Looking for an easy and convenient way to boost your diet’s nutritional content? Look no further than seeds.
Seeds are nature’s small yet potent superfoods. They’re concentrated sources of energy, vitamins, minerals, plant protein, fibre and other beneficial compounds like antioxidant polyphenols, essential fats and enzymes.
The various cultivated seeds you’ll find in the nutrition section at your local health or specialist grocery store come from different sources.
Pumpkins seeds, for example, are vegetable seeds, while sunflower seeds come from a flowering plant. We now also have access to various specialised crops such as flax and hemp seeds.
Seeds are also extremely versatile culinary ingredients. The easiest way to include seeds in your daily diet is to simply use them as a topping.
They are great for adding texture to various healthy meals, including smoothies, breakfasts, soups or wraps.
You can also crush, puree or blend them into recipes to amplify your dish’s nutritional content. And they’ll provide an energy boost when eaten as a standalone snack during the day.
Chia seeds: Offering a near complete source of protein with 19 amino acids, chia seeds are a popular source of plant protein. One teaspoon of chia seeds delivers 2.5 times more protein than kidney beans, three times more iron than that found in spinach.
Chia seeds also contain numerous vitamins and minerals, including calcium and vitamin C, with additional electrolytes that can help to hydrate the body. They are also an excellent source of fibre and antioxidants, and are the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. No wonder these seeds are known as a superfood!
Hemp seeds: Hemp seeds are nature’s highest botanical source of essential fatty acid, with more essential fatty acid than flax or any other nut or seed oil. One tablespoon of hemp seeds also contains all essential amino acids, which makes them another popular ingredient for those looking to bulk up their plant protein intake. Containing 36% protein, hemp is the second highest protein-rich food on earth after algae by weight. These seeds are a rich source of phytonutrients – plant-derived compounds that have a protective function and can therefore help to boost our immune systems and protect tissues, cells, skin, organs and mitochondria.
Flax seeds: Contain significant amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a powerful anti-inflammatory, along with dietary fibre and lignans. The soluble fibre in flax seeds promotes healthy bowel function – one tablespoon of flax seed contains as much fibre as half a cup of cooked oat bran. From a nutritional perspective, flax is also a solid source of potassium, and is also rich in essential fatty acids.
Pumpkin seeds: Contain numerous vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc. These seeds are also a great fuel source for active individuals, providing 559 calories per 100g serving. They’re also a source of protein, with about 30g per 100g serving. New research has also found that pumpkin seeds can help regulate insulin levels, which guards against diabetic complications.
Sunflower seeds: Contain a large amount of vitamin E, which is a potent antioxidant that helps protect our cells against the effects of free radicals and other substances that oxidise and can damage our cell membranes. And a 28g serving of sunflower seeds contains 512mg of copper, which is more than 50% of our daily recommended intake. Copper is very important for maintaining hair and skin health, as well as joint and bone elasticity and flexibility. Magnesium – also found in sunflower seeds – is another important mineral for optimal bone health and muscle function. And sunflower seeds are loaded with healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Sesame seeds: Contain powerful polyphenol antioxidants called lignans – they are generally considered the best known dietary source of lignans. They’re also a beneficial source of iron, which is an important mineral for endurance athletes and women, who often lack sufficient iron to support red blood cell production. Other important nutrients found in sesame seeds include copper, manganese and magnesium, along with fibre and omega-6 fats.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.