Seeds are often an afterthought: they make up toppings for muffins or buns and are often salty or spicy snacks. But it's about time we start seeing seeds as a serious source of nutrition in our diets.
The growing popularity of foods like hemp and chia seeds should change our minds about how we can consume seeds. Seeds can be enjoyed in a variety of ways from raw to sprouted and roasted. And unlike nuts and peanuts, they are not a common allergen.
“Seeds, especially raw and sprouted seeds without all of the doctoring of being roasted and salted, are a healthy fat to add into any diet,” says Ashley Pettit, a holistic nutritionist and nutrition coach based in Chicago. Because seeds contain food to support plants that grow from them, they are concentrated sources of nutrients like fats, vitamins, and minerals. Sprinkling a few seeds into baked goods, breakfast foods, and salads is a great way to add a boost of fibre to your day, for example.
As well, seeds are a great alternative for people who have allergies to nuts. They can provide a similar crunch and taste, and also have healthy fats and fibre. Many seeds can be enjoyed as butters, which can replace peanut butter, and some are also a good source of healthy oils like hemp oil.
Here are 10 nutritious seeds you should add to your diet because of their impressive health benefits.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.