“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20.
So what happens if you eat seeds? It seems like every week there is a new superfood. What are the real benefits of eating seeds and which ones are best? Let’s start with the top five!
Chia seeds were a staple of the Aztecs and Mayans. They were ground as flour, pressed for oil, and mixed with water. Long ago they were known for providing energy and stamina. Now, we know they provide so much more! Gram per gram, chia seeds provide six times more calcium than milk, three times more iron than spinach, two times more fiber than bran flakes, fifteen times more magnesium than broccoli, five times more protein than kidney beans, four times more selenium than flax, nine times more phosphorous than milk, two times more potassium than bananas, and eight times more Omega-3s than wild salmon! What’s more, chia seeds absorb between nine and twelve times their weight in water. Combined with their high fiber content, this makes you feel full faster and for longer, with very few calories, which helps with weight loss. Additionally, chia forms a gel once exposed to liquids which can help prevent blood sugar spikes, providing a potential natural treatment for type-2 diabetes. Other benefits of chia that have been attributed to their high omega-3 content include reduced inflammation, PMS symptoms, and cardiovascular disease. There are a plethora of recipes available for chia, but really it can be added to anything: yogurt, cereal, salads, smoothies, granola bars, you name it!
The superfood before chia became so popular, flax seeds are credited with reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Although flax seeds have many vitamins, they are most notable for Omega-3 fatty acids, lignans and fiber. Recent research into the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids shows that their benefits go far beyond the heart and brain. Each ounce of flax seeds has more than twice the omega-3s (ALA) as 4 oz of salmon. Flax seeds contain 75 to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods. In addition to having antioxidant qualities, lignans may help protect against cancer by blocking enzymes that are involved in hormone metabolism and by interfering with the growth and spread of tumor cells. Of note, it is believed that flax seeds eaten whole pass through your system mostly undigested. So, if you want to gain the most benefits from eating flax seeds make sure you grind them, or buy flax meal or ground flax seed.
Anyone else’s mind go toward those itchy bracelets and necklaces worn during our hippie phases… just me, okay. Hemp seeds are actually a great source of complete protein, fiber, omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, and phytosterols, which help lower cholesterol. Additionally, hemp seeds contain GLA, an anti-inflammatory. Lucky for us, even though they are related to marijuana, hemp seeds can be consumed without getting high, as they don’t contain THC. Like chia and flax seeds, this gluten free food can be added to salads, smoothies, yogurt, cereal, or baked goods.
In addition to being a Halloween treat, pumpkin seeds contain iron, magnesium, zinc, protein, and B vitamins. One ounce of pumpkin seeds provides almost 20% of the daily recommended value of zinc, a known immune booster. Pumpkin seeds have also been used to treat anxiety disorders due to their high concentration of tryptophan, which helps lower anxiety. A half cup of pumpkin seeds provides almost 10 grams of protein in only 180 calories. Like the other seeds mentioned above, pumpkin seeds also have high levels of fatty acids that help maintain cardiovascular health and lower cholesterol. Keep in mind that toasting the seeds or cooking with pumpkin seed oil reduces or destroys their nutritional properties though.
Sunflower seeds are a great source of B vitamins, particularly folate, and vitamin E. Folate, as you moms might remember, helps to support healthy pregnancy. It also helps to promote a healthy immune system. Vitamin E helps keep brain cells healthy and works as an antioxidant to fight cancer, prevents cardiovascular disease, and maintains healthy hair and skin. Sunflower seeds also contain protein, phytosterols, and selenium, a mineral that helps repair DNA. They also contain magnesium, which can help prevent migraines, lower blood pressure, and reduce the severity of asthma. They can be eaten alone or used to add a crunch to other recipes. Keep in mind that if you buy salted sunflower seeds, excessive salt reduces their nutritional value.
Who knew a few seeds could provide so many benefits, especially with so few calories? So let’s sprinkle, stir, grind and snack our
way to some of these amazing health benefits!