What are the benefits of eating seeds?

Seeds can be a delicious and healthy addition to the diet. They are becoming more and more popular in today’s cuisine and you can find them in a variety of dishes. Anywhere from chia seed packed smoothie to pumpkin seed oatmeal to hemp seed and fruit muesli. Most people are aware that seeds contain a healthy dose of protein, fiber, and fat, but many don’t really know how to incorporate the many varieties into their diet.

Flax seeds are one of my favorites! They are excellent sources of thiamine, magnesium and fiber. In a 2012 study by the American Heart Association, it was found that eating an ounce of ground flax seed daily for six months can help lower blood pressure! In addition, flax seeds are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. One tablespoon of ground flax seeds contains around 1.1 grams per day of alpha linolenic acid, in addition to one to two grams of soluble fiber. Personally I like to mix ground flax seeds into yogurt for my healthy evening snack, but you can also sprinkle on oatmeal or cereal. As a side note, there have been some reports that flax seeds may interact with various medications so I recommend contacting your doctor before incorporating them into your diet.

Sunflower seeds are a great outdoor summer snack! I love taking them as snacks to baseball games and other sporting events because they generally keep me from consuming a lot of not-so-healthy foods (elephant ears, oil-laden popcorn and potato chips). About ¼ of a cup contains an excellent amount of vitamin E and phosphorous. They are also filled with zinc, vitamin B6 and folate.

A seed that is really becoming main stream is the chia seed. One tablespoon contains a whopping 10 grams of fiber, protein, iron and calcium. I love them because the protein and fiber help keep me fuller longer and because they are so versatile, I add them to savory soups and eggs along with sweet dishes like smoothies and buckwheat pancakes.

Pumpkin seeds are one that people generally consume in the fall (Halloween time) but they can be a delicious addition to your diet all year round. They are great sources of fiber, protein, healthy fat and can add some excellent crunchy topping to baked goods. I will generally clean them up after carving a pumpkin and then follow an easy recipe for great tasting seeds: Measure the pumpkin seeds in a cup and place the seeds in a medium saucepan. Add 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to the pan for every half cup of pumpkin seeds. Bring to a boil and boil for around 10 minutes. Meanwhile lightly brush the bottom of a baking sheet with olive oil and spread the seeds out on the sheet. Bake the seeds at 400F for around 10 – 15 minutes, checking often.

Hemp seeds are another popular “hip” seed that many people are consuming these days. A few of my colleagues eat these almost every day and tell me they love the taste and the nutritional profile (they are a complete protein and contain all nine essential amino acids) but they don’t like the cost. Hemp seeds cost about $15 per pound! However, given their versatility and excellent taste, these are definitely great when following a vegetarian or vegan diet.

As with all nutrient dense foods, I remind my patients that, while seeds are filled with many healthy components, they are also calorically dense. I recommend that you check out the calorie content for one serving and then measure out that one serving so you know how much you are consuming. Remember, a little can be good but sometimes more is not necessarily better (at least for your waistline)!

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