The Importance of Botanical Seeds in Your Diet

sunflower seedsBig things do come in small packages, and seeds are proof of that. Most of us aren’t eating enough of them. These pint-sized tidbits of nutrition are packed full of essential nutrients like protein, dietary fiber, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids that help keep our heart healthy and our body disease-free.

 

Studies have also shown that different types of seeds also help prevent weight gain.

A seed is the part of the plant that contains the embryo of a future plant. So, to provide the embryo with a good source of energy, the seed contains stored nutrients and oils.

 

Here are a few super seeds you should add to your diet.

chia

Chia Seeds 

 

 

 

They’re high in iron, folate, calcium, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fiber.

The calcium and magnesium promote bone and dental health and are also used during muscle contractions, blood clotting, and hormone secretion. Adequate calcium intake reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.

 

Just two tablespoons of chia seeds contain five grams of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and improve cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

 

Reduced inflammation means fewer swollen joints and less morning stiffness for people with arthritis.

 

A serving of chia seeds provides seven grams of fiber, improving digestion and reducing cholesterol. The four grams of protein per serving help the body repair and build cells. Adequate protein intake is essential for proper muscle function.

 

Sprinkle chia seeds in smoothies, yogurt, cereal, salads, or muffin batter.

 

Hemp Seeds 

Hemp seeds got a bad rap for a long time because of their relationship to varieties of cannabis. However, they don’t cause any psychotropic reaction, and are, in fact, one of nature’s most perfect foods.

 

They’re considered a complete protein, packed with five grams of protein, twenty amino acids, and nine essential amino acids in a two-tablespoon serving. They contain a perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that promote heart health, lower triglycerides, reduce inflammation, and improve brain health.

 

With their high protein content, hemp seeds are ideal for vegan and vegetarian diets. They are  low in carbohydrates and perfect for people following the paleo diet or other carb conscious programs.

 

With their nutty flavor and creamy texture, hemp seeds are perfect additions to hot cereal and smoothies. They can be blended easily into desserts, bread, pancakes, muffins, and other baked goods. Sprinkle them on salads or pilafs, too.

 

 pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin Seeds

These super seeds are a source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc, and protein. They’re also particularly rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which can help lower anxiety. Pumpkin seeds are packed with essential fatty acids that lower bad cholesterol and help keep blood vessels healthy.

 

They’re great for snacking, either raw or roasted. Add them to granola bars and trail mix recipes or use them to garnish soup.

 

 

Sunflower Seeds

They’re known as the traditional baseball snack, but these underrated super seeds are an excellent source of B vitamins and vitamin E to help maintain healthy hair and skin. They might even play a role in preventing cancer.

 

They’re also rich in protein and heart-healthy fats, but avoid the salted seeds which are high in sodium. Snack on them by the handful. Sprinkle on salads and stir fries and add them to cookie or muffin recipes.

 

Flax Seeds 

These brown, nut-flavored seeds are a great source of soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol, feel full longer, and stabilize blood sugar. They’re packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which aid eye and brain health and can lower triglycerides. These little brown seeds are also high in lignans, a plant-like form of estrogen, which may help in preventing certain cancers.

 

The shells of flax seeds are hard and require grinding in a blender or coffee grinder – otherwise, they can pass through the body undigested, which prohibits the absorption of omega-3. Add the ground seeds to smoothies, shakes, yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, and baked goods.

 

Sesame Seeds 

They’re known for their nutty taste and delicate crunch in many Asian dishes. They’re also the main ingredient in tahini – sesame seed paste.

 

The seeds are an excellent source of copper and manganese, plus calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, vitamin B1, zinc, and dietary fiber. Like flax seeds, they also contain lignans.

 

Add sesame seeds to a batter for bread, muffins, and other baked goods. They’re great sprinkled on roasted vegetables such as broccoli, and can be added to dressings for salads, vegetables, and noodles.

 

Sacha Inchi Seeds 

Sacha inchi, which means “The People’s Food,” is also known as the Incan peanut. While touted as the next big thing, they’ve been grown in the highlands of Peru for centuries. The star-shaped fruit that these seeds grow is inedible, but, when roasted, the seeds take on a crispy, nutty flavor.

 

They’re one of the best plant sources of omega-3, omega-6, and omega-G fatty acids.

Sacha inchi seeds lower the bad LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. Cholesterol levels are a marker for cardiovascular disease. These seeds also contain a good amount of tryptophan, which is a precursor for serotonin – a feel-good hormone and neurotransmitter that helps us deal with stress.

 

Try stirring a spoonful into your oatmeal, dust it over a dessert, add it to a smoothie, or incorporate it into your post-workout shake for a healthy boost to your nutrition plan.

 

Pomegranate Seeds

Removing the ruby-red seeds of the pomegranate is a bit labor-intensive, but the rewards are worth it. Pomegranate seeds are known to help improve or prevent various disease risk factors, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hyperglycemia, and inflammation. Studies have also shown they can help prevent certain forms of cancer.

 

They’re also loaded with fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium. Eat them on their own, or add them to smoothies, salsa, pudding, salads, main-course dishes, or blend them into juice.

 

Final Thoughts

Many of us don’t eat enough high-quality, healthy fats like those found in seeds. They can be easily added to our diet, and the health benefits are virtually endless.

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