The Reason Nuts are a Vegetarian's Best Friend

Learn how to shop for nuts, one of the best sources of good quality fats, fiber and protein, and Omega 3, from Natural Gourmet chef instructor Celine Beitchman.
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Learn how to shop for nuts, one of the best sources of good quality fats, fiber and protein, and Omega 3, from Natural Gourmet chef instructor Celine Beitchman.

Tree nuts are one of the best sources of good quality fats, fiber and protein, and in some cases even Omega 3, the anti-inflammatory powerhouse. With a rich taste, satisfying texture and culinary versatility on their side, what could be easier than adding a handful of hazelnuts, pignoli or pistachios to your meals? Just a quick scan across the globe shows them in every culinary tradition, from Syrian muhammara and Italian pesto to Galician gazpacho and Middle-Eastern dukka. You could, without a doubt, make a tree nut-based recipe every day of the year, tapping into the myriad health benefits of nuts.

But raw, shelled, blanched or toasted – which kind should you buy?

How to Shop For Nuts

Because nuts are concentrated sources of “healthy” fats, they’re also prone to rancidity - light, heat and oxygen being their biggest enemies. Ideally, I always buy nuts in their raw state, so I can capitalize on their versatility – whether making nut milk with raw nuts, or toasting them for other recipes. If, for whatever reason, I’m not buying the raw kind, I buy blanched or toasted nuts from a store with good temperature control and a high turnover (meaning they rotate and replace their stock regularly).

Be sure to taste the nuts when you first bring them home from the store so you know what they should taste like - and when they’re past their prime. Raw or cooked, tree nuts will likely keep for 2-3 months in your freezer, refrigerator or in a cool, dark, dry place. They may still be edible, but not necessarily fresh tasting. Unless you’re taking advantage of bulk pricing, eat what you buy, don’t just squirrel them away.

Here are some easy everyday ideas for incorporating nuts into your diet:

  • sprinkle toasted tree nuts onto salads, cooked grains or vegetable side dishes
  • soak a quarter-cup of tree nuts overnight and blend into your morning smoothie
  • press half-inch thick tofu filets into finely chopped tree nuts, then pan sear each side until golden

Lately, I’ve been making a monthly batch of “Trinkles” (tree nut sprinkles!) to toss onto everything from savory oatmeal to sweet fruit salads, roasted vegetables, dinner grains and everything in between. A jar or bowl’s worth on your countertop or at your desk can be a gentle reminder to enjoy them every day.

Trinkles

  • 2 cup assorted tree nuts, roughly chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons chia seeds or sesame seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt

Mix nuts and seeds together and toast in a 325º F degree oven for 12-15 minutes until golden. Remove from oven, toss with sea salt, and cool completely before eating or storing in airtight container.

Eager to learn more about how to shop, cook, and eat more healthfully as a vegetarian? Join our eight-week course Foundations of Plant-Based Nutrition with the Natural Gourmet Institute. Sign up now!