Seeds are packed full of nutrients, protein, healthy fats – and flavour! We highlight the ten most nutritious seeds.March 26, 2020 4:25 pm
Contemporary healthy eaters today live an interesting phenomenon. In seeking to eat closer to the earth, people are eating whole foods that are quite different to the whole foods that our ancestors ate.In other words, foods have evolved over the years thanks to breeding, cultivation, and other human arts.
For instance, our forefathers ate seeds seasonally. It is relatively recently that we eat all types of seeds all year around. It is also not too long ago that we eat seeds raw. Our African and Australian ancestors regularly parched, roasted, or soaked seeds in order to digest them better.Today, scientists and those interested in nutrition are rediscovering this wisdom.(1) In short, seeds are packed full with nutrients that our bodies are not able to absorb fully. Activating seeds by soaking them reduces phytic acid and other substances that prevent us from taking in nutrients. We are then able to digest seeds much more easily.
What are seeds?
Someone very wise observed: science is the art of classification and naming. Food science is no different. Many foods that we think of as seeds may actually be grains and nuts, or may be grains and seeds at the same time! For instance, quinoa and chia seeds are both seeds and pseudo-cereal grains. To clarify: seeds are developing plants. They have a protective coating. Nuts and grains are classified differently.
But all of those references to seeds as sprouting ideas and accomplishments as well as plants are bang on! Seeds contain valuable stores of plant-based protein and nutrients. They help your blood sugar remain stable and fight harmful free radicals. Activated seeds help you digest other foods more easily. Finally, as part of a healthy diet and exercise regimen, they support weight loss.
Right, you say. Which seeds are we talking about? Well, let’s see what the top ten seeds in terms of nutrition are… Keep in mind that the effects we mention will not make immediate appearances after you eat a sprinkling of these seeds. There is no miracle cure for anything. However, eating a balanced and varied diet, including a range of seeds, and exercising regularly is the best way to sustain optimal, encompassing goodhealth.
That said, including seeds regularly in your diet does sometimes have effects verging on the miraculous. For example, a study looked at patients with hypertension. Those on drugs only reported no difference in blood pressure after six months. In contrast, patients who, unknown to them, were taking a tablespoon of flaxseed a day reported substantial drops in blood pressure.(2)
Heavenly hemp seeds
This ancient seed is rich in many different beneficial substances including plant protein and vitamin D. However, hemp seed is most remarkable for its optimal 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Scientists think that an imbalance of fatty acids may lead to the weakening of the immune system and to many diseases common in the Western world including several types of cancer. Specifically, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid present in hemp seeds. It is good at reducing inflammation, which is behind many common disorders.The right balance of fatty acids is also very beneficial for the skin and hair. It lubricates you from the inside, causing the outside to radiate health.
Hemp seeds, also known as hemp hearts, can be enjoyed on their own or over salad and soup. We enjoy raw hemp seed powder in smoothies. Alternatively, hemp seed oil delivers a higher percentage of fatty acids and vitamin E. Its strong, flavourful nuttiness is lovely in tahini and garlic sauce or blended with olive oil and used over roasted vegetables. → View Related Products
Captivating chia seeds
Today, the ancient Maya civilisation retains special connotations of wisdom and esoteric knowledge. This spills over into foods enjoyed by the Maya that we are starting to eat again. Chief among these may be chia seed. Chia is a wonderful source of soluble fibre. Fibre promotes gut health. That is to say, our civilisation is only beginning to understand how important your gut is to mental, physical, and spiritual health. Chia also expands in our stomach, which helps ward off hunger and makes us feel full for longer. These tiny seeds are also rich in minerals including manganese and magnesium.
