Nuts & Seeds

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 | Tags:

Packed with nutrients, nuts have gotten a bad rap in the past for their high fat content. But it's good fat, we're now told. If you've been avoiding nuts, time to go back and enjoy. Here's what we've learned about various types of nuts and seeds during our research for Anna and Kristina's Grocery Bag...



  • A great source of calcium, about 30 grams (one ounce) of almonds contains 10% of your recommended daily intake.

  • Almonds are also a great source of monounsaturated fatty acids, Vitamin E, and are cholesterol free. They can help reduce cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.

  • Almonds are a fantastic non-dairy choice for vegetarians.

  • When buying almonds, if they’re in a sealed package, they can be stored for up to a year, unopened.

  • If they’re in bulk or if you open the package, store them sealed in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, like the refrigerator, and eat them within 3 months. 

  • For maximum shelf-life, avoid exposing almonds to humidity.


  • Trust your eyes when selecting chestnuts. Look for blemish-free skins with a healthy glow and a beautiful shine.

  • Avoid any that look dim or mottled: they may have mold.

  • Avoid any that have small pinholes, which likely means worms.

  • Chestnuts should feel firm and solid, with no air between the skin and the underlying flesh. 


  • Available in the shell or out, hazelnuts can be raw, roasted, or blanched.

  • When buying hazelnuts in the shell, choose ones that are slightly heavy and have a glossy, intact shell with a dark, reddish-brown colour.

  • Avoid shells that have cracks or holes.

  • An easy way to gauge the freshness of in-shell hazelnuts is to shake them. If they rattle, they’re dried and may not be fresh.

  • In-shell hazelnuts stay fresh for months, even without refrigeration, since the shell keeps out moisture and light, both of which can turn a these naturally-oily nuts rancid.

  • With shelled hazelnuts, remember that their natural oils make them prone to rancidity.

  • Look for shelled hazelnuts in a sealed container for maximum freshness.

  • If buying bulk, purchase from a store with high turnover. Avoid any that smell rancid, are discoloured, or have signs of mould.

  • Keep shelled hazelnuts stored in the fridge or a cool dark place. They will stay fresh up to six months. To store longer, put them in the freezer for up to a year.


  • Pecans are a rich source of nutrients including vitamins A and E, folate, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous.

  • They’re also a good source of heart healthy unsaturated fat, containing more than 70% fat, more than any other nut.

  • When buying pecans in the shell, look for those that are plump, feel heavy for their size, are free of cracks, don’t rattle when shaken, and which are uniform in colour and size.

  • When buying shelled pecans, look for an expiration date on the package and smell them if possible – the high fat content in pecans makes them susceptible to rancidity.

  • Shelled pecans can be kept in the refrigerator in airtight containers for about nine months. They can be stored in sealed plastic bags in the freezer for up to two years.

  • Pecans can be thawed and refrozen repeatedly during the two-year freezing period without loss of flavor or texture.

  • In-shell pecans can be stored in a cool, dry place for six to 12 months.

  • After removal from cold storage, pecans will stay good for an additional two months.


  • Rich in nutrients, peanuts provide over 30 essential nutrients and phytonutrients, and are a good source of niacin, folate, fibre, magnesium, vitamin E, manganese and phosphorus.

  • They’re also naturally free of trans-fats and sodium, and contain about 25% protein (a higher proportion than in any true nut)

  • While peanuts are considered high in fat, they primarily contain “good” fats, also known as unsaturated fats.

    • One serving of peanuts contains 11.5 g unsaturated fat and 2 g of saturated fat.

  • Peanuts have been linked to heart-healthy benefits:

    • In 2003, the Food and Drug Administration released a health claim recognizing peanuts as help to maintain healthy cholesterol.

    • Recent research on peanuts and nuts in general has found antioxidants and other chemicals that may provide health benefits.

    • New research shows peanuts rival the antioxidant content of many fruits including blackberries and strawberries, and are far richer in antioxidants than carrots or beets.

Pine Nuts

  • Pine nuts are an excellent source of protein, and contain more than any other nut. In particular, European varieties of pine nut contain more protein than American varieties.

  • Pine nuts are most commonly sold shelled, though if you can find them, those in the shell will last longer.

  • If you prefer a stronger pine flavour, look for Chinese varieties of pine nuts over milder Mediterranean or Italian varieties.

