Edible Seeds – Healthy Snacks

Edible seeds make a great healthy snack on the go – they are portable, they are lightweight, they are economical, most seeds don’t need refrigeration, and they are packed with nutrition. Some seeds are delicious when eaten on their own, and other seeds are best combined with other healthy foods to form a great snack.

Edible Seeds - Healthy Snacks

Seeds are amazing little packages that contain everything a new plant needs to sprout and grow. There are enough vitamins, minerals and nutrition in the seed to sustain a healthy plant. Seeds (as well as nuts) have a natural coating to protect them from insects – it is nature’s way of keeping the seed safe until it can sprout and become a new plant. This protective layer can make the seeds hard for us to digest. The coating can be removed by soaking the seeds for several hours and then dehydrating them at a low temperature to make them dry and crunchy again. If they are dehydrated at a low heat, they are still considered to be raw, and the nutrition remains intact. When seeds are roasted or cooked at a high temperature a great deal of the nutritional content could be lost.

In this post we will delve into the nutritional value of four seeds that most of us are quite familiar with: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and flax seeds. Here are links to related blog posts about the health benefits of three other edible seeds: hemp seeds, pomegranate seeds, and chia seeds.

Pumpkin Seeds:

Pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, are commonly used in Mexican cooking. They are great as a snack on their own, consumed in nut and seed mixes, or used in cooking. They are an alkaline forming food that is high in protein, and contains good carbs and fiber. Here is a list of other nutrients found in pumpkin seeds:

  • numerous bioavailable forms of vitamin E, an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals in our body.
  • omega 6 fatty acids (more omega 6s than omega 3s)
  • high in B-complex vitamins: riboflavin, pantothenic acid, thiamin, niacin, folates and B-6.
  • L-tryptophan, which can boost a person’s mood
  • magnesium, which is helpful for stabilizing blood pressure and building bones.
  • phytosterols, plant compounds that are very similar to cholesterol which are thought to be beneficial in lowering cholesterol levels, decreasing the risk of cancer and boosting the immune system.

Sunflower Seeds:

Sunflower seeds are a great snack on their own, in trail mixes or energy bars, or can be ground into ‘butter’ and eaten on bread or crackers. They are an antioxidant food as they contain a significant amount of the antioxidant vitamin E, which can neutralize free radicals, help protect cells from UV damage and help reduce inflammation. Other nutrients in sunflower seeds include:

  • vitamins and minerals: manganese, copper, vitamins B1, B3, B6, folate, phosphorous and selenium
  • a high amount of magnesium, which can help with decrease the seriousