Not sure why or how to start including seeds in your diet? It might seem daunting to know how to use seeds, but once you do, you’ll never go back! We love seeds because of their rich nutrient profile, as well as their fat, fiber and protein contents. Let’s take a look at why seeds belong in a healthful diet, some unique benefits of some seeds and how to use them!
Seeds are a fantastic source of many minerals, including copper, zinc, manganese, calcium and magnesium. They also contain healthy fats like Omega 3 fatty acids, as well as protein and fiber. It’s important to note that seeds in their whole form are much different from oils made from seeds. We generally recommend avoiding seed oils as they tend to be processed at very high heats. The fats in seeds are easily oxidized, they are chemically processed and cause cellular damage when ingested. They don’t include the same nutritional benefits as eating seeds in their whole form.
One area of concern for some is that seeds contain lectins and phytates, proteins that are meant to keep plants safe from predators, but can hinder nutrient absorption and cause increased intestinal permeability (damage to the gut lining) in humans. Unless you are eating massive amounts of seeds daily, the overall nutritional benefit of eating them out weighs this downside for most. You may also soak whole seeds prior to consumption, which reduces lectin and phytate content. One note: if you have digestive issues or an autoimmune disease, it’s worthwhile to see if seeds are a problem for you by removing them from the diet for a period of time.
Because seeds are a rich source of fiber, they can play an important role in weight management, hormonal and cholesterol balance, and heart health. Fiber also promotes regular bowel movements and satiety. Seeds in their whole form are linked to reduced rates of hormone sensitive cancers like breast and prostate cancer. Additionally, lignans and phytosterols found in seeds may help reduce the absorption of cholesterol and therefore reduce LDL and VLDL cholesterol.
Seeds in Focus
Chia Seeds – Especially rich in soluble fiber, chia seeds swell in liquids, which is why they can make a great pudding base! Simply add several tablespoons to a milk of your choice and allow to soak in the fridge for a couple hours. Top with fresh fruit or drizzle of honey. Studies show that consumption of chia seeds helps with blood sugar control and they may even have a slight antimicrobial action! Chia seeds support normal digestive function, are rich in antioxidants and are a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids.
Flax seeds – Flax seeds contain alpha linolenic acid, an Omega 3 fatty acid with anti-inflammatory properties. One review showed that flaxseed helps to lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in people with arterial disease. Flaxseed has been found to be protective against certain cancers as well, especially breast cancer. Flax is touted to help with hormonal balance in menopause as it is a phytoestrogen which means it has a very weak estrogenic activity in the body. Phytoestrogens also help block our own estrogen receptors from harmful estrogens that may be cancer causing.
Hemp seeds – Contrary to popular myth, hemp seeds don’t contain any THC and won’t get you high. Hemp and marijuana both come from plants in the cannabis family, but they are not interchangeable. But, they are rich in plant based protein and contain antioxidants that help keep cells healthy and can protect against free radical damage. Like flaxseed, hemp seeds also contain alpha linolenic acid which is an anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fatty acid. Hemp also contains another anti-inflammatory fatty acid called gamma linolenic acid (GLA) which is especially important for skin and nerve health.
Sesame seeds – Sesame seeds are a rich source of calcium, containing 350 mg in just 4 tablespoons. Like other seeds, they are also a good source of fiber and they also give you a small protein boost as well! Studies have shown eating sesame seeds may lower blood pressure. Though the reason for this is not fully known, it may be that sesame seeds are high in magnesium, causing vasodilation in the arteries. Sesame seeds also contain selenium, which is an important nutrient for thyroid health.
Pumpkin seeds – Also known as pepitas, pumpkin seeds stay true to theme, containing high amounts of minerals like magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. The lignans in pumpkin seeds may act similarly to those in flax seeds and offer protection from breast cancer in post menopausal women. Finally, eating pumpkin seeds has also been associated with reduced symptoms in men with benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH).
How to Use Seeds
- Sprinkle on peanut butter toast or rice cakes
- Toss into salads or on top of butternut squash soup
- Stir into cooked grains like quinoa or oatmeal
- Make chia seed pudding
- Make home made granola
- Blend into smoothies
- Use as a topping for yogurt