  • As with all nuts, the high oil content in pine nuts will cause them to turn rancid quickly if not stored properly.

  • Both shelled and unshelled pine nuts should be kept in an airtight container for up to 1 month in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer.


  • Relative to other nuts, pistachios have the fewest calories per ounce and are a rich source of antioxidants and vitamin E. They’re also rich in heart healthy monounsaturated fats. In fact, pistachios are becoming known for their ability to help fight heart disease and help lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

  • While pistachios are a good source of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, they’re high in calories: a 1/4 cup serving of pistachios has 178 calories.

  • Red pistachios are dyed – the red is not a natural pigment. Dyed pistachios are coloured to hide their imperfections. If you don’t care how they look, go for non-dyed nuts.

  • Green pistachios are natural. The green comes from chlorophyll in the plant.

  • Pistachios are available raw, roasted, salted, in the shell, or just the kernel.

  • Choose nuts that have a hard shell and an intact kernel.

  • In general, the greener the kernel, the fresher the nut.

  • Choose pistachios that have their shell open at one end. A closed shell is a sign the nut was picked prematurely.

  • If buying pistachios in bulk, buy nuts from a reputable store that has a high turnover of product.

  • Avoid any nuts that have visible mold on them.

  • Because of their high fat content and open shell, pistachios are susceptible to going rancid. A good whiff will help determine their freshness. Don’t buy if they smell a bit off.

  • To prolong their freshness, store pistachios in a cool, dark, dry place. Exposure to light, heat and moisture for an extended period of time decreases their shelf life.

  • Pistachios can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 6 months, or the freezer for up to 12 months.

  • If refrigerated or frozen nuts have lost their crunch, simply place them on a baking sheet and roast for 5 minutes at 375°F before consuming.


  • Buy fresh walnuts in the shell between August and November when they’re plentiful.

  • Look for walnuts with shells that are heavy for their size and don’t have any cracks or holes, and avoid those with stained shells, which may indicate that mould has developed.

  • Store walnuts still in the shell in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months. They can also be frozen for up to 1 year.

  • Shelled walnuts are generally available in prepackaged bags/containers or bulk bins. If buying from the bulk section, make sure they are in a covered bin and that there is good turnover. Avoid any that smell rancid, or are rubbery or shriveled. These nuts are old.

  • Don’t hesitate to buy darker coloured walnuts. This just means they grew on the sunnier side of the tree. They’ll have a richer flavour!

  • Due to their high polyunsaturated fat content, nuts can turn rancid quickly if not properly stored.
  • Keep shelled nuts in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Keep away from foods with strong odours (like fish) since nuts absorb nearby odours.

  • Shelled walnuts can also be kept tightly covered in the freezer for up to 1 year.

  • Walnuts are rancid and should be tossed out if they emit an odour that smells like paint.


Sesame Seeds

  • Sesame seeds are one of the oldest condiments, dating back as early as 1600 BC.

  • They’re a very good source of manganese and copper, as well as calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc and dietary fiber.

  • Whether purchasing sesame seeds in bulk or in a packaged container, make sure there is no evidence of moisture.

  • Since they have a high oil content and can become rancid, smell sesame seeds in bulk bins to ensure that they smell fresh.

  • Un-hulled sesame seeds can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place.

  • Once seeds are hulled, they are more prone to rancidity, so should then be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

Black Sesame Seeds

  • Black sesame seeds have a bit more flavor and a stronger aroma than white or brown sesame seeds, especially when they’re toasted.

  • Black sesame seeds are used largely as a garnish, but can also be ground and made into tahini or sesame paste.

Golden Flax Seeds

  • Golden flax seeds are an incredibly rich source of valuable omega-3 fatty acids, containing almost twice as much benefit as fish oil.

  • While the nutritional properties of brown and golden flax seeds are very similar, golden flax has a nutty, buttery flavour that many people prefer.

  • Golden flax seeds can be purchased whole, ground, or in oil form, but for the highest nutritional value, buy whole seeds and grind them as needed.

  • Flax seeds that have not been ground cannot be digested by the body, and will pass through you without imparting any of their benefits.

  • Whole golden flax seed that is clean, dry, and of good quality can be stored at room temperature for up to a year.

  • Ground flax seed can be refrigerated in an airtight container for just a few days, or in the freezer for about a month. After that, its natural oils will start to turn rancid.



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