Nutritionists around the globe list seeds as one of their top superfoods because they are such a unique, nutritionally balanced food group.
Unlike other superfoods like nuts or fruits, these tiny little vessels of nutrition are packed with protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals without going overboard on nutritional fruit-based sugars or healthy fats, meaning you don’t need to limit yourself to a portion size of just a small handful.
Do you know what seeds are the best match for your diet? Keep reading to learn their benefits and the seven seeds required for a healthy diet.
The Benefits of Seeds
How often do you find food that is both nutritionally complete and delicious without any assembly required?
Seeds are a rare example of just that food.
While raw fruits, vegetables, and nuts fit the bill, they’re still missing out on important nutritional elements. Complete proteins, calcium, antioxidants, and minerals that are hard to get in high quantities in other food groups, especially if you’re trying to avoid fat, sugar, and excess calories.
We’ll show you exactly what makes each of our seven favorite seeds so special in a moment.
But it’s also important to recognize the magic of seeds:
Seeds are one of the simplest nutritionally complete foods to consume because it’s possible to either eat them entirely on their own or seamlessly sprinkle them into:
- Bread and pizza bases
The bottom line is seeds are an incredible way to take a small step to boost your health with no big investment required.
Ready to buy that bag of seeds you’ve been eyeing in the health food aisle of your local grocery store? Don’t forget to choose organic because seeds with a high-fat content absorb more pesticides than other foods.
7 Incredible Seeds to Add to Your Diet
These tiny nutritional gems come in many different shapes, sizes, textures, and nutritional values. We’re going to run through our seven favorite seeds to show you how much power is packed into a small packaged.
Some seeds offer nutrition that completely set them apart from other food groups – they’re a complete protein.
Hemp seeds are one of those seeds.
A complete protein is a protein that includes each of the nine essential amino acids including both omega 6 and omega 3. Searching out complete proteins benefits your diet because your body utilizes them better than incomplete proteins.
Choosing hemp seeds is an easy way to get those complete proteins in, particularly if you’re vegetarian or vegan, because it’s difficult to find a good source of complete protein outside of animal sources. Other non-seed forms of plant-based protein include quinoa, amaranth, and soy protein.
Hemp is a nutritional powerhouse not just because it packs a protein punch (with the added benefit of both soluble and insoluble fiber), but because it also is a great source of vitamins and minerals including:
- Vitamin A
These vitamins perform all kinds of functions from promoting healthy skin and hair to supporting the nervous system and even potentially preventing cancerous cells from producing DNA. Vitamin D also supports maintaining lifelong bone structure, a process you should begin well before the potential reality of osteoporosis sets in.
Hemp seeds are easy to incorporate into your diet. Add them to a smoothie mix or soup or sprinkle them on your salad for a source of complete protein.
It’s likely you’ve seen chia seeds around even if you weren’t looking for them.
Organic chia seeds are a commonly listed superfood because these tiny seeds provide 27% of the phosphorus and 18% of the daily calcium your body needs to encourage bone health at all stages of life.
It’s true – chia provides an incredible amount of calcium at only 137 calories per ounce, but the benefits don’t stop there.
These little delights also include a whopping 11 grams of fiber, four grams of protein, and just enough vitamin B1, B2, B3, potassium and zinc – with only one digestible carb per ounce.
The bottom line is that chia seeds may appear to be a health trend. But calorie for calorie, they are one of the best sources of these important nutrients.
Looking for a way to add these incredible seeds into your diet? Add a sprinkle of them to your cereal, muffins, smoothies, oatmeal, or use one of the many incredible recipes, like chia seed pudding, putting chia seeds front and center in a dish.
Pumpkin seeds are likely the most familiar edible seeds on this list because they come from a common North American vegetable.
Like other seeds on this list, pumpkin seeds are packed with protein and other common nutrients like phosphorus, zinc, and the B vitamins.
Pumpkin seeds stand out because they are a good source of the amino acid L-tryptophan, which your body uses to make the chemical serotonin. Serotonin regulates your mood and your sleep, meaning strategically adding these seeds to your diet may promote a healthy sleep cycle.
Don’t want to buy pumpkin seeds and find pumpkins themselves are out of season? Squash seeds will also get the job done.
Sesame seeds are best known in the western diet as the tiny bits children pick off their hamburger bun, but these seeds are an incredibly versatile food.
In addition to being an excellent source of calcium, B vitamins, phosphorus, iron, and magnesium, sesame seeds are easy to add to dishes whole or in one of sesame’s other forms.
If you’re looking for a seed to target inflammation and support brain health, toss them into a salad or stir-fry or even add them to a coating for meat. Not a fan of the seeds themselves? Sesame oil is a healthy alternative that adds flavour to dressings, stir-fries and soups. You can even eat it in the form of tahini, a sesame paste. Although tahini is known as an essential component of hummus, it’s also popularly used in producing desserts.
If there’s one reason to reach for the flax, it’s because it’s filled with omega-3s fatty acids.
While omega-3s aren’t necessarily hard to find in nature, many people still don’t get the right amount of these fats in their diet. The omega-3 in flaxseed is also complemented by a good amount of dietary fiber, and the combination of the two may help you shed belly fat while simultaneously lowering your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.
There’s no need to eat a handful of flax on its own. These seeds are easy to blend into your favorite breakfast foods with compromising on texture. Baking with flax is also simple; sub some seeds in for part of the flour in the recipe for a nutty, hearty taste.
Sunflower seeds aren’t just for high school baseball players – they’re also a fantastic source of vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, and copper.
One of the primary benefits of sunflower seeds is how easy they are to buy and eat. Because they’re engrained in popular culture and the American diet, adding seeds to your diet is as simple as stopping at the gas station. If you’re not a fan of shelling your own seeds, consider purchasing in the form of nut butter or buying them in nutty granola.
Keep a watchful eye out for sodium content when buying sunflower seeds. Some manufacturers heavily salt sunflower (and pumpkin) seeds to make them more palatable and in some cases, a food manufacturer may over roast the seeds, which causes oxidation. Be careful not to over indulge in these salty snacks.
Sacha Inchi Seeds
Many of the seeds on the list thus far are fairly well known, and even seeds like chia are becoming mainstream staples quickly. Want to stay on top of the latest seed trends? Try the sacha inchi seed.
Sacha inchi seeds are referred to as mountain peanuts. One seed is around the size of an over-size peanut, and a single seed contains more protein than an almond and potentially even more omega-3s than salmon.
Because of their size and nutritional content, sacha inchi are more likely to be found in the nut aisle despite being a seed. They’re still new the American market, but you can buy them in salted and flavored varieties to eat on their own or thrown into a trail mix.
Go Nuts for Seeds
So much focus is placed on nuts and whole foods that we often forget about the little things from which all things grow – seeds.
Seeds are a nutritionally balanced food group providing an excellent source of hard to find plant-based proteins as well as vitamins and minerals supporting many different aspects of your health. What’s more, they are easy to find and incorporate into your diet – a sprinkle of seeds into your breakfast is all it takes to change the way you look and feel.
What are your favorite seeds? How has eating more of these tiny vessels of nutrition improved your health? Share your stories in the comments below.