Seeds are powerhouses. They contain the genetic material that programmes a tiny seed to grow into a mature plant. Seeds are super in this context. No marketing gimmicks. Super miraculous. Super nutritious.
Let’s dive a little deeper …
The super seeds
So there’s a whole heap of them: chia, sesame (take your pick – black or white), flaxseed, pumpkin, quinoa, sunflower, and hemp seed. Some like quinoa, chia, and hemp seed are relatively new to our Western diets though they have been part of other cultures for thousands of years.
Some history to pique your interest
Chia – dating back to 3500BC, this black seed has been part of the diet of the ancient indigenous tribes of South America such as the Mayan, Aztec, and Inca. The name ‘chia’ refers to strength in the Mayan language to reflect the increase in stamina and energy over long periods of time when the seed was consumed. The Aztec also used the seed in religious ceremonies.
Hemp seed – this little seed has had quite a turbulent history as it comes from the plant Cannabis sativa whereby its cousin, marijuana is also derived from. The difference? Marijuana contains the psychoactive component (namely, tetrahydrocannabinol – THC) at higher levels than in hemp seed where levels are strictly regulated to be less than 0.35%. After a law reform in New Zealand recently, food products are able to be made and consumed from hemp seed. Even so, the Chinese have been using hemp seed as both a food and medicine for thousands of years. In the classical texts of Chinese herbal medicine, hemp seed was viewed as a superior medicinal (deemed safe for long-term use) and prescribed as a laxative to relieve constipation. It is still used in this way today.
Quinoa – this Andean seed dates as far back as 3000-5000BC when found in tombs from Chile and Peru. It also originated from Bolivia. It was a staple food for the Inca and termed the ‘mother of all grains’ or ‘chisaya mama’ in the local native language.
Their nutrient profile
These little seeds all pack a powerful punch when it comes to the nutrients they contain. They all contain healthy unsaturated fats, protein, and fibre. Each seed contains its own additional vitamins, minerals, and trace elements so it’s not a question of which seed is superior but rather consuming a variety of seeds, especially if you are moving towards a more plant-based diet.
Some of the seeds like flaxseed and hemp seed contain the essential fatty acids, Omega 3 and 6 in varying ratios. These are essential because our bodies cannot make then so they must be provided by the diet. Omega 3 fatty acids with antioxidant vitamins especially Vitamin E, dietary fibre, and the amino acid L-arginine help to reduce inflammation in the body which is implicated in many chronic diseases.
Hemp seed protein has high levels of L-arginine and sunflower seeds contain a good amount of Vitamin E. Chia seeds are known for their high antioxidant potential and make us feel fuller for longer.
Additional superpowers go to flaxseed and sesame seeds because they contain lignans. Lignans have a weak estrogenic effect which may help balance the reproductive hormones especially in women.
So let’s eat some seeds
The Ministry of Health recommends to eat a variety of foods every day and this includes seeds, being a healthy alternative to highly processed foods lacking any beneficial nutrients.
So how can you eat incorporate these nutritious seeds into your diet?
Chia (black or white) – always good as a plant-based milk pudding with fresh berries, sprinkled over roast vegetables with other seeds or in cereals
Sesame (black or white) – great with baked salmon, as part of a dukkah mixture, sprinkled over a Buddha vegetable bowl, or as a seed butter
Pumpkin – fantastic as a garnish on pumpkin soups, in baked goods, sprinkled over salads (pairs up well with sunflower seeds), made into milk, or as a seed butter
Quinoa – in salads or replacing pasta with pasta sauces, or use quinoa flakes to make a gluten-free porridge
Flaxseed – ground up in smoothies or porridge, sprinkled over cereal, in bliss balls, or as an egg-substitute in vegan baked products
Sunflower – in mueslis, sprinkled over salads, in smoothies, or as a seed butter
Other ideas include creating your own seed mixes to sprinkle on salads, avo and toast, or porridge. Many can be incorporated into protein bars, raw or cooked.
Seeds pack a powerful nutrient punch and I encourage you to include a variety of them into your diet. Starting right now.
This column is not intended as medical advice but rather to provide information for educational purposes. Consult with your GP or other medical professional regarding the applicability of any of the information provided.
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