Last week I wrote about nuts, and, as promised, this week I’ll be delving into the topic of seeds.
These potent little powerhouses are some of the healthiest foods you can eat, especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan. Many seeds contain high-quality protein as well as a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients.
Because of their healthy oils and calcium-rich hulls, several kinds of seeds help make your hair and nails stronger and healthier, too.
My Micronized Purple Rice powder also helps a lot with hair and nails. Many of our customers rave about how it helps them have thick, shiny, healthy hair — and many have even noticed their gray hair turning darker. My husband Charles is one of those! His hair went from pure white to salt and pepper. You can see the pictures here.
Over the last few years, some new contenders have come to the forefront in the seed world.
Now, not only can we enrich our diets with seed staples such as pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, but there are also several “new” superhero seeds such as hemp seeds, chia seeds… and even watermelon seeds!
As with any type of food, organic is best. Also make sure they’re fresh. Especially in the bulk bins, seeds can be stale if they’ve been there too long.
Some seeds require special treatment, such as soaking, sprouting, milling, or refrigeration.
Here are 9 great choices…
1. Hemp seeds
With their soft texture and mild nutty flavor, hemp seeds are the only seeds with 100 percent complete protein (all the amino acids). So they’re a great protein source for vegetarians and vegans. And no, they don’t get you high! There’s no THC in hemp seeds. Three tablespoons of hemp seeds are 10 grams of protein!!! I love the way they taste so as vegetarian I sprinkle these on everything.
Because of their high omega-3 content, hemp seeds promote healthy hair and skin. They’re also packed with disease-fighting phytosterols.
Hemp milk is a wonderful alternative to cow’s milk for those who are sensitive or allergic, or vegan. Look for unsweetened brands.
Hemp seeds are pricy, but so worth it. Look for them in the refrigerated section of health food stores or upscale markets.
2. Sesame seeds
Like most other seeds, sesame seeds have lots of minerals, including copper and manganese, as well as being a healthy source of omega-3s and the amino acid methionine.
Look for black sesame seeds if you’re tired of the common white ones. The black ones are becoming more readily available. (You can order them online, too.) I love to sprinkle them on my salads, on top of the dressing. Yum!
Tahini is also a delicious way to eat sesame seeds. This popular Middle Eastern condiment is made from crushed sesame seeds. It is delicious for dipping or sauces.
3. Chia seeds
These tiny powerhouses are loaded with omega-3s, which are sadly lacking in the standard American diet. Most of us eat way too many omega-6 fatty acids and not nearly enough omega-3s, so adding chia seeds to your diet helps balance that.
They also contain ample amounts of protein, antioxidants, and calcium. And they’re loaded with natural fiber, which helps improve your regularity, especially if you soak them first. Chia seeds absorb a lot of liquid and form a gelatinous texture similar to pudding.
My daughter Jenn and I just love to make chia pudding. It’s so delicious! Really easy to make, too. Just soak some chia seeds in almond milk or coconut milk, add a little natural sweetener such as maple syrup or raw honey, maybe a teaspoon or so of vanilla, and refrigerate for a couple hours, then top with toasted coconut flakes. Or better yet—add them to chocolate almond milk or add raw cacao and make chocolate pudding. Voila! A healthy dessert that will please even the pickiest eaters!
If you want to add chia seeds to muffins and such, it’s better if you grind them first, for the most nutritional benefit.
4. Pumpkin seeds
I love to add these tasty little green morsels to just about everything. I throw them in with steamed veggies, put them in salads, top baked fish with them — they’re wonderful on just about anything! They even make a great snack all on their own. I like to carry raw pumpkin or sunflower seeds in a little bag in my purse in case I get hungry when I’m out and about.
They help with insulin regulation, too, so they’re very helpful for diabetics. That may be because of their high fiber content.
And, I also like to give pumpkin seeds to the men in my family, because they’re excellent for prostate support due in part to their high zinc content.
They are equally valuable for women, especially postmenopausal women, because they’re rich in natural phytoestrogens. They help with hot flashes, headaches, and joint pain.
Another great seed for women, especially postmenopausal women, is flaxseeds. They contain a type of antioxidants known as lignans, which can be used as a more natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy. They are even proven effective for fighting breast cancer, as well as several other types of cancer.
Because of their delicate oils, flaxseeds should be kept refrigerated so they don’t become rancid. They should never be heated, so flax oil is not good for use in cooking. It works well in salad dressings, though.
And, so the flaxseeds don’t just whistle through your GI tract undigested, they need to be ground before use. A coffee grinder works well for this.
Flaxseeds are one of the healthiest seeds you can eat. They are loaded with beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, lignans, and fiber.
6. Watermelon seeds
Now this is an unusual one! I only recently spotted these for the first time, at a health food store. Sprouted, organic, hulled watermelon seeds! I got some to try, and boy are they good. Not only are they delicious, but they’re also very healthful — and low calorie to boot!
Watermelon seeds are packed with healthful nutrients including magnesium, which is essential for metabolism, nerve and muscle function, and bone, heart, and immune health.
They also provide iron, folic acid, and healthy fats.
7. Sunflower seeds
An excellent source of natural vitamin E, sunflower seeds are also loaded with copper, vitamin B1, manganese, selenium, and other important vitamins and minerals. They are more easily digested if you soak them before eating.
They are anti-inflammatory and thus help with many things, from hot flashes to heart disease prevention.
They’re a good source of magnesium, too, which helps to calm your nerves and prevent muscle spasms.
These are one of my favorites! I love cashew butter, and cashews make the best nut milks and non-dairy cheeses, too.
Even though most people think of cashews as nuts, these Brazilian natives are actually seeds. They are very nourishing, with lots of minerals including copper, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. They also have oleic acid and vitamin K.
Look for fair trade cashews, though, because cashew workers in India and Vietnam are treated very harshly. Nuts processed by these workers are coming to be known as “blood cashews.”
9. Pine nuts
These tasty seeds come from pine cones, although only a few species of pine trees have big enough cones to make the pine nuts big enough to eat. They’re a staple in pesto, but also great in salads and other dishes.
One of the more unusual benefits of eating pine nuts is that they act as a mild appetite suppressant. They have a fatty acid called pinolenic acid that leads to the release of a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK), which suppresses appetite. So if you’re trying to lose weight, consider adding pine nuts to your diet.
That’s not all, though! They also contain lutein, which helps with eye health. In addition, they contain lots of antioxidants, as well as minerals and vitamins E and K. And, they contain a lot of magnesium, which helps with energy. Many people are deficient in this important mineral.