They say that good things come in small packages. And no ingredient is smaller than the topic of this post – seeds! But don’t let their size fool you. These tiny seeds are full of energy and have incredible health benefits. And you don’t have to eat a large quantity to take advantage of those benefits. A teaspoon goes a long way…just ask the birds!
The Many Health Benefits of Seeds
For those of us with nut allergies, navigating packaged food can be difficult because almost everything on the grocery shelf may have come in contact with an allergen. Worse, even when cooking at home, some recipes just don’t taste the same without the crunch of peanuts, the nutty flavor of roasted almonds, the chewy goodness of walnuts and pecans. This can feel especially challenging if you have grown up eating nuts, but now have a child with nut allergies or you have developed a sensitivity to nuts. Enter seeds! If you haven’t yet tried to replace nuts with seeds, try the ones listed below. While they are full of nutrition on their own, these seeds are a lifeline for anyone dealing with nut allergies. A word of caution though — do check in with your doctor before adding any new ingredient to your diet. Chances are that if you are allergic to something already, you may have allergies to other ingredients too.
Another health benefit of adding seeds to our daily diet is their effect on overall health and general well being. Each seed has its own nutritional benefits, though most are high in dietary fiber, which improves digestive health. And many are an excellent source of essential fatty acids like Omega-3 and Omega-6 which helps manage cholesterol in the body. So does that mean that we mix a huge bowl of seeds and dig in? Not so fast! Like every food group, a balanced meal is important. And like I mentioned earlier, a little goes a long way. The important thing is to add a variety of seeds and have a little everyday.
Sesame seeds are a staple for the winters season in India. Gajak, rewdi, til-ke-laddoo — North Indian cuisine has taken the humble sesame seed and made an art form of it. In South India sesame oil is used for special dishes and also in the seed and powder form to flavour various rice dishes. And yet, they taste amazing just lightly roasted and sprinkled on your favorite salad. Or you could take a page out of your Mediterranean cookbook and use them as Tahini sauce for a more umami taste. Check out Puneeta’s Super Simple Tahini Dressing.
Sunflower seeds are commonly used in North America. In trail mix, in nutrition bars, as a garnish in salads, as sunflower butter or lightly salted, as a snack — sunflower seeds are everywhere! And rightly so because sunflower seeds are a very good source of healthy fats, the kind that our body needs. They are also one of the few natural sources of Vitamin E and Selenium. Watch out though. Despite their many health benefits, sunflower seeds can cause a high intake of sodium — especially if you are eating them as part of processed foods or sucking on the highly salted shells. When buying sunflower seeds, stick to the natural, unprocessed variety.
Also known as pepitas, pumpkin seeds are the best source of Magnesium — a mineral that is essential in regulating blood sugar, maintaining bone health and reducing the risk of heart disease. Like sunflower seeds, they are found in many trail mixes and nutrition bars. And like sunflower seeds you have to be careful about the incidental salt intake. It’s best to buy them raw and unsalted. They can be lightly roasted in the oven or in a skillet, just before adding them to your salad or grain bowl for the same yummy flavour, minus the salt.
These tiny, black seeds belong to the mint family. They were cultivated as an important food source by the ancient Aztec and Mayan cultures. Packed with protein, fibre, calcium and the plant equivalent of Omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds are considered a super-food today. You can add chia seeds to any salad, smoothie or dessert to add a crunchy texture. One of my favorites is this Chia seed pudding that is delicious and easy to make.
Hemp seeds or hemp hearts are a good source of plant-based protein. They also provide the right balance of essential fatty acids – omega 3 and omega-6. One of the first times I ate hemp seeds was as a topping on avocado toast. Unlike the other seeds on this list, hemp seeds have a soft texture and when combined with avocado, they give a buttery, almost creamy taste. Another way to add hemp seeds to your diet is in salads, smoothies and breakfast bowls.
These amazing seeds have a plethora of benefits. They are a plant-based source of Omega-3 fatty acids and are a good source of protein and fiber. Many people first start taking flax seeds because of their potential benefit to digestive health. If that’s the case, be careful to take them as ground flax seed as whole flax seeds are not easily digested.
My kids are always teasing me about how I add seeds to everything, sweet or salty. There are seeds in my granola and seeds in my chivda. When I don’t have any salad ingredients handy, I make a seed salad on a bed of lettuce greens. They tell me I haven’t met a seed I didn’t like. But that would be an exaggeration. For surely, I haven’t tasted all of them! What are some of your favorite seeds? How do you use them? Share with us in the comments.
Disclaimer: This post is based on my personal experiences and should not be used as medical advice. Before adding any new ingredients to your diet, please consult your doctor.