Top Three Health Benefits of Seeds
PREMIUM CONTENT for MEMBERS ONLY
Seeds hold a wealth of nutrition and can greatly contribute to our overall health and well-being. These tiny powerhouses pack an impressive selection of essential nutrients, healthy fats, and unique bioactive compounds. From chia to flax, pumpkin to sunflower, seeds can enhance both the flavor and nutritional value of our diets. What makes seeds so nutrition-dense? They contain all the starting materials necessary for plants to grow, making them some of the smallest, healthiest snacks to munch on. Let’s jump into some reasons why seeds should be sneaking into our daily mails.
Seeds contain a wide mix of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Most seeds contain good sources of iron, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. These vitamins and minerals each play important roles involved in bone health, energy production, and blood glucose regulation, to name a few. Pumpkin seeds contain one of the highest sources of iron out of all seeds, offering 23% of the recommended daily value per ounce, which comes out to about 4.5 mg of iron in a serving. This is especially important to note for women consuming a plant-based diet, as women need a minimum of 18 mg of iron per day, whereas men need at least 8 mg a day. Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of phosphorus. Research on children indicates that the phosphorus in pumpkin seeds could reduce bladder stone risk by decreasing urinary calcium levels. In addition to being rich in vitamins and minerals, seeds also contain several sources of antioxidants. For example, sunflower seeds are especially high in selenium, an antioxidant protecting cells against free radical damage. Flaxseeds contain several antioxidants, especially lignans, which may protect against breast cancer. Despite their size, these findings demonstrate that seeds offer a variety of nutrients with beneficial health outcomes.
Seeds are an excellent source of fiber.
Fiber is found in all seeds and acts as a unique type of complex carbohydrate because it cannot be broken down into sugar in the small intestine. Instead, it passes through the small intestine largely undigested, aiding in blood sugar regulation, digestion, and appetite control. These complex carbohydrate are broken down by gut microbes into smaller absorbable molecules, such as beneficial short chain fatty acids. It is recommended that women consume a minimum of 21 grams of fiber per day and men consume 30 grams per day. Chia seeds are unique since they are hydrophilic, meaning they absorb a lot of liquid due to their high fiber content. Soaking them in water gives them a gelatinous coating and gummy texture that can be especially helpful for supporting digestion. While they can be found in black, white, and gray varieties, their nutritional profiles are nearly identical. According to the USDA, just 2 tablespoons of chia seeds contain about 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fiber, and 179 milligrams of calcium. For their size, this is a lot of fiber, offering nearly 35% of the recommended daily amount (RDA) per ounce. One study discovered that the fiber in ground flaxseeds may even play a role in reducing cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease. In an analysis of 11 studies, researchers discovered that consuming whole flaxseeds could slightly reduce blood pressure. Whether they are consumed whole or ground, flaxseeds can be easily added to oatmeal, baked goods, or salads as an easy way to increase daily fiber intake.
Seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
In addition to fiber, omega-3 fatty acids (FA) from seeds have also been shown to offer health benefits. Several studies have consistently demonstrated that eating chia seeds can increase levels of ALA in the bloodstream. ALA, an essential omega-3 fatty acid, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. In one study, 20 individuals with type 2 diabetes who ate 37 grams of chia seeds every day for 12 weeks reduced their blood sugar levels as well as anti-inflammatory markers. Ground chia seeds, which are easier to digest than whole, have been shown to increase levels of EPA (a type of omega-3) in the blood. Interestingly, flaxseeds contain most of their omega-3 fats within their fibrous outer shell, which is not easily digested. Therefore, to get the most omega-3 fats out of flaxseeds, it is also best to eat them ground. These findings reveal how consuming seeds, especially chia and flaxseeds, can be an excellent way to incorporate plant-based healthy fats into daily meals.
Seeds are a convenient way to increase nutrition intake. Out of all the seeds, chia and flaxseeds are some of the most well-researched and offer numerous health benefits ranging from increased omega-3 levels to lowering levels of inflammation. While pumpkin seeds also contain healthy fats, they are most known for being a great source of minerals and phosphorus. Incorporating seeds into our daily meals can be as easy as sprinkling them on top of our salads, mixing into our smoothies, using them as a crunchy topping for our yogurt bowls, or even baking them into our favorite desserts. By including these in our diet, we can reap the benefits of their health-promoting properties and enjoy their delicious taste. As we enter pumpkin-carving season, it may be useful to keep leftover pumpkin seeds as a convenient way to sneak in some extra iron into trail mixes, or over dishes as crunchy toppings!