Watch a Major League Baseball game and you're bound to see players, coaches or managers munching on sunflower seeds.
Those tiny seeds, along with nuts and other seeds, are nutritional powerhouses that deliver vitamins, minerals, anti-inflammatory and immune-system-enhancing antioxidants, as well as fiber, protein and heart-friendly fats.
According to a Huffington Post article by Dr. Lisa Young, Professor of Nutrition at New York University: "While you may have been told to avoid nuts and seeds due to their high fat and caloric content, these tasty gems contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats, and are truly terrific to include in your diet. They contain protein, fiber, and plant stanols, which may help lower cholesterol, and antioxidants including vitamin E."
This article lists various seeds and nuts paired with dried fruits for supplying muscle-building protein and energizing carbohydrates, the perfect portable sports performance-boosting and pre- or post-workout snack combination.
The combos can be conveniently prepared in advance and placed in small clear sandwich bags for easy access before heading to practices, games or the weight room.
Bonus: Compared to fresh fruit, dry fruits (raisins, prunes, dried apricots) have a longer shelf life, so they won't spoil as fast; and like nuts and seeds, they are also nutrient-dense with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for optimizing sports and workout performance and recovery!
And, according to the March 5, 2016 Nutrition Journal, "Certain dietary patterns, in which fruits and nuts are featured prominently, reduce risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease."
- Store nuts, seeds and dried fruit in a cool and dark environment for long-term freshness.
- Shelled nuts and seeds and pitted dried fruits are handier for snacking (nuts in their shells such as walnuts and hazelnuts require a nutcracker).
- Buy lightly salted or unsalted nuts and seeds, not flavored varieties which can have additional preservatives and sugar.
- Likewise for dried fruits. Buy without added sugar.
Try the following nut/seed/dry fruit combinations or create your own "trail mix." Or combine two nuts or seeds with two dried fruits (e.g., cashews and peanuts with raisins and dates or pumpkin and sunflower seeds with dried cherries and dried apricots).
- Almonds/dried apricots
- Sunflower seeds/dried peaches
- Pumpkin seeds/dried cranberries
- Hazelnuts/dried cherries
- Flaxseeds/dried apples
- Pistachios/dried figs
- Sesame seeds/dried pineapple
- Pecans/dried pears
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