Chances are, you don’t think a whole lot about eating seeds, unless they’re those sesame seeds on top of your morning bagel. Seeds and nuts are often lumped into the same category, in terms of nutrients. But up until now, it’s been the nuts that have gotten all the glory. Seeds may be small, but they can pack a nutrition punch. Most seeds, like nuts, contain healthy fats, protein, fiber and minerals. In addition, eating seeds has been linked with a lower risk of heart disease, lowered inflammation and even weight loss. Tell nuts to move over and make room for these three seeds. Read on to find out why you should make them a regular part of your eating plan.
No longer just for growing grassy “hair” on clay heads, chia seeds have taken the world of nutrition by storm. These tiny seeds are everywhere, from energy bars to cereal to beverages to pudding. Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) are related to the mint family, and grow in the America Southwest and Mexico. Back in pre-Columbian times, before the Spanish conquest, chia seeds were a staple of the Aztec and Mayan diets. The Aztecs used to cut images of their gods out of dough made from chia and then eat them as part of religious ceremonies.
Chia seeds are very tiny and may be either black or white. One tablespoons of chia has 60 calories, 4 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of protein. They also have omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and calcium.
How To Use Chia Seeds
An easy way to eat chia seeds is to sprinkle them onto (or mix them into) just about anything: cereal, oatmeal, rice, salads, smoothies, or batter for breads and muffins. You can also soak chia seeds in water so that they swell in size before mixing them into food. Many people enjoy making a “pudding” out of chia seeds that have been pre-soaked.
Hemp seeds are catching up in popularity to chia seeds. They come from the hemp plant (don’t worry–hemp seeds are not from the same plant from which marijuana is produced, and are perfectly safe to eat). Hemp is a highly nutritious plant that contains all nine amino acids, along with fatty acids, fiber, vitamin E and minerals. The seed itself is easy to chew and tastes somewhat like sunflower seeds. The downside is that hemp seeds are pricey compared to other seeds. One pound can set you back between $10 and $15.
One tablespoon of hemp seeds has 60 calories, 4 grams of fat, 1 gram of fiber, and 3 grams of protein.
How To Use Hemp Seeds
Like chia seeds, hemp seeds can be sprinkled on just about anything. Try them with salads, cereal, yogurt, or cottage cheese. You can also add them to a cooked grain, such as brown rice or quinoa –they’ll lend texture without being too hard or crunchy.
Flaxseed has been around for a long time; it dates back to 3000 B.C. Flaxseed is still popular today, and food companies continue to add it to many of their products, including waffles, crackers, and oatmeal. Even chickens are being fed flaxseed, thanks to its high omega-3 fatty acid content. Flaxseed is also rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber, as well as lignans, which are plant substances that act like antioxidants. Research has shown that eating flaxseed may protect against breast, prostate, and colon cancers. It can also lower cholesterol and blood glucose levels, and even reduce hot flashes in menopausal women.
One tablespoon of flaxseed, available in brown and golden varieties, has 35 calories, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of protein. To make sure that you absorb all of flaxseed’s nutrients, it’s best to grind the seeds before you eat them. You can buy ground flaxseed or grind it yourself using a coffee grinder.
How To Use Flaxseed
Ground flaxseed is a great topping for hot and cold cereal. You can also substitute ground flaxseed for eggs in baked goods or pancake batter. Store ground flaxseed in the refrigerator for up to one week. Note: Flaxseed may block the absorption of some medicines and supplements, so it’s best not to take your medicines at the same time as eating flaxseed. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re not sure how flaxseed might interact with your medicines.