We could go on and on about all the stellar qualities of chia, but for now: chia seed is a complete plant-based source of protein. That means that it contains all nine amino acids. Raw chia seed is wonderful in smoothies and baked products. Cold-pressed chia seed oil has a strong, distinctive flavour and odour. It is especially rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Marvellous milk thistle seeds
Milk thistles are small, pale purple blossoms housed on top of spiky cocoons. Their seeds contain a range of unique attributes. Milk thistle seeds have impressive stores of silymarin. This is the name given to a group of raw flavolignans, or natural acids found in plants. Research has looked at the ability of silymarin to detoxify the body, especially the liver. Although further research is needed, milk thistle is the plant most looked at in terms of fighting liver diseases. It has been used thus in folk medicine for many, many years. Milk thistle is also thought to support bone health.
The oil made from milk thistle seeds has a gently nutty, sweetish flavour. It is rich in vitamin E and essential omega-6 fatty acids, among other nutrients. It’s ideal drizzled over salads. Chia seed oil, a source of omega-3, makes a perfect partner for milk thistle oil. → View Related Products
Bold black cumin seed (nigella seed)
Numerous civilisations have used these tiny powerhouses to heal for many thousands of years. Contemporary scientists find black seeds to have over 100 separate substances that come together in a unique combination of qualities. An anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound called thymoquinone is prominent in the list of healing elements found in black seeds. They are especially good for the immune system. Alongside other plant-based compounds also found in black seeds, thymoquinone may also be effective against fungi, microbes, and moulds. Black seeds can be enjoyed on their own or in cold-pressed black seed oil. This oil tastes very strong and peppery. You should use it sparingly in your cooking. Drizzle a bit on top of your food. Black seed oil is also good for your all-important liver.
Peaceful poppy seeds
Poppy seeds are calming, unlike black seeds. Very small traces of opium alkaloids are in poppy seeds. They ease your nervous system. You may be better able to withstand aches and pains. Stress – the modern ailment – fades away. Poppy seeds also offer stores of fibre, calcium and manganese. They also have a substantial amount of Vitamin E in proportion to their size. Vitamin E is essential for the immune system, which protects your body from everything flying around in our mad world. The omega-6 fatty acid called linoleic acid, as well as oleic acid, shows up in poppy seeds. These acids are beneficial to heart and brain health. Cold-pressed poppy seed oil is lovely used on the skin or taken internally through food.
Potent pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds provide healthy minerals. Phosphorus, manganese, and magnesium lead many trace mineral elements in pumpkin seeds. The seeds are great for helping maintain regular bowel movements – very important! Pepitas, as pumpkin seeds are sometimes called, are also a good source of healthy fats.
Phytosterols are plant-based chemicals which are very potent. Scientists think phytosterols help lower bad cholesterol. Compare types of seeds and nuts. Pumpkin seeds stand out as a source for these valuable substances. The seeds are also rich in trytophan, an amino acid which is thought to support healthy sleep patterns.
Want more? Pumpkin seed oil is incredibly lovely for the palate as well as the body. You can find a wealth of unsaturated fatty acids. Selenium and zinc are notably present in the oil, and it is thought to be especially beneficial for men and the prostate. But then again, it is quite good for people in general! Pumpkin seed oil is especially good for your immune system. → View Related Products
Fiercely flax seed
Manganese is essential for bone health. Bone health keeps you upright and going. Pretty decent, eh? Flax seed is rich in this mineral. It also has protein, fibre, thiamine, and magnesium. Moreover, flax seed is thought to be beneficial for the health of your brain. Again, not too shabby! Further, you may know flax seeds as linseeds. They may have a powerful effect on blood pressure, as cited in the study mentioned in the beginning of this article.
Want a fun fact about flax seeds? Charles the Great insisted that all of the people under his control ingest flax seeds for their health. No wonder the Latin name, Linum usitatissimum, translates to the most useful. Like chia seeds, they are a useful source of alpha-linolenic acid, which is beneficial for heart health.(3)(4)
Again this I would mention right before talking about the oil. There should be more logic. Tryptophan is an amino acid, so I would not put it next to fatty acids.
