11 Seeds You Should Be Eating
Seeds are rich in nutrients and have many health benefits. These small but mighty kernels are high in vitamins and minerals the body needs to function at peak performance. Seeds are extremely versatile and can be incorporated easily into a variety of different recipes. Need more energy? Want a slimmer waist? There’s a seed for that!
Chia has come a long way since it first sprouted out of funny pottery in TV commercials. These tiny seeds pack in 10 grams of fiber in a 2-tablespoon serving. They also contain proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and minerals like: iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc.
Chia seeds are easy to add to your favorite dishes. Sprinkle them ground or whole onto cereal, vegetables, or yogurt. Soak them in water to add to cooked cereal, or find a recipe for chia pudding as a healthy and tasty dessert.
Wild rice is actually a seed – a grass seed. It’s higher in protein than most other whole grains and contains 30 times more antioxidants than white rice. Wild rice is a good source of fiber, and nutrients such as: folate, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, vitamin B6, and niacin.
A 2009 study in China found wild rice might be effective in lowering cholesterol and other fats in the blood. Wild rice is extremely versatile and can be substituted for white rice in any dish. It can also be a healthy addition to a salad or soup.
Pumpkin seeds are a tasty snack that boasts 16% of your daily iron needs in just ¼ cup. That same ¼ cup will also get you 5 grams of fiber, which is more than most nuts. In addition, pumpkin seeds are a good source of amino acids, protein, and omega-3s, as well as minerals such as zinc and magnesium.
Fresh roasted pumpkin seeds – a Halloween favorite – are an excellent snack, but you can enjoy them year-round sprinkled on oatmeal, baked into muffins, mixed into smoothies, or added to homemade granola and energy bars.
Pomegranate seeds are small red “jewels” called arils. These arils have lots of fiber and 40% of your daily requirement of vitamin C. They also contain heart-healthy antioxidants called polyphenols, including: flavonoids, tannins, and anthocyanins.
Pomegranate seeds make a sweet and juicy low-calorie snack. Try them tossed in salads, mixed into yogurt, or made into jelly.
Quinoa has a remarkably high protein content (15%, or 8 grams per cup), along with amino acids, and vitamin E. It also contains an antioxidant called quercetin. This nutty-flavored seed can be substituted in grain dishes in place of rice or pasta. Quinoa also makes a healthy gluten-free breading, and can be eaten for breakfast instead of oatmeal.
Flaxseed is packed with nutrients. Just two tablespoons of flaxseed contains 6 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein. It is also rich in alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. Some studies suggest flaxseed consumption helps improve cardiovascular health. Flaxseed also contains lignans, which may help protect the body from cancer.
Adding flaxseed to your diet is easy. Bake it into muffins. Mix it in salads, yogurt, smoothies, cereal, and soups. Ground flaxseed can even be used as an egg substitute.
“Flax Egg”: 1 tablespoon ground flax seed plus 3 tablespoons warm water.
Hemp seeds are an excellent source of heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They pack in 10 grams of easily digested protein into just 2 tablespoons. Hemp seeds have a mild, nutty flavor. They can be eaten on their own, added to salads, or on top of yogurt. Hemp milk is a good alternative to dairy milk.
Sunflower seeds are high in healthy fats, as well as: proteins, fiber, phytochemicals, selenium, copper, and magnesium. According to the USDA, sunflower seeds are “the richest source of vitamin E.” Aside from salad toppings, you can add sunflower seeds to muffins or bread recipes, in vegetable dishes or stir-fry, into trail mixes, and in cereals or yogurt. Try crushed sunflower seeds as a tasty gluten-free coating for fish or chicken.
Despite their tiny size, sesame seeds contain up to 20% protein and lots of fiber. They are rich in the amino acids tryptophan and methionine. Sesame oil is a good choice for salad dressings as it is rich in linoleic and oleic acids, which have a cholesterol-lowering effect. Tahini (ground sesame seeds) is a main ingredient in hummus, and can also serve as a nut-free substitute for those with food allergies. Sprinkle sesame seeds on salads or stir-fry dishes for an added crunch.
Pine nuts contain all of the amino acids along with: vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin E, copper, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. They are also a good source of linoleic acid, a fatty acid that acts as a natural appetite suppressant. The monosaturated fats found in pine nuts are known to decrease the levels of cholesterol in the blood stream, which in turn, can lower heart attack and stroke risks. Like most of the seeds, you can add them to salads, yogurts, trail mixes, muffins, and vegetable dishes.
Just one teaspoon of tiny poppy seeds contains up to four percent of your recommended daily intake of phosphorous, calcium, and iron. Calcium and phosphorous are essential nutrients needed to build healthy bones. Poppy seeds are also a great source of oleic acid, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s easy to add poppy seeds to salad dressings, whole wheat pancakes, muffins, or vegetable dishes. Just sprinkle them on!
Please note that poppy seeds may cause false/positive narcotic drug test results.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
- Getty Images
Are pumpkin seeds good for your health? What’s the nutritional value of chia seeds? Find out how to easily incorporate more edible, healthy seeds into a diet rich in vitamins and minerals.
