Tiny but Mighty Superfoods: Seeds
Nourishing the body is easy when we stick to whole foods that are packed full of nutrition vs fad foods promising fast results. Seeds are tiny superfoods with a mighty nutritional impact. They are a natural superstore of energy, protein and fiber. Let’s look at three of the most popular and readily available ones: chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds to find out why they’re some of the best foods to eat for your health.
Chia seeds are small black seeds from the Salvia hispanica plant. They were dietary staples once used by ancient civilizations such as the Mayans and Aztec. A one-ounce serving of chia seeds (equal to 28g) contains a high amount of essential nutrients like calcium, protein, phosphorus, manganese, calcium, fiber, fat, magnesium, zinc, vitamins B1, B2 and B3 and potassium.
Chia seeds are also full of antioxidants that fight off the effects of aging by eliminating harmful free radicals from the body. The protein and fiber in them can help individuals committed to losing weight as they can give a prolonged feeling of satiety, therefore one feels fuller for longer.
Studies have also found that these seeds can reduce cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, lower one’s risk of acquiring heart disease and stave off chronic inflammation. They also have been linked to reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease as well as promoting colon health.
They are commonly used as a vegan replacement for eggs when baking since they have a binding effect when wet, but, unlike chicken eggs, chia seeds have no cholesterol thus they are a great substitute for everyone. Plus, besides eating chia seeds, they can also be used in a face mask to help reduce skin inflammations and treat acne.
Flaxseeds, like chia seeds have been around for thousands of years, but they have only recently grown in popularity for their health benefits. They gained “superfood” status once researchers discovered that flaxseeds contained significant amounts of essential fatty acids, antioxidants called lignans, fiber, magnesium, manganese and thiamine while also being another plant-based protein.
Remarkably, flaxseeds are high in fiber while being low in carbs, which makes them an ideal food for those trying to lose weight. The high fiber content also promotes good digestive health as it can help with constipation and regularity.
They also have anti-inflammatory properties thanks to ALA, alpha-linolenic acid, which staves off heart arrhythmias, hypertension and chronic inflammation while promoting arterial functions, platelet functions and endothelial cell function.
Finally, plant-based fat, whether from coconuts, avocados, nuts or seeds are all nutrient-dense, however, flaxseeds are the best for triglyceride levels as they have a 4:1 omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, which helps correct the imbalances caused by a typical Western diet. Flax seeds can also make skin and hair lustrous and shiny due to essential fatty acids and B vitamins it contains.
Hemp seeds are a superfood because they contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals, like potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, phosphorus, B vitamins, zinc, iron, fiber, unsaturated fats and protein. Hemp seeds come from the Cannabis sativa plant, but they do not contain psychoactive ingredients.
These seeds are also known as hemp hearts, and one of the best vegan sources of protein available because they contain all nine essential amino acids. These amino acids are considered essential since they can’t be produced by the body but are required for producing everything from enzymes to insulin and collagen.
The beige seeds can provide a powerful anti-inflammatory effect and can reduce the symptoms of common ailments that affect the joints, skin and heart. Studies have shown that hemp also has neuroprotective effects that can possibly prevent neurodegenerative conditions such as seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
All three of these seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids which have been associated with lowering blood pressure, reducing triglycerides, and lessening the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes.All three of these seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids which have been associated with lowering blood pressure, reducing triglycerides, and lessening the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes. Click To Tweet
Additionally, they are all easy to incorporate into a healthy diet as they can give a crunchy texture and a “nutty” flavor to salads and mixed grain bowls and can also be added to smoothies as a thickener. For the more advanced and adventurous cook, there are porridges and puddings, energy bites and granola bars that can all be made with little effort. Adding seeds to well-loved recipes is a delicious and nutritious way to liven up an old favorite.
Note: Flaxseeds do require a bit more work since they should be ground up before eaten. Otherwise, they won’t be fully digested and your body can’t extract the nutrients it contains. For the sake of saving money and for better nutrition, buy the whole flaxseed over the expensive flaxseed oil that requires refrigeration. Then, grind only the amount you need in a coffee grinder right before use since the oil in flaxseeds makes them vulnerable to going rancid. By consuming the whole seed (once it’s grounded), you will benefit from both the oil as well as from the lignans, fiber and other nutrients contained in the seed coating.
These three superfoods can maximize your daily nutrient intake of healthy fats, protein, fiber and vitamins. Besides being rich in both micro and macronutrients and being easy to incorporate, they are also readily available in most grocery stores and inexpensive, as one bag can last many months and a little goes a long way. Like with most nutritious foods, the key is consistency. Try to use one of these seeds in at least one meal per day and add from there.