February is American Heart Month, so do your heart a favor and feast on something that’s good for it! Super Foods are a hot item on menus this year, and there’s one in particular we’re sure you’ll go nuts over. That’s right folks, nuts may be small, but they pack a heart healthy punch that’s hard to beat. And, with plenty of varieties found around the globe, this is a food trend you’ll be able to locate and sample with relative ease.
In honor of National Almond Day, The Dish brings you a look at where to find heart healthy nuts on the menu at your favorite local restaurant.
Nature’s Little Powerhouse
Nuts are packed with vitamins and nutrients that do a body good, including filling fiber and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation throughout the body and may help decrease your risk for heart disease, strokes and more. Though nuts are high in fat content, the fat they contain is monosaturated and polysaturated, which is thought to lower cholesterol.
Proof that good things can come in small packages, nuts come complete with a laundry list of other beneficial vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin E, folic acid, niacin, copper, magnesium, and potassium. Just be careful to watch your portion size and remember you’re getting a hefty dose of fat in addition to the healthy goodness.
Convinced this is a food trend you should try? Read on and we’ll tell you how.
Dishes We’re Nuts About
There are plenty of different types of nuts to try, and all have heart healthy benefits. Some of the most common varieties used in cooking are almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts. Though the dessert menu is by far the easiest place to find this little super food, they appear in plenty of savory dishes too. From Chinese and Thai to Italian, Greek and American, nuts can be found on just about every menu.
One of the easiest places to find an entrée that includes nuts is at your local Chinese restaurant. Americanized Chinese cuisine includes menu staples like Cashew Chicken, a stir-fried dish that includes chicken, cashews, chicken stock and oyster sauce, and Kung-Pao Chicken, a spicier stir-fried entrée that includes peanuts, chicken, veggies and chili peppers.
Peanuts (which are actually a legume), are widely used in Southeast Asian cuisine and Thai restaurants offer two nutty staples for diners seeking a taste of this trend. Try an order of Pad Thai, a rice noodle dish adorned with chopped peanuts, or Chicken Satay, seasoned chicken skewers that are dipped in peanut sauce.
The Mediterranean diet is one of the most heart healthy in the world, so it’s no surprise that nuts make an appearance, but one of the most common Italian nut dishes may surprise you! You’ve probably heard of pesto – Italy’s delicious, garlicky green sauce – but did you know one of the main ingredients is pine nuts? This blend of olive oil, garlic, basil and pine nuts can actually be made with a variety of nuts, including walnuts, almonds and cashews, and is delicious on everything from pasta to pizza.
If you’re trying a Greek meal, you’ll be hard pressed to pass up this cuisine’s famous nutty dessert. Baklava is a staple in most Greek restaurants, and is a sweet layered pastry filled with honey, walnuts and pistachios.
Nuts also feature prominently on menus in American restaurants. Nut-encrusted chicken and fish are one of the best ways to sample this food trend, and restaurants offer lots of different combinations for you to enjoy. Many southern restaurants offer pecan-crusted chicken or fish, while pistachio or almond-crusted meats are also a popular choice.
Salads are another great place to find heart-healthy nuts at American restaurants. One of our favorites is the famous Waldorf Salad, which includes apples, walnuts, celery and grapes. Sliced almonds are also a tasty salad topping, while many southwest-style salads include spicy peanuts.
No discussion of nuts would be complete without a mention of their many uses on the dessert menu. Though adding sugar can detract from the health benefits of nuts, these tasty treats are a sweet staple. In fact, 40 percent of the world’s almond supply is purchased by chocolate manufacturers. You can find nuts everywhere in the bakery, from walnuts in carrot cake and white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies, to pralines (which are made from hazelnuts) and pistachio-flavored ice cream.
These are only a few of the many ways to sample this heart-healthy super food. What are your favorite nut dishes? Tell us in the comments section below, then start your search for a super food-fueled meal here!