nut and seed and butters made from them
* Non-organic nuts and seeds
What to do About Digestive Upset Due to Raw Nuts
Some people, including me are sensitive to raw nuts. They can cause digestive upset in some people because they contain enzyme inhibitors. The digestive system contains digestive enzymes, but these enzyme inhibitors can prevent the body’s digestive enzymes from digesting nuts thoroughly.
So what can be done?
Sprouting or soaking them in salt water for a few hours and then properly drying them in a warm (not hot) oven or food dehydrator destroys the enzyme inhibitors, while unlocking nutrient potential.
How to Soak & Dry Raw Nuts
1. Add 1 Tbsp. sea salt to 4 cups raw, hulled nuts in a glass mixing bowl
2. Fill bowl with enough filtered water to cover
3. Soak for appropriate time, see below
4. After soaking is done, strain and spread the nuts out on a cookie/baking sheet
5. Dry in a warm oven at 150F or in a food dehydrator for around 12 hours.
6. Turn and stir the nuts a few times in this time.
7. Once dry, remove from oven/dehydrator. Allow to cool and then store in an airtight container.
Soaking times vary by nut, here is a quick guide:
* 12 hours for pecans, walnuts, peanuts
* 8 hours for almonds and macadamias
* 4-6 hours max for cashews
Sprouting Nuts & Seeds
Sprouting ensures you are getting the most nutrient dense nuts and seeds. Sprouts are the germinated seed of a plant. Nuts are seeds. Sprouts can be made from any seed of any edible plant. Sprouts are packed with nutrients. Any raw nut or seed, including beans can be sprouted and are extremely delicious.
If you don’t have time to sprout, soak and dry raw nuts, most health food stores and Nuts.com sell already soaked and dried nuts and nut butters.
Nuts and seeds are so versatile! Ideas for Ways to Eat Them…
* Sprinkle on top of oatmeal, salads, yogurt
* Grind in a food processor for a long time to make a nut or seed butter
* Puree in food processor to make delicious dips and sauces
* Add nut and seed butters to smoothies
* Grind dried nuts in food processor to make flour, almond is delicious
* Make your own nut and seed milks
* Make your own trail/nut mix
2. Fallon, Sally. Enig, Mary G., Ph.D. Nourishing Traditions: The CookBook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. NewTrends Publishing, Inc. 2001
6. Olson, Cathe. The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook, GoCo Publishing, 2005