Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Seeking Seeds

When mixing up my trail mix the other day, I realized I was missing something: seeds! I’m always nutz for nuts but never really think about adding seeds. As I have neglected these nutrient dense little buggers for too long, I have decided to work on adding in these delectable and nutritious choices. Even dietitians can do better and I’m going to start with seeking seeds…

Why have you done a good thing?

Serving as a fuel source for a plant, seeds are nutritional powerhouses. Each tiny seed packs a powerful nutrient punch including protein, iron, zinc, omega-3s, vitamin E, magnesium, phytosterols, antioxidants, and fiber. With all these great nutrients, seeds are powerful fighters against heart disease, inflammatory diseases like arthritis, and cancer. Plus seeds can often be a great alternative for those who are allergic to nuts.

Here is a peak at seeds that are great to add into your diet:

Chia Seeds

Packed full of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, calcium, magnesium, protein, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, and niacin, chia seeds are superfoods! Chia seeds are great for smoothies as they form a thick gel in water. Try mixing chia seeds into a smoothie for a “chia fresca:” mix 1 tbsp of chia seeds with water with lemon or lime. Another great way to eat chia seeds is in your morning oatmeal.

Pumpkin Seeds

Rich in anti-inflammatory properties, pumpkin seeds are linked with reduction in arthritis symptoms. Pumpkin seeds have also been shown to improve prostate health and lower cholesterol. Try adding 1 tbsp of pumpkin seeds to your next salad.

Flax Seeds

A dense source of antioxidants, flax seeds help ward off diseases including cancers. A mega-dose of omega-3s helps to protect you against heart disease. Rich in fiber called lignans, flax seeds also help to control blood sugar, which is especially important if you have diabetes and for regularity. Make sure to purchase ground flax seed, not whole seeds, to absorb all of the necessary nutrients! Add flax seed to your oatmeal, whenever you use breadcrumbs, or mixed into grain dishes.

Sunflower Seeds

A great source of vitamin E, sunflower seeds have antioxidant properties, helping to protect you against cancer. Rich in magnesium, sunflower seeds also help to reduce your blood pressure, calm your nerves, and build healthy bones. Try sunflower seeds mixed with raisins and nuts for a snack or baked into your next low-fat muffin.

Sesame Seeds

A rich source of copper, sesame seeds can help reduce inflammation, particularly in cases of rheumatoid arthritis. A great source of calcium, sesame seeds are great for those who cannot tolerate dairy and need high calcium dairy-alternatives. Try sprinkling sesame seeds on your stir-fry dishes or try Tahini paste (ground sesame seeds) by making your own homemade hummus with chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, and garlic.

Storage Tip

To preserve the nutrients in your seeds, store seeds in a dark container in the refrigerator.

What about seed oils and butters?

Sunflower seed butter and tahini paste are great additions to your diet as swapportunities for peanut butter and almond butter. Flax seed oil and sunflower seed oil are great additions to your diet as well for their vitamins and minerals. Although not good for cooking, these oils make a nice addition to non-cooked dishes, such as homemade salad dressings. Try to include these oils in addition to ground flax seed and whole sunflower seeds, as processed oils do not have fiber which is important in cancer prevention and regularity.

So challenge yourself and mix things up! I know I will…

Amy Santo, MS RD CDN

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