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.
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.
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