Looking for a healthy, filling snack that'll help, not hurt, your weight goals? Seeds are a naturally heart-healthy fat and plant protein-packed snack. More than a snack, though, these little wonders can be chopped, ground, or processed into oils, butters, flours, and even "milk" to be used as ingredients in all sorts of recipes and foods.
They add flavor, nutrition, and texture to many foods such as:
Each seed brings something unique to the table. They may be small but they pack many benefits! They are rich in healthy fats, quality protein, essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Try them raw. Try them toasted. Get your daily dose of seeds in a morning or mid-day smoothie! Just a spoonful of any of the following seeds will give your smoothie a boost of iron, fiber, protein, or omega-3 fatty acids.
These seeds pack 7 grams of protein in just 1 ounce. They're also an excellent source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and a valuable source of zinc. They are especially enjoyable in the fall, when pumpkins are in season.
One unique characteristic of pumpkin seeds is its wide diversity of antioxidants. Although compared to other seeds, it is not a highly rich source of vitamin E, the pumpkin seed does provide vitamin E in a wide variety of forms: alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, delta-tocopherol, alpha-tocomonoenol, an gamma-tocomonoenol. Each form provides a different antioxidative benefit.1 The pumpkin seed has even greater antioxidant diversity, including phenolic antioxidants (such as caffeic and coumaric acid) and antioxidant phytonutrients (such as lignans).
If you plan on roasting them, do so for no longer than 15-20 minutes to prevent a number of unwanted changes in the structure of fats found in these seeds.
IN THE KITCHEN: Pumpkin seeds make a delicious addition to vegetable dishes (sauteeed, stir-fried, or steamed) and mixed salads. You can also use ground pumpkin seeds in your burger patties, salad dressings, or smoothies.
Meet one of the oldest condiments known to man. With only 160 calories in 1 ounce of sesame seeds you'll also get an excellent source of copper, calcium, iron, and magnesium.
Flaxseeds were once thought to be the richest sources of lignans until they discovered the rich content in sesame seeds. Two unique lignans found in sesame seeds are sesamin and sesamol. These lignans have been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol. For example, sesamin can hinder intestinal absorption of cholesterol.
Studies suggest that sesame seeds can reduce blood pressure. They also reduce markers of oxidative stress in multiple chronic diseases, including diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension. This is mostly due to its antioxidant content.
IN THE KITCHEN: Since the body has trouble absorbing the outer layer of sesame seeds, get the most nutrition out of them by crushing or grinding seeds. For example, you can use them to make a delicious paste known as tahini, an essential ingredient of hummus.
Sesame seeds also work great in various Asian dishes. Sesame oil can be added right at the end of your stir-fry or drizzled over soups and stews.
Chia seeds are packed with calcium, protein, and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. They're also an excellent source of fiber. Two tablespoons (or 1 ounce) has as much as 10 grams of fiber.
Chia seeds have various active ingredients that contribute to their health benefits. Myricetin, quercetin, kaempferol, and caffeic acid are flavonols and phenolic acids that have anticancer, antiinflammatory, antioxidant, and antithrombotic effects.
IN THE KITCHEN: Sprinkle raw chia seeds in cereal, yogurt, smoothies, and rice or vegetable dishes. They can also be soaked in water and used to thicken sauces or as egg substitutes in various recipes. Did you know chia sprouts are also edible? They can be a nutritious addition to sandwiches and salads.
These earthy, nutty-tasting seeds have only 150 calories per 1 ounce serving and yet pack an excellent amount of vitamin E, zinc, and magnesium.
Hemp seeds are an exceptionally rich source of two essential fatty acids - omega-6 and omega-3. It also has the optimal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio for health: between 2:1 and 3:1. In fact, because of its healthy fat content, studies show hemp seeds can be beneficial and protective for those recovering from a heart attack.
IN THE KITCHEN: They can be eaten raw or sprouted, ground into meal or made into an oil for salad dressings or to drizzle over a warm soup. They can be soaked and blended with water to make hemp seed milk. They make a delicious addition to oatmeal or yogurt. Hemp seeds can be baked into bread. Their nutty flavor works great in sweet Asian stir-fries.
Hemp seed oil is used not as a cooking oil but as a finishing oil, drizzled over soups, veggie dishes, pastas, or stews.
These nutty flavored seeds are unique in their phytosterol content. Sunflower seed phytosterol's have a chemical structure so similar to cholesterol that it may help reduce blood levels of cholesterol.
Sunflower seeds a rich source of vitamin E and selenium, a pair of potent antioxidants. Vitamin E is the body's main fat-soluble antioxidant, protecting fat-containing structures such as cell membranes, brain cells, and even cholesterol from being damaged or oxidized by free radicals. When cholesterol oxidizes, it is able to stick to the walls of blood vessels. By preventing this, vitamin E helps prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries) from developing.
IN THE KITCHEN: Add sunflower seeds to homemade burgers (veggie or meat-based) or meatballs. They add great crunch and flavor to tuna, chicken, or turkey salads. Use them to garnish a mixed green salad. Toss them in scrambled eggs.
With just one tablespoon of flaxseeds, you can get your daily omega-3 ALA needs. Flaxseeds are also very concentrated in fiber, with about 3 grams of both insoluble and soluble fiber in just 1 tablespoon.
Ground flaxseeds are more digestible than whole flaxseeds. Store them in the freezer for a longer shelf-life as they tend to go bad in about 6-16 weeks in the refrigerator. For maximum freshness and nutrition, your best bet is to buy them whole and grind them when you need them with a coffee grinder.
IN THE KITCHEN: Flaxseeds are typically sprinkled into hot or cold cereal. Use them in your favorite homemade bread recipes to boost nutritional value. Toss them in salads and smoothies. Ground flaxseeds can give your cooked veggie dishes a mild nutty flavor.
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