If you watched last year's Summer Olympics you may have witnessed a spectacular display of explosive power from Simone Biles, the US's four-foot-eight star gymnast. Super seeds are kind of like Biles. They pack an exceptional nutritional punch into a tiny package.
What Are Super Seeds?
The term super seeds refers to nutrient-dense, edible seeds. They contain levels of vitamins and minerals disproportionate to their diminutive size. One tablespoon of a super seed contains about 50 calories, yet it provides a balanced mix of two grams each of protein, fat, and fiber. Indeed, these tiny kernels might just be nature's perfect food.
Although they're currently enjoying a renaissance as a trendy health food, they've been consumed worldwide for thousands of years. For example, flax was cultivated in Mesopotamia 10,000 years ago, where it was used both as a food and a medicine.
Flax Seeds vs. Chia Seeds vs. Hemp Seeds
1. Flax Seeds
Used by the ancient Egyptians for sustenance and medicine, these little brown seeds come from an annual plant. Due to their high fiber content, flax seeds are a well-known remedy for constipation. Just one tablespoon satisfies 11% of our daily fiber needs. They're also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and anemia-preventing iron.
Research shows flax seeds can help prevent breast cancer, ease menopausal symptoms and may be beneficial in lowering cholesterol and treating high blood pressure.
Sprinkle flax seeds on cereal or yogurt. To obtain their full nutritional benefit, grind flax seeds in a coffee grinder. Ground seeds can be used to replace eggs in pancakes and baked goods. Use 2 tablespoons of ground seeds and 3 tablespoons of water in place of one egg.
2. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are the magic behind Chia Pet, a popular novelty in the 1980s that grew "fur" when you watered it. As it turns out, we should have been eating those miniscule seeds instead because they are very high in dietary fiber, a good source of calcium and contain heart-protective omega-3 fatty acids.
Small studies show that chia seeds keep you feeling full and satisfied and regulate blood glucose levels. Research on chia flour shows it to be effective in reducing blood pressure in patients suffering from hypertension.
If you soak chia seeds overnight, they turn into a chia pudding perfect for adding bulk to pancakes, banana breads or smoothies.
3. Hemp Seeds
Technically a nut, hemp seeds come from the same species of plant that produces marijuana but do not contain THC. Hemp seeds stand out as one of the few plant-based complete sources of protein. They provide generous amounts of antioxidants and omega-3 fats to protect our hearts, as well as vitamin E to fight inflammation.
The research on the health benefits of hemp seeds is relatively sparse because of the inaccurate association of the seed with the effects of marijuana. Still, hemp seeds show promise in the treatment of cardiovascular disease and reducing high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Sprinkle hemp seeds over salads or add them to your morning granola. You can also add them to baked goods for an instant protein and fiber boost.
Editor's Note about chia seeds: Never eat dried chia seeds because they expand when they come in contact with your digestive tract and can cause gas and bloating, and may even become lodged in your throat. And if you take medication for high blood pressure or diabetes, be careful about your intake because chia may enhance the effects of those drugs to dangerous levels.
Lorie Eber is a Certified Nutritionist and Gerontology Instructor who provides one-on-one weight loss coaching. She's also certified by the Mayo Clinic as a Wellness Coach and is a NASM Personal Trainer.
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
Also on HuffPost:
For baseball fans (and everyone else), sunflower seeds are definitely a better choice than ballpark franks, thanks to their antioxidants. Sunflower seeds also have vitamin E, which is important for skin and bone health. Ashley Pettit, a holistic nutritionist and nutrition coach, recommends making or buying sunflower seed butter to replace those made from peanuts or almonds — this is also great for those with nut allergies.
In plants, the germ is the part that will develop into a seed. Because it's intended to feed the new plant from that seed, the germ is highly concentrated with nutritional value. And wheat germ, which comes from the wheat kernel, is no exception: it contains protein, iron, B vitamins, and fibre. It can easily be added to smoothies, yogurt, or hot cereals like oatmeal. Be sure to store wheat germ in a tightly sealed container in the freezer to keep its polyunsaturated fats from going rancid.
Also referred to as pepitas, these seeds are worth holding on to when you carve your Halloween pumpkin this year. Pumpkin seeds have a great light flavour, and contain iron and zinc, making them a great snack option for vegetarians and vegans, Pettit says. Add them to salads for a bit of crunch.
The juice surrounding the seeds inside of the fruit is the source of a pomegranate's health benefits, including antioxidants like polyphenols. The fruit is also a great source of vitamin C, fibre and potassium. Pomegranate seeds, also called arils, also contain potassium, iron, and vitamin K.
These seeds are a hot superfood right now, and for good reason: chia seeds contain fibre, protein, and healthy omega-3 fats, among other health benefits. They can be used ground as a thickener for everything from smoothies to soup, or added whole to baked goods for a fibre boost. Pettit likes to eat chia seeds in a pudding because of their gel-like layer.
Don’t just eat sesame seeds on top of burger buns! These tiny seeds are a good source of essential minerals manganese and copper, among other benefits. Along with calcium and vitamin B1, the seeds contain two substances called sesamin and sesamolin, which are both lignans. Research indicates that lignans may have cholesterol-lowering effects.
Along with chia seeds, hemp seeds are a vegetarian source of all 20 of the essential amino acids for human health. They also have fibre and omega-3 fatty acids, and a great nutty taste. Add them to your smoothies, Pettit suggests, or eat them post-workout for a protein boost that can help build lean muscle mass.
Flax seeds have great anti-inflammatory properties, which could be important for a variety of health benefits, Pettit says. They also contain fibre and healthy fats, and can be used in many of the same ways that you would eat chia seeds or hemp seeds. It’s important to eat flax seeds ground, however, in order to get their full benefits — whole seeds will just pass through your body undigested. If you grind more than you use in one go, keep the leftovers in the fridge to keep the oils from going rancid.
You may be familiar with powdered cumin used as a spice, but these seeds are also added to food for its flavour. Cumin seeds are often used in Indian recipes, for example. Along with the great taste, the seeds contain iron and have traditionally been used as digestive aids.
Along with alfalfa and beet seeds, mustard seeds can be sprouted and eaten for their health benefits and their great taste. When sprouted, mustard seeds add a peppery taste to salads and soups. The seeds themselves contain selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, and manganese.
Follow Lifetime Daily on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lifetimedaily