11 Seeds You Should Be Eating
Seeds are rich in nutrients and have many health benefits. These small but mighty kernels are high in vitamins and minerals the body needs to function at peak performance. Seeds are extremely versatile and can be incorporated easily into a variety of different recipes. Need more energy? Want a slimmer waist? There’s a seed for that!
Chia has come a long way since it first sprouted out of funny pottery in TV commercials. These tiny seeds pack in 10 grams of fiber in a 2-tablespoon serving. They also contain proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and minerals like: iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc.
Chia seeds are easy to add to your favorite dishes. Sprinkle them ground or whole onto cereal, vegetables, or yogurt. Soak them in water to add to cooked cereal, or find a recipe for chia pudding as a healthy and tasty dessert.
Wild rice is actually a seed – a grass seed. It’s higher in protein than most other whole grains and contains 30 times more antioxidants than white rice. Wild rice is a good source of fiber, and nutrients such as: folate, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, vitamin B6, and niacin.
A 2009 study in China found wild rice might be effective in lowering cholesterol and other fats in the blood. Wild rice is extremely versatile and can be substituted for white rice in any dish. It can also be a healthy addition to a salad or soup.
Pumpkin seeds are a tasty snack that boasts 16% of your daily iron needs in just ¼ cup. That same ¼ cup will also get you 5 grams of fiber, which is more than most nuts. In addition, pumpkin seeds are a good source of amino acids, protein, and omega-3s, as well as minerals such as zinc and magnesium.
Fresh roasted pumpkin seeds – a Halloween favorite – are an excellent snack, but you can enjoy them year-round sprinkled on oatmeal, baked into muffins, mixed into smoothies, or added to homemade granola and energy bars.
Pomegranate seeds are small red “jewels” called arils. These arils have lots of fiber and 40% of your daily requirement of vitamin C. They also contain heart-healthy antioxidants called polyphenols, including: flavonoids, tannins, and anthocyanins.
Pomegranate seeds make a sweet and juicy low-calorie snack. Try them tossed in salads, mixed into yogurt, or made into jelly.
Quinoa has a remarkably high protein content (15%, or 8 grams per cup), along with amino acids, and vitamin E. It also contains an antioxidant called quercetin. This nutty-flavored seed can be substituted in grain dishes in place of rice or pasta. Quinoa also makes a healthy gluten-free breading, and can be eaten for breakfast instead of oatmeal.
Flaxseed is packed with nutrients. Just two tablespoons of flaxseed contains 6 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein. It is also rich in alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. Some studies suggest flaxseed consumption helps improve cardiovascular health. Flaxseed also contains lignans, which may help protect the body from cancer.
Adding flaxseed to your diet is easy. Bake it into muffins. Mix it in salads, yogurt, smoothies, cereal, and soups. Ground flaxseed can even be used as an egg substitute.
“Flax Egg”: 1 tablespoon ground flax seed plus 3 tablespoons warm water.
Hemp seeds are an excellent source of heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They pack in 10 grams of easily digested protein into just 2 tablespoons. Hemp seeds have a mild, nutty flavor. They can be eaten on their own, added to salads, or on top of yogurt. Hemp milk is a good alternative to dairy milk.
Sunflower seeds are high in healthy fats, as well as: proteins, fiber, phytochemicals, selenium, copper, and magnesium. According to the USDA, sunflower seeds are “the richest source of vitamin E.” Aside from salad toppings, you can add sunflower seeds to muffins or bread recipes, in vegetable dishes or stir-fry, into trail mixes, and in cereals or yogurt. Try crushed sunflower seeds as a tasty gluten-free coating for fish or chicken.
Despite their tiny size, sesame seeds contain up to 20% protein and lots of fiber. They are rich in the amino acids tryptophan and methionine. Sesame oil is a good choice for salad dressings as it is rich in linoleic and oleic acids, which have a cholesterol-lowering effect. Tahini (ground sesame seeds) is a main ingredient in hummus, and can also serve as a nut-free substitute for those with food allergies. Sprinkle sesame seeds on salads or stir-fry dishes for an added crunch.
Pine nuts contain all of the amino acids along with: vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin E, copper, iron, managanese, and phosphorus. They are also a good source of pinoleic acid, a fatty acid that acts as a natural appetite suppressant. The monosaturated fats found in pine nuts are known to decrease the levels of cholesterol in the blood stream, which in turn, can lower heart attack and stroke risks. Like most of the seeds, you can add them to salads, yogurts, trail mixes, muffins, and vegetable dishes.
