Go Nuts! Put The Fun Back In Food

One of the greatest challenges to creating and sustaining our highest expression of well-being is food. What kind? How much? We tend to become more like the food we eat. The less alive and healthy our food, the less alive and vital our lives.

I have witnessed many "food philosophies" being played out in kitchens and at the dinner table. For those of you who have equated healthy eating with pain and deprivation, this month's FUNctional food suggestions will satisfy mind, body and taste.

The news is nuts. Healthy fat content, magnesium, fiber and flavonoids make nuts a sound addition to most diets. Research has moved the nut out of its "fat shadow" and has suggested that the regular consumption of nuts may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Nuts contain beneficial heart-affirming fats, rich in both poly- and monounsaturated fats. Studies have shown that almonds may help lower LDL and total blood cholesterol. Walnuts are uniquely rich in a type of beneficial omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, which has been shown to lower heart disease risk.

Nuts are also a great source of magnesium. Magnesium contributes to heart health in a variety of ways, from promoting healthy muscle contractility to maintaining optimal blood pressure. A magnesium deficiency is common with an overstressed, drive-thru, drive-by lifestyle, and contributes to a wide variety of symptoms and conditions.

The act of creating a dish with nuts for you and loved ones may quite possibly further augment the therapeutic benefits.

Here's a blood-sugar balancing, heart-healthy and delicious way to include nuts in your life:

1/2 cup almond butter (or ground almonds)
1/2 cup ground flaxseeds
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup protein powder
1/4 cup ground pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup maple syrup or rice syrup

Combine all ingredients in a medium-size bowl. Roll into balls about the size of a small walnut. You may choose to roll the balls in dried, shredded coconut or add dried fruit to the mix. Keep refrigerated and enjoy! (Experiment with your favorite nuts/nut butters for more varieties of these high-powered snacks.)

—James Rouse

Dr. James Rouse is a naturopathic physician practicing in Denver, Colo. He is the creator of Optimum Wellness and The Fit Kitchen, seen weekly on NBC's KUSA television news. For information or questions for Dr. James you can email him from www.WellnessWatchers.com.