Sunny sunflower seeds
We admit it. We just adore sunflowers and everything to do with them. These flowers turn towards the sun, like we all should. It makes sense that sunflower seeds are so good for you. That is to say, the list of beneficial elements found in these modest seeds is long. It’s led by selenium and vitamin E. Both help fight harmful free radicals, which abound in today’s toxic environment.(5)(6) Sunflower seeds also offer plant compounds like phenolic acids and flavonoids. These also help protect you from toxins.(7) There are many other possible health benefits associated with eating sunflower seeds.
Unlike the other seed oils we’ve referred to in this piece, sunflower seed oil is widely used for cooking, including frying. Oftentimes, refined sunflower seed oil is used. In contrast, cold-pressed sunflower oil retains healthful nutrients. Cold-pressed sunflower oil is rich in Vitamin E and good fats.
Scrumptious sesame seeds
Your body needs a combination of nutrients in order to produce healthy red blood cells. Sesame seeds contain several of these. They include iron, copper, and vitamin B6.(8)(9) These tiny seeds contain a multitude of other vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function at its best. For instance, 100g of sesame seeds have 97% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of calcium and 87% of the RDA of magnesium. In addition, scientists think sesame seeds reduce blood pressure. They contain a lot of iron relative to their size (14.6 mg per 100g). Consequently, they also help prevent anemia. Because of their high selenium levels, sesame seeds aid thyroid health.
Sesame seeds are found in many cultures and cuisines. You may be familiar with sesame seed oil from Japanese cooking. Many Middle Eastern cuisines also use sesame seeds. They are wonderful in sweets in particular. Have you had halva or tahini? These are sesame seed butter! Sesame flour is another way to enjoy these seeds. → View Related Products
….. and fantastic fenugreek seeds
Alternative and Chinese medicine use fenugreek seeds. More people are interested in how these traditions complement Western medicine. Maybe it is time to pay more attention to fenugreek seeds. They are not as familiar to most people as sunflower seeds. However, they have excellent nutritional offerings. This includes 186% of the RDa per 100g of ironand half the RDA of magnesium. Fenugreek seeds may help people process carbohydrates more efficiently.(10)
Fenugreek is also thought to help lower inflammation, which is linked to many harmful diseases.(11) However, more research is needed into many aspects of how fenugreek may affect humans.
Once you begin to use seeds regularly in the kitchen, it will become second nature! Sprinkle seeds over your salads and yogurt bowls. Use them in soups to add texture and crunch. If you still eat some meat, seeds make a wonderful topping for everything from chicken to salmon filets. Add them to baked goods in the same way you add nuts. Make healthy pesto sauces. Enjoy them in sweeter dishes. Keep a jar of mixed seeds in your kitchen and you will find it emptying fast! You begin to long for the interest and consistency that seeds bring to almost any meal.
As you have read, each seed offers a unique nutritional profile. However, in general seeds offer healthy plant protein, fibre, and a variety of nutrients. They help control appetite and maintain healthy weight; improve digestion; stabilise blood sugar.
They truly are the seeds of nutrition. And nutrition is the seed for so much else.
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(1) Gupta et al, “Reduction of phytic acid and enhancement of bioavailable micronutrients in food grains”, Journal of Food Science and Technology, 2015, bit.ly/37yiLCd.
(2) Rodriguez-Leyva et al, “Potent Antihypertensive Action of Dietary Flaxseed in Hypertensive Patients”, Hypertension, 2013, bit.ly/3aGOyD7.
(3) Goyal et al, “Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food”, Journal of Food Science and Technology, 2014, bit.ly/2RzkqC9.
(4) Pan et al, “α-Linolenic acid and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2012, bit.ly/2uBJu2l.
(7) Guo et al, “A review of phytochemistry, metabolite changes, and medicinal uses of the common sunflower seed and sprouts (Helianthus annuus L.).”Chemistry Central Journal, 2017, bit.ly/2RvnO0z.
(10) Neelakantan et al, “Effect of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.) intake on glycemia: a meta-analysis of clinical trials” Nutrition Journal, 2014, bit.ly/2tWMSEN.
(11) Vyas et al, “Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities of Trigonella foenum-graecum (seed) extract.” Acta Poloniae Pharmaceutica, 2008, bit.ly/2uy4gQr.