Just one teaspoon of tiny poppy seeds contains up to four percent of your recommended daily intake of phosphorous, calcium, and iron. Calcium and phosphorous are essential nutrients needed to build healthy bones. Poppy seeds are also a great source of oleic acid, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s easy to add poppy seeds to salad dressings, whole wheat pancakes, muffins, or vegetable dishes. Just sprinkle them on!
Please note that poppy seeds may cause false/positive narcotic drug test results.
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Are pumpkin seeds good for your health? What’s the nutritional value of chia seeds? Find out how to easily incorporate more edible, healthy seeds into a diet rich in vitamins and minerals.
6 Super Healthy Seeds You Should Eat
Seeds contain all the starting materials necessary to develop into complex plants. Because of this, they are extremely nutritious.
Seeds are great sources of fiber. They also contain healthy monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and many important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
When consumed as part of a healthy diet, seeds can help reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.
This article will describe the nutritional content and health benefits of six of the healthiest seeds you can eat.
Flaxseeds, also known as linseeds, are a great source of fiber and omega-3 fats, particularly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
However, the omega-3 fats are contained within the fibrous outer shell of the seed, which humans can’t digest easily.
Therefore, if you want to increase your omega-3 levels, it’s best to eat flaxseeds that have been ground ( 1 , 2 ).
A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of flaxseeds contains a wide mix of nutrients (3):
- Calories: 152
- Fiber: 7.8 grams
- Protein: 5.2 grams
- Monounsaturated fat: 2.1 grams
- Omega-3 fats: 6.5 grams
- Omega-6 fats: 1.7 grams
- Manganese: 35% of the RDI
- Thiamine (vitamin B1): 31% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 28% of the RDI
Flaxseeds also contain a number of different polyphenols, especially lignans, which act as important antioxidants in the body ( 4 ).
Lignans, as well as the fiber and omega-3 fats in flaxseeds, can all help reduce cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease ( 5, 6, 7 ).
One large study combined the results of 28 others, finding that consuming flaxseeds reduced levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol by an average of 10 mmol/l ( 8 ).
Flaxseeds may also help reduce blood pressure. An analysis of 11 studies found that flaxseeds could reduce blood pressure especially when eaten whole every day for more than 12 weeks ( 9 ).
A couple of studies have shown that eating flaxseeds may reduce markers of tumor growth in women with breast cancer, and may also reduce cancer risk ( 10 , 11 , 12 ).
This may be due to the lignans in flaxseeds. Lignans are phytoestrogens and are similar to the female sex hormone estrogen.
What’s more, similar benefits have been shown regarding prostate cancer in men ( 13 ).
In addition to reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer, flaxseeds may also help reduce blood sugar, which may help lower the risk of diabetes ( 14 ).
Summary: Flaxseeds are an excellent source of fiber, omega-3 fats, lignans and other nutrients. A lot of evidence has shown they may reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and even the risk of cancer.
Chia seeds are very similar to flaxseeds because they are also good sources of fiber and omega-3 fats, along with a number of other nutrients.
A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of chia seeds contains (15):
- Calories: 137
- Fiber: 10.6 grams
- Protein: 4.4 grams
- Monounsaturated fat: 0.6 grams
- Omega-3 fats: 4.9 grams
- Omega-6 fats: 1.6 grams
- Thiamine (vitamin B1): 15% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 30% of the RDI
- Manganese: 30% of the RDI
Like flaxseeds, chia seeds also contain a number of important antioxidant polyphenols.
Interestingly, a number of studies have shown that eating chia seeds can increase ALA in the blood. ALA is an important omega-3 fatty acid that can help reduce inflammation ( 16 , 17 ).
Your body can convert ALA into other omega-3 fats, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are the omega-3 fats found in oily fish. However, this conversion process in the body is usually quite inefficient.
One study has shown that chia seeds may be able to increase levels of EPA in the blood ( 18 ).
Chia seeds may also help reduce blood sugar. A couple of studies have shown that whole and ground chia seeds are equally effective for reducing blood sugar immediately after a meal ( 19 , 20 ).
Another study found that, as well as reducing blood sugar, chia seeds may reduce appetite ( 14 ).
Chia seeds may also reduce risk factors of heart disease ( 21 ).
A study of 20 people with type 2 diabetes found that eating 37 grams of chia seeds per day for 12 weeks reduced blood pressure and levels of several inflammatory chemicals, including C-reactive protein (CRP) ( 22 ).
Summary: Chia seeds are a good source of omega-3 fats and are effective at lowering blood sugar and reducing risk factors for heart disease.
Hemp seeds are an excellent source of vegetarian protein. In fact, they contain more than 30% protein, as well as many other essential nutrients.
