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Healthy Trail Mix Recipe

October 3, 2011 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

These days, many people are looking for practical ways to eat healthier while saving money at the same time. Preparing snacks at home works towards both objectives. Whether you’re traveling or at work, trail mix is an easy to prepare and nutritious treat to keep on hand. My homemade trail mix recipe calls for only five ingredients – Brazil nuts (1 oz), walnuts (1 oz), dried cranberries (1 Tbs), dark chocolate chips (15 grams or 16 chips) and coconut flakes (1 Tbs). Not only does this make for a delicious and satisfying mix of savory and sweet elements, but it may also improve your well being in the following ways: a) Brazil nuts can lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, triglycerides and support healthier circulation; b) walnuts have recently been shown to improve a particular form of cognitive functioning known as “inferential verbal reasoning”; c) cranberries blunt blood sugar and insulin response when eaten with other carbohydrates, including sugar; d) dark chocolate is capable of lowering systemic inflammation which has been linked to a wide array of conditions ranging from cardiovascular disease to chronic fatigue syndrome; e) according to a recent scientific review, coconut possesses “antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic, antidermatophytic, antioxidant, hypoglycemic, hepatoprotective and immunostimulant” properties.

Of the five ingredients, coconut is probably the most controversial due to its saturated fat content. Over the past several years, peer-reviewed studies have refuted the notion that unrefined coconut oil elevates cholesterol or otherwise causes harm to the cardiovascular system. However, there is a caveat to my prior statement: eating a diet rich in saturated fat and carbohydrates can, in fact, bring about unwelcome elevations in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Fortunately, my recipe is relatively low in non-fiber carbohydrates and even lower with respect to its glycemic load.

Nutritional Content: Calories: 235. Protein: 4 grams. Fat: 19 grams. “Net” Carbohydrates: 12 grams. Fiber: 3 grams. Two servings per batch.

Note: Brazil nuts contain a large quantity of selenium, an essential trace mineral. In small amounts, selenium confers potent antioxidant protection and supports various glands and systems in the body. On the other hand, consuming it in excess can result in a potentially dangerous condition known as selenosis. This is why I recommend eating Brazil nuts sparingly. Mixing them with other healthy nuts and seeds such as almonds, hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds is probably the safest bet. But, please don’t let some of the more hyperbolic reports about Brazil nuts scare you away from them altogether. When eaten in moderation, there is no evidence of harm and significant data to support numerous health benefits.

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Brazil Nuts Intake Improves Lipid Profile, Oxidative Stress and … (link)

Study 2 – Effects of Walnut Consumption on Cognitive Performance in Young (link)

Study 3 – Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.: Arecaceae): In Health Promotion and (link)

Study 4 – Coconut Oil is Associated with a Beneficial Lipid Profile in Pre- (link)

Study 5 – Dietary Carbohydrate Modifies the Inverse Association Between (link)

Study 6 – Postprandial Glucose, Insulin and Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 Responses (link)

Study 7 – Cocoa Consumption Reduces NF-κB Activation in Peripheral Blood (link)

Study 8 – No Evidence of Selenosis from a Selenium-Rich Diet in the Brazilian (link)

Study 9 – Associations between glutathione peroxidase-1 Pro198Leu … (link)

Study 10 – Effect of Brazil nut supplementation on the blood levels of selenium … (link)

Cranberries Contain Antioxidant Phytochemicals Which May Promote Wellness

Source: J Nutr. 2007 Jan;137(1 Suppl):186S-193S. (link)

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4 Comments & Updates to “Healthy Trail Mix Recipe”

  1. anne h Says:

    Love this – I just bought a dehydrator to make some jerky and Paleo Kits with…
    Berries and nuts, too. Just a week little bit!!

  2. JP Says:

    Now that’s what I call homemade! Well done, Anne!

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Update 06/05/15:


    Eur J Nutr. 2015 Jan 8.

    Effects of Brazil nut consumption on selenium status and cognitive performance in older adults with mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled pilot trial.

    PURPOSE: Oxidative stress is closely related to cognitive impairment, and the antioxidant system may be a potential therapeutic target to preserve cognitive function in older adults. Selenium plays an important antioxidant role through selenoproteins. This controlled trial aimed to investigate the antioxidant and cognitive effects of the consumption of Brazil nuts, the best selenium food source.

    METHODS: We enrolled 31 older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who were randomly assigned to ingestion of Brazil nuts or to the control group. Participants of the treatment group consumed one Brazil nut daily (estimated 288.75 µg/day) for 6 months. Blood selenium concentrations, erythrocyte glutathione peroxidase (GPx) activity, oxygen radical absorbance capacity, and malondialdehyde were evaluated. Cognitive functions were assessed with the CERAD neuropsychological battery.

    RESULTS: Eleven participants of the treated group and nine of the control group completed the trial. The mean age of the participants was 77.7 (±5.3) years, 70 % of whom were female. We observed increased selenium levels after the intervention, whereas the control group presented no change. Among the parameters related to the antioxidant system, only erythrocyte GPx activity change was significantly different between the groups (p = 0.006). After 6 months, improvements in verbal fluency (p = 0.007) and constructional praxis (p = 0.031) were significantly greater on the supplemented group when compared with the control group.

    CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that the intake of Brazil nut restores selenium deficiency and provides preliminary evidence that Brazil nut consumption can have positive effects on some cognitive functions of older adults with MCI.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Update 06/05/15:


    Nutrition Journal 2015, 14:54

    Improvement of antioxidant status after Brazil nut intake in hypertensive and dyslipidemic subjects

    Objectives: To investigate the effect of partially defatted Granulated Brazil nut (GBN) on biomarkers of oxidative stress and antioxidant status of hypertensive and dyslipidemic patients on nutrition and drug approaches.

    Methods: Ninety one hypertensive and dyslipidemic subjects of both genders (51.6 % men), mean age 62.1 ± 9.3 years, performed a randomized crossover trial, double-blind, placebo controlled. Subjects received a diet and partially defatted GBN 13 g per day (≈227.5 μg/day of selenium) or placebo for twelve weeks with four-week washout interval. Anthropometric, laboratory and clinic characteristics were investigated at baseline. Plasma selenium (Se), plasma glutathione peroxidase (GPx3) activity, total antioxidant capacity (TAC), 8-epi PGF2α and oxidized LDL were evaluated at the beginning and in the end of each intervention.

    Results: GBN intake significantly increased plasma Se from 87.0 ± 16.8 to 180.6 ± 67.1 μg/L, increased GPx3 activity in 24,8 % (from 112.66 ± 40.09 to 128.32 ± 38.31 nmol/min/mL, p < 0,05), and reduced 3.25 % of oxidized-LDL levels (from 66.31 ± 23.59 to 60.68 ± 20.88 U/L, p < 0.05). An inverse association between GPx3 and oxidized LDL levels was observed after supplementation with GBN by simple model (β -0.232, p = 0.032) and after adjustment for gender, age, diabetes and BMI (β -0.298, p = 0.008). There wasn’t association between GPx3 and 8-epi PGF2α (β -0.209, p = 0.052) by simple model. Conclusion: The partially defatted GBN intake has a potential benefit to increase plasma selenium, increase enzymatic antioxidant activity of GPx3 and to reduction oxidation in LDL in hypertensive and dyslipidemic patients. Be well! JP

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