Demystifying nuts, seeds and oils

Nuts and seeds warrant special attention due to their high nutritional value. In the past nuts have been discouraged, especially in eating plans for weight loss. But this view has now changed. Research concerning the Mediterranean Diet  supports eating a variety of tree nuts.

Why should I Eat Nuts and Seeds?

Nuts and seeds provide protein, essential dietary fats such as linoleic acid, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium and a number of other minerals. Almonds, brazil nuts, hazel nuts, walnuts, flaxseed, sunflower and pumpkin seeds are among the most nutritious varieties. Walnuts and linseed provide a good source of omega 3 fatty acids, which have a range of health benefits.

How Much can I Have?

Aim to include at least two serves of unsalted raw or dry roasted nuts and seeds a week. If you eat a vegetarian diet enjoy 1 -2 serves per day. A serve is 30g and equates to the following:

  • 20 almonds or hazelnuts or
  • 15 cashews or macadamias or pecans
  • 10 whole walnuts or 20 halves or
  • 10 brazil nuts or
  • a small handful of mixed nuts or
  • ¼ cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds or
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds or
  • 1/6 cup flaxseeds


Oils that we use for dressings, dips and cooking are made from nuts and seeds. Oils have unique flavours and properties that make them more suitable for different purposes. Olive and macadamia oils are great for salads, peanut and sunflower oils are suited to stir-fry cooking and I particularly like rice bran oil for baking as a substitute for butter. You can have up to a tablespoon of added oil or margarine a day. You may need twice this amount if you are very active.

How Do I Choose?

I favour unprocessed or minimally processed sources of dietary fats, such as whole nuts and seeds and cold pressed oils. Margarines are highly processed and their production requires turning liquid oil (natural form) into a solid. I also encourage you to reflect on whether you really need it. A serve of margarine is 10g or about a teaspoon. If you are generous with the amount you spread you could be having more kilojoules than you require.

Alternatives to margarine are fresh avocado, nut spreads and hummus (made from chickpeas). I also enjoy an occasional light spread of butter. I am reluctant to suggest butter as a general recommendation, as most people are eating too much saturated fat. We can achieve a balance of dietary fats by basing our diet on whole foods and limiting the processed ones. In future posts I will further unravel the types and roles of dietary fats.

Nuts for Life

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