The Truth About 6 “Superfood” Seeds
W hen it comes to nutrition-dense superfoods, seeds are having a bit of a moment. But do they deserve their health halo? “There is an obsession with healthy fats, protein and fiber—it’s like the trinity—and seeds have all three,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian in Chicago, Illinois. Of course, shortly behind every health food trend are enterprising food companies quick to sell you packaged foods that contain them—making it tough to tell what’s truly good for you and what isn’t.
Here’s a quick primer on six seeds that will help you separate the hype from truth:
What’s good: Chia’s evolution from punch line to power food has finally earned the tiny seeds some respect. Packed with 10g of fiber and nearly 5g of protein per ounce (just under 3 tablespoons), the seeds — which come from a plant in the mint family — can absorb up to 10 times their weight in water, making for a fun addition to everything from puddings (think tapioca without all the sugar) to pancakes. Chefs at the Cleveland Clinic even add the seeds to meatballs for extra bulk and flavor, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietitian at the Ohio hospital. Sold both in big bags and small, single-serve packets for mixing into smoothies, the seeds are also a good source of calcium, Omega-3 fatty acids and phosphorous.
What’s not: Assertions that this ancient seed can lower blood pressure and make you lose weight have not been proven. Chia doesn’t come cheap either: At $12.99 a pound at my local market, it costs more than twice as much as most other seeds.
What’s good: Hemp is a variety of cannabis plant, but the only high these seeds will give you is a nutritional one. They’ve got more protein (about 10g per ounce) than any other seed we can think of, making them a great alternative to animal protein. “For adding protein to a smoothie, I am going to go for hemp seeds,” says Blatner. And because protein takes longer to digest than carbs, they may help you feel full longer. Bonus: Each ounce contains three-quarters of the daily recommended Vitamin E and nearly a third of the recommended zinc to help boost your immune system.
What’s not: Search on “cannabis cures cancer” and you’ll find a large and ardent contingent who believe that cannabis, particularly in its oil form, is a magic elixir. Not only is this claim not proven by scientific studies, but the cannabis oil promoted is not the same as the oil made from hemp seeds, which is commonly found in health stores.
What’s good: An ounce of these slightly nutty seeds contains nearly 8g of fiber along, 12g of fatty acids, and more than a quarter of your daily recommended magnesium, which helps boost energy. The fiber helps with digestion, and there’s also some evidence that flax seeds can lower high blood pressure and cholesterol. Available in either brown or golden varieties, both are equally nutritious.
What’s not: Unlike other seeds, just sprinkling a handful of these bad boys on your yogurt won’t yield their full benefits. As Blatner notes: “Flax seed is best in its ground form so we can get the nutrients out of its shell.” Due to flax seeds’ high oil content, you should refrigerate ground seeds (as well as flaxseed oil).
What’s good: For a tasty snack you can enjoy a la carte, roasted pumpkin seeds – also known as pepitas – are the hands-down winner. But where pumpkin seeds really shine is in the kitchen: found in everything from pesto to pipian verde, they’re one of the most versatile seeds you can buy. The green seeds are high in fat (14g per ounce) and relatively low in fiber (2g), but make up for it with nearly 10g of protein and a slew of minerals, including half or more of the daily recommended doses of copper, magnesium, manganese and phosphorous. They’re also a close second to hemp when it comes to zinc. Pumpkin seed oil has also been shown to relieve symptoms caused by an enlarged prostate – a common condition for men over 50.
What’s not: Pepitas are so delicious that it’s tempting to eating too many. Kirkpatrick, RD, of Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute recommends no more than a handful a day, which contains about 160 calories. If you’re worried about your salt intake, consider buying a mix of salted and unsalted pepitas, then mix them together – and enjoy!
What’s good: “They’re kind of overlooked because people don’t know what to do with them,” says Kirkpatrick, “but they’re high in zinc, which helps immune health.” Per ounce, the seeds, which are also known as benne seeds, have 5g of protein, 4g of fiber and contain more than a third of the recommended copper (which we need for energy and collagen production) and manganese (which supports bone health). They’re also a good source of calcium, magnesium and iron.
What’s not: Although seed allergies are fairly rare overall, sesame seed allergies in particular are on the rise, with an estimated 0.2% of the population (about half of those who are allergic to cow’s milk) affected in areas where the seeds are available. Chances are you and your kids will be fine, but use caution when introducing the seeds to those who have never tried them.
What’s good: Native to Southwest Asia, nigella seeds are popular in Indian cuisine but have also been used for centuries as a traditional treatment for a broad range of ills, including pink eye, the flu, colic and congestion. Commonly referred to as black seed, kalonji or black cumin, the seed is also sold in an oil form at stores like Whole Foods. An ounce contains 11g of fiber, 5g of protein and 4g of fat, and is a good source of calcium, magnesium and iron.
What’s not: Nigella has been touted as “a remedy for everything but death”—including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer. But as dietitian Amy Jamieson-Petonic points out, “Some limited research has been done, but more needs to be completed before concrete recommendations can be made.” What’s more, the oil form does not contain the dietary fiber or protein found in the whole seeds, so if you want the full benefits you need to eat the whole seed.
Edible seeds haven't been this popular since our hunt-and-gather days. Here's everything you need to know before you dig in