Hemp seeds are one of the few plants that are complete protein sources, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids that your body can’t make.
Studies have also shown that the protein quality of hemp seeds is better than most other plant protein sources ( 23 ).
A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of hemp seeds contains ( 24 ):
- Calories: 155
- Fiber: 1.1 grams
- Protein: 8.8 grams
- Monounsaturated fat: 0.6 grams
- Polyunsaturated fat: 10.7 grams
- Magnesium: 45% of the RDI
- Thiamine (vitamin B1): 31% of the RDI
- Zinc: 21% of the RDI
The proportion of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in hemp seed oil is roughly 3:1, which is considered a good ratio. Hemp seeds also contain gamma-linolenic acid, an important anti-inflammatory fatty acid ( 25 ).
For this reason, many people take hemp seed oil supplements.
Hemp seed oil may have a beneficial effect on heart health by increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood ( 26 , 27 , 28 ).
The anti-inflammatory action of the omega-3 fatty acids may also help improve symptoms of eczema.
One study found that people with eczema experienced less skin dryness and itchiness after taking hemp seed oil supplements for 20 weeks. They also used skin medication less, on average ( 29 ).
Summary: Hemp seeds are a great source of protein and contain all the essential amino acids. Hemp seed oil may help reduce symptoms of eczema and other chronic inflammatory conditions.
Sesame seeds are commonly consumed in Asia, and also in Western countries as part of a paste called tahini.
Similar to other seeds, they contain a wide nutrient profile. One ounce (28 grams) of sesame seeds contains (30):
- Calories: 160
- Fiber: 3.3 grams
- Protein: 5 grams
- Monounsaturated fat: 5.3 grams
- Omega-6 fats: 6 grams
- Copper: 57% of the RDI
- Manganese: 34% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 25% of the RDI
Like flaxseeds, sesame seeds contain a lot of lignans, particularly one called sesamin. In fact, sesame seeds are the best known dietary source of lignans.
A couple of interesting studies have shown that sesamin from sesame seeds may get converted by your gut bacteria into another type of lignan called enterolactone ( 31 , 32 ).
Enterolactone can act like the sex hormone estrogen, and lower-than-normal levels of this lignan in the body have been associated with heart disease and breast cancer ( 33 ).
Another study found that postmenopausal women who ate 50 grams of sesame seed powder daily for five weeks had significantly lower blood cholesterol and improved sex hormone status ( 34 ).
Sesame seeds may also help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which can worsen symptoms of many disorders, including arthritis.
One study showed that people with knee osteoarthritis had significantly fewer inflammatory chemicals in their blood after eating about 40 grams of sesame seed powder every day for two months ( 35 ).
Another recent study found that after eating about 40 grams of sesame seed powder per day for 28 days, semi-professional athletes had significantly reduced muscle damage and oxidative stress, as well as increased aerobic capacity ( 36 ).
Summary: Sesame seeds are a great source of lignans, which may help improve sex hormone status for estrogen. Sesame seeds may also help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
Pumpkin seeds are one of the most commonly consumed types of seeds, and are good sources of phosphorus, monounsaturated fats and omega-6 fats.
A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of pumpkin seeds contains (37):
- Calories: 151
- Fiber: 1.7 grams
- Protein: 7 grams
- Monounsaturated fat: 4 grams
- Omega-6 fats: 6 grams
- Manganese: 42% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 37% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 33% of the RDI
Pumpkin seeds are also good sources of phytosterols, which are plant compounds that may help lower blood cholesterol ( 38 ).
These seeds have been reported to have a number of health benefits, likely due to their wide range of nutrients.
One observational study of more than 8,000 people found that those who had a higher intake of pumpkin and sunflower seeds had a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer ( 39 ).
Another study in children found that pumpkin seeds may help lower the risk of bladder stones by reducing the amount of calcium in urine ( 40 ).
Bladder stones are similar to kidney stones. They’re formed when certain minerals crystalize inside the bladder, which leads to abdominal discomfort.
A couple of studies have shown that pumpkin seed oil can improve symptoms of prostate and urinary disorders ( 41 , 42 ).
These studies also showed that pumpkin seed oil may reduce symptoms of overactive bladder and improve quality of life for men with enlarged prostates.
A study of postmenopausal women also found that pumpkin seed oil may help reduce blood pressure, increase “good” HDL cholesterol and improve menopause symptoms ( 43 ).
Summary: Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil are good sources of monounsaturated and omega-6 fats, and may help improve heart health and symptoms of urinary disorders.
Along with a healthy diet, seeds can help reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. Here are 6 super seeds to eat for better health.