Why you should sprinkle them into your diet
Tiny but mighty, seeds are often overlooked despite their impressive nutritional benefits. Incorporating seeds into your morning oatmeal, smoothie, or yogurt (or just about any meal—even dessert) will boost the day’s protein, fiber, omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. Their versatility works well in salads, baked goods, and smoothies, but seeds can be easily enjoyed on their own. We’ve rallied some of the best seeds to stock in your pantry along with key benefits and tips for using them.
Although we typically focus on pumpkins around Halloween and Thanksgiving, their edible seeds can be consumed all year long. Pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium and zinc, both known to boost the immune system. Studies have also found that compounds within pumpkin seeds can help lower inflammation in the body as well as reduce lipid profiles, which can decrease the levels of harmful fat in the blood. And because of their high protein and fiber content, these relatively large seeds are great to snack on since they can help us feel fuller faster.
Try these simple, perfectly roasted pumpkin seeds for an easy, crunchy fix. Make sure to keep an eye on them since they can burn quickly. Roasting pumpkin seeds yourself ensures you’ll have a healthy snack with ingredients straight from your pantry. All you need is a little olive oil, salt, and a little bit of patience.
Sesame seeds can often be found in or on top of breads and Asian-inspired dishes, and are one of the main components of any classic hummus recipe. Their high content of healthy fats (mono and poly-unsaturated) can help to lower bad cholesterol, also known as LDL or low-density lipoprotein. Just one ounce of sesame seeds provides more than 25 percent of the daily-recommended intake of calcium, a crucial nutrient for healthy bones and teeth. And if you’re having trouble sleeping, snacking on sesame seeds may help naturally bring on the snooze because they contain high levels of tryptophan, an amino acid associated with improved sleep.
Whip up these easy-to-make sesame super bars made with other super foods such as goji berries, walnuts, and coconut oil. Freeze them for later snacking or pack them for a healthy work, school, or camping treat.
Though a staple at baseball games, road trips, and in many varieties of trail mix, sunflower seeds aren’t limited to specific activities. Recently, sunflower seeds have been hitting store shelves as a peanut butter alternative (for those sensitive to the nut) with the added benefit of significantly more magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and selenium than the PB&J mainstay. Overall, sunflower seeds are a good source of protein, fiber, zinc, folate, and vitamin B6. Their claim to fame, however, is high vitamin E content, an antioxidant that helps fight free radicals in the body. Just an ounce of sunflower seeds contains one-third of the recommended daily value of phosphorus as well as a substantial helping of choline, an essential nutrient important in the development of healthy cells.
Ditch boring salads in favor of this nut-and-seed-filled alternative. For a healthy crunch that’s not croutons or tortilla strips, these slightly nutty seeds are the perfect salad topper.
Whether or not you owned a chia pet, these ever-popular seeds are gaining fanfare for their super food abilities. Chia seeds are available in white and dark brown varieties and contain high levels of calcium, manganese, phosphorus, and omega-3 fatty acids. Currently, researchers are exploring chia seeds’ potential to slow down the uptake of sugar into the bloodstream. This property could be an additional method for diabetics to regulate their blood sugar levels. Chia seeds are also a great source of protein for vegetarians and vegans because of their ability to absorb water and easily blend into baked goods and smoothies.
Though crackers often get a bad rap, this healthy version includes a handful of different seeds including chia, sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame. Each seedy, crunchy cracker is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, sugar-free, and oil-free. Dip them in hummus or salsa for a hearty snack.
Flaxseeds are a major player in many mainstream foods. With rich levels of omega-3 fatty acids, these seeds are fed to chickens to produce eggs higher in the much-sought-after healthy fat (http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/benefits-of-flaxseed). Flaxseeds are high in fiber and the phytochemical lignan, which works as an antioxidant. Studies show they may be beneficial in preventing breast, prostate, and colon cancers, as well as heart disease. To reap the most benefit from flaxseeds, it’s best to grind them before eating for easier digestion and better nutrient absorption. Store the grounds in the refrigerator or freezer to keep them fresh.
Try out this satisfying, vitamin-rich banana almond smoothie for breakfast or as a post-workout snack. With a couple spoonfuls of flax seeds in the mix, this creamy and delicious smoothie is an omega-3 powerhouse.
Hemp is an extremely versatile plant that boasts nutrients not found in other seeds. These seeds are a key food source for vegetarians and vegans because they are a plant-based protein containing all nine essential amino acids (meaning they are a complete protein). Just one-quarter cup provides more than 7 grams of protein. Like other seeds, hemp is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help prevent heart disease and stroke. But keep in mind that hemp contains more omega-6 fatty acids than other seeds. Eating these seeds, which are also a great source of magnesium, may help regulate blood pressure and blood sugar.
A great option for vegetarians, vegans, and meat eaters alike, these black bean and hemp protein patties are a whole lot tastier than store-bought burger alternatives. With paprika, chipotle, and cayenne powder, you can ditch the notion of always-bland veggie burgers.
Whether or not you’re an avid seedeater, it’s clear there are plenty of ways to incorporate them into your diet. Remember, they’re not just for ballparks and trail mix.