Think about it—the delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables you eat on a daily basis originate from a seed. So eating the seed itself has got to be healthy, right? Seeds are in fact some of the healthiest foods you can eat! They will give your salads crunch, your oatmeal extra nuttiness, and your breads added nutrition.
The seed is an embryonic plant that is still enclosed in its protective seed coat. Because it hasn’t yet shed this coat, it stores all of its nutrients that would otherwise be shared with a seedling. The nutrients inside vary based on the type of plant from which the seed is derived. When you eat a seed, you are nourishing your body with optimal, high concentrations of essential oils, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Seeds come in all different shapes and sizes and you probably eat them every day, maybe without even knowing it. Try adding these seeds to your meals or simply as a mid-afternoon snack for a nutritious pick-me-up.
Large and crunchy, pumpkin seeds are so much more than the stringy mess on the inside of a pumpkin. Pumpkin seeds are high in protein and chock full of B vitamins, important for energy production and maintenance. They also contain the essential amino acid tryptophan, which can help fight depression and gloomy moods. High in zinc (great for men’s health) and folate (needed for pregnant women), pumpkin seeds serve a wide variety of purposes. Next time you carve a pumpkin, don’t throw away those seeds. Roast them with olive oil, salt, and pepper for a healthy snack, toss them into your salads, or top wintry soups for a fancy garnish.
Sesame seeds are some of the oldest seeds known to humans, thought to have originated in India, traveled through the Middle East, and ultimately to your favorite bagel. Tiny, slightly crunchy, and nutty, sesame seeds are high in copper and manganese, as well as cholesterol-lowering fibers called lignans. Sesame seeds can be found in white, yellow, black, and red and can add extra color and pop to your dishes. Mix sesame seeds into homemade muffin batter, sear tuna with a sesame crust, or stir fry broccoli with sesame oil topped with white sesame seeds for an Asian-inspired side dish.
Chia seeds (pictured top) are the newest and hippest superfood. Only one tablespoon provides the body with two and a half times more protein than beans, three times more iron than spinach, and eight times more calcium than milk. There are studies linking chia seeds to weight loss, as they expand in your gut, keeping you full and satisfied for longer. Chia seeds do not have to be ground up and can be eaten raw. They are also perfect for upping the nutrition to smoothies, puddings, and baked into breads and cakes.
Flaxseeds are also a nutritional powerhouse. Widely known and used for centuries across the world, flaxseed was written about by Hippocrates and consumption of flaxseed was mandated by the French Emperor Charlemagne in the 8th century. Turns out Charlemagne knew what he was talking about as we now have research with evidence of flaxseed’s amazing health properties. Once flaxseeds are ground, their essential oils and nutrients are released. Most importantly, flaxseed contains omega-3 fatty acids important for reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke, soluble and insoluble fiber, and antioxidants. Sprinkle ground flaxseeds on your cereal and oatmeal, mix it into muffin and cookie batters, or even add them to scrambled eggs for nuttiness and texture.
Sunflower seeds are one of the first plants to be brought to the United States from Mexico and Peru and of course are the most beloved snack of the Great American Pastime, baseball. The beautiful, bright yellow sunflower gives rise to tear-shaped gems filled with Vitamin E- containing polyunsaturated oil, the body’s most important antioxidant. Vitamin E protects cells from harmful cancer-causing free radicals and reduces inflammation. Sunflower seeds also contain phytosterols known to lower cholesterol. Shell your seeds or buy already shelled seeds and sprinkle over salads, cereals, and soups.