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Super Seeds

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Super Seeds

Have you noticed seeds of all sorts popping up everywhere? Pack more nutrients and flavor into your diet with these little gems. They are an asset if you are trying to follow a less processed, more plant-based diet. 

Similarly to nuts, seeds are rich in fats that primarily come from heart-healthy sources. However, be mindful of their calories and consider limiting consumption to a two tablespoon portion. Some seeds are protein dense, while others carry an abundance of fiber. Explore the many health benefits and potential uses for these “super” seeds.

 

CHIA SEEDS

Health Benefits

Chia seeds are an unprocessed whole grain that can be digested both when ground up or whole.  They contain an impressive 10 grams of fiber for two tablespoons–more than many other seeds! They are known as the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. It is important to note that omega-3’s from plant sources have a low absorption rate when compared to fatty fish. Chia seeds are loaded in antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals, including calcium, and offers 18 percent of the Daily Value. This ranks them high among non-dairy sources of calcium.

Nutrition (per 2 Tbsp.)

  • 138 calories
  • 9 g fat
  • 10 g fiber
  • 5 g protein

Taste and Tips to Enjoy

These seeds carry a mild, nutty flavor and offer crunch and texture to many dishes. Sprinkle ground or whole chia seeds on salads, yogurt, dry cereal and oats. Incorporate into the flour of baked goods, such as muffins and cakes; add to pancake and waffle mixes; and even use in homemade pudding desserts. Because they absorb water so well, chia seeds can also be used as a thickener in salad dressing. When hydrated, chia seeds can even be used to replace eggs in egg-free baked goods.

HEMP SEEDS

Health Benefits

Hemp seeds are unique because they pack in all nine essential amino acids, offering a great source of protein for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. They contain a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fats in a 3:1 ratio. For heart health, it is important to consume a greater proportion of omega-3 fats than omega-6 fats. Hemp seeds are easily digestible and contain iron, zinc, potassium and vitamin E. Another stand-out feature is that allergies to hemp are rare, unlike other nuts and seeds.

Nutrition (per 2 Tbsp.)

  • 90 calories
  • 6 g fat
  • 2 g fiber
  • 5 g protein

Taste and Tips to Enjoy

Hemp seeds have a nutty flavor and are similar in taste to sunflower seeds. They are a popular addition to shakes and smoothies. Sprinkle them on salads, Greek yogurt and pudding. Hemp seeds can be incorporated into baked goods, but they can lose some of their nutrition when under high heat conditions.

FLAX SEEDS

Health Benefits

Flax seeds have become increasingly popular in the American diet, and for good reason. They contain soluble fiber, which is known to help improve cholesterol levels. Like other seeds, they contain omega-3s. They also contain chemical compounds called lignans that carry antioxidants and enzymes throughout the body. Unlike other seeds, the whole seeds pass right through your digestive tract without breaking down. While this can be helpful to relieve constipation, whole flax seeds are not as nutritionally beneficial compared to their ground form. For that reason, purchase conveniently packaged ground flax seeds or grind the seeds yourself with a coffee grinder.

Nutrition (per 2 Tbsp.)

  • 110 calories
  • 9 g fat
  • 3 g fiber
  • 4 g protein

Taste and Tips to Enjoy

Add to hot and cold cereals and smoothies. Sprinkle toasted flax seeds on soups and salads. Use in baked goods as a partial substitute for butter (3:1) or as an egg replacer, such as chia seeds. Keep them refrigerated, as they are easily perishable.

PUMPKIN SEEDS

Health Benefits

Pumpkin seeds boast nine grams of protein per two tablespoons, which is more than many other seeds. They are a good source of iron, vitamin E and B-complex vitamins. The kernels contain mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) that help lower bad LDL cholesterol and boost good HDL cholesterol for heart health. 

Nutrition (per 2 Tbsp.)

  • 158 calories
  • 14 g fat
  • 2 g fiber
  • 9 g protein

Taste and Tips to Enjoy

Pumpkin seeds have a sweet, creamy, nutty flavor and are delicious when toasted and lightly salted in healthy snack mixes. Sprinkle over fruit or vegetable salads or use as an ingredient in meat, rice and vegetable dishes.

Though tiny in size, seeds are nutritional powerhouses. Try to incorporate a variety of seeds and/or nuts several times a week as a part of your healthy eating plan.

For a personalized nutrition consultation, meal planning tips and healthy eating advice, visit Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services or call 972.560.2655.

Article provided by: Elana Paddock, RDN, LD, CDE, registered dietitian nutritionist, licensed dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Cooper Clinic.