Edible seeds are a super source of 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. The theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month® is Savor the Flavor of Eating Right and seeds add a savory, crunchy, interesting addition to all kinds of meals and snacks.
Here’s a look at just a few healthy seed choices:
Flaxseed – Flaxseed is loaded with cancer fighting lignans and plant-based omega 3 fatty acids, which aid in lowering triglycerides. For the best results, buy the seeds in their whole form and grind as needed (whole flaxseeds go through your system undigested). 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 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 Seeds –These tiny seeds are powerhouses of healthy fats and nutrients. 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 seeds. Bob’s Red Mill has a number of great recipes on how to incorporate chia seeds into smoothies and all kinds of foods. (click on the recipe tab on this page).
Hemp Seeds – 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 marijuana.
Pumpkin & Butternut Squash Seeds – I grow butternut squash and I always save the seeds for roasting. While the flesh of pumpkin or squash is rich in fiber and beta carotene, the seeds may actually be the most nutrient-rich part of the squash. 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.
Sunflower Seeds – Perhaps the most commonly eaten seed, sunflower seeds are economical and 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.