In spite of their small size, seeds can be a powerhouse of nutrients. This is because they contain all the starting materials needed to grow into complex plants. Loaded with fibre, monounsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, seeds can be incorporated into your diet in various ways for their wide range of health benefits. Here are six seeds which are good for health, and the ways in which you can eat them.
- Chia Seeds
These tiny, nutrition-packed seeds have soared in popularity amongst health-conscious people over the last few years, and for good reason. Research published by American Society for Nutrition shows that chia seeds are high in insoluble fibre, which helps to bulk up stool to prevent constipation, and leaves you feeling full for a long period of time. They are also a great source of healthy fats, proteins, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and niacin. Chia seeds contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which improve cholesterol levels and help reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. Adding chia seeds to type 2 diabetes treatments has also shown benefits for maintaining glucose and lipid levels, as seen in a trial published in Diabetes Care in 2007.
How to Eat:
- A popular way to eat chia seeds is by adding them to smoothies. Mix 1 tbsp of chia seeds into your glass of favourite fruit or vegetable smoothie.
- Add 1 tbsp chia seeds to a salad dressing, like vinegar, olive oil or mustard, and toss with your salad.
- Make the trendy vanilla chia pudding bowl by mixing 1-2 tbsp of chia seeds to 1 cup of your choice of milk and stir well. Add some salt, honey and ½ tsp of vanilla extract for taste.
- Flax Seeds
One tbsp (7g) of flax seeds provides a good amount of protein, fibre, Omega-3 fatty acids, and some vitamins and minerals. They are a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based Omega-3 fatty acid, whose consumption, according to a large review of 27 studies involving more than 2,50,000 people, was linked to a 14% lower risk of heart disease and stroke. One tablespoon of flax seeds contains 3g of fibre, both soluble and insoluble, which aids in digestion and has been seen to help regulate blood sugar and lower cholesterol levels. Flax seeds are a good source of plant-based protein, and can be an alternative protein source for people who do not eat meat. Flax seeds are also an excellent source of lignan, which is a plant compound and is believed to prevent the growth of tumour cells.
How to Eat:
- Sprinkle ground flax seeds over your breakfast cereal or your bowl of yoghurt, as your body cannot break down the tough outer shells of the seeds easily.
- Add 1 tbsp of ground flaxseed to your mayonnaise or mustard while making a sandwich.
- Bake ground flax seeds into cookies, muffins and bread.
- Sunflower Seeds
Among the seeds which are good for health are sunflower seeds. They are rich in healthy fats, beneficial plant compounds and several vitamins and minerals. They contain Vitamin E, protein, fibre, phytochemicals, selenium, magnesium and copper. Also, they are high in phenolic acids and flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants. Sunflower seeds can help reduce the risk of inflammation, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. But sunflower seeds should be consumed in moderation because they are high in calories and cadmium, a compound which has been linked to kidney issues.
How to Eat:
- Sprinkle shelled seeds over stir fried vegetables or meat.
- Add to trail mix or bake into granola bars.
- Use crushed sunflower seeds to make a delicious, gluten-free coating for food items that require flour.
- Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are the seeds of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. Although from the same species as cannabis (marijuana), they contain only trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound marijuana is known for. The tiny brown hemp seeds are packed with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids to help maintain your cardiovascular health. Hemp seeds also contain a good amount of Vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc. The healthy fats present in hemp seeds may benefit skin diseases and provide relief from eczema and its uncomfortable symptoms. They are a good source of easily digestible plant-based protein, and also contain the entire set of essential amino acids, making them a complete source of protein for vegans. Due to their high levels of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), they can also be effective in helping the symptoms of PMS and menopause.
How to Eat:
- Sprinkle whole or ground seeds on cereals, yoghurt or mix with smoothies.
- Add the seeds to your salad or bake them into muffins.
- Pumpkin Seeds
Another answer to which seeds are good for health would be pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are rich in antioxidants, iron, zinc, magnesium, and also contain a decent amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids, potassium, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and folate. Pumpkin seeds contribute to the strengthening of the immune system and help protect against inflammation. They can help lower blood sugar and contribute to bone health because of the presence of magnesium. They are also believed to help induce better sleep because of the abundance of tryptophan, an amino acid. Studies show that pumpkin seeds can reduce symptoms of benign prostate enlargement. Some evidence suggests that pumpkin seeds may help prevent certain types of cancer, although research is limited.
How to Eat:
- Add crunch to your salads by mixing in pumpkin seeds.
- Make pumpkin seed salsa, flavored with lime juice, chiles, onions and cilantro as a side dish.
- Snack on just the seeds, or roast them for flavour.
- Sesame Seeds
These tiny oil-rich seeds have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Just one tablespoon of sesame seeds can pack upto 20 percent protein and lots of fibre. Sesame seeds, because of their high content of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and plant compounds like lignans and phytosterols, can help reduce heart disease risk factors, including elevated triglyceride and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. They are high in magnesium, which can help lower the risk of arterial plaque. Unhulled sesame seeds are rich in calcium, which is vital to bone health. They also contain thiamine, niacin, and Vitamin B6, which are essential for good metabolism.
How to Eat:
- Toast sesame seeds in the oven for 5-10 minutes to enhance their nutty flavour, and eat them as a snack.
- Make tahini from roasted sesame seeds and use it as a salad dressing.
- Incorporate sesame seed oil into your cooking.