Connie’s Healthy Eating Blog
Edible seeds are a super source of nutrition
A “Seedy” Look at Nutrition
Seeds are some of the most nutrient-dense, yet overlooked sources of nutrition in our diet. Edible seeds are packed with protein, fiber, healthy fats and a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They also add flavor, texture and interest to a wide variety of foods. Here’s a look at just a few healthy seed choices:
These tiny seeds are loaded with cancer fighting lignans, plant-based omega 3 fatty acids and they also help to lower triglyceride levels. For the best results, buy them in their whole form and grind as needed (whole flaxseeds go through your system undigested). Another reason to grind as you go: ground flaxseed can go rancid (spoil) quickly and should be kept refrigerated or frozen. A blender or coffee bean grinder works well to grind the whole seeds. Add them to baked goods, meatballs, smoothies or cereal.
You can also use ground flaxseed as an egg replacer. I found this out the hard way – I once added ground flax to dry oats before cooking. After adding water and cooking, the flaxseed mixture turned into a ball of glue-like matter, which is why it is capable of holding baked goods together. It wasn’t great in my oatmeal, though, and I now sprinkle ground flaxseed on top after the cereal is cooked.
Chia pets may be cute, but the seeds are powerhouses of healthy fats and nutrients (NOTE: Don’t use the seeds that come with chia pet kits – be sure to purchase food grade chia seeds). While flax needs to be ground, chia needs to be hydrated. In fact, eating chia without first combining with liquid can cause gastric distress and cramping because so much water is absorbed into the tiny seeds.
Having to hydrate chia seeds actually gives you lots of great ways to prepare them. Click here for a really healthy Chia Fresca recipe from Bob’s Red Mill, or check out this article from Spark People to get some more idea of how people use chia.
Like flaxseed, hemp seeds are a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids, complete protein and many trace nutrients. They also contain phytosterols, plant sterols that actually clean up and lower the cholesterol in the human body. Add shelled hemp seeds to rice or quinoa pilaf, smoothies, yogurt, baked goods and salads. In case you were wondering, while food hemp comes from a cannabis plant, it does not contain THC, the active ingredient in another cannabis plant!
Pumpkin flesh is rich in fiber and beta carotene, but the seeds may actually be the most nutrient-rich part of the gourd. You don’t have to wait until Halloween for pumpkin seeds – they are available year-round and are also an ingredient in many natural cereals and snack mixes. Also known as Pepitas, they are rich in B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc and protein.
Perhaps the most commonly eaten seed, sunflower seeds are rich in B vitamins, vitamin E, selenium, protein and healthy fats. Buy the unsalted variety and add to salads, stir-fried vegetables, trail mix and cereal. Sunflower seed butter is also a great alternative to peanut and other nut butters. Use on whole grain toast, on whole grain toaster waffles or as a dip for sliced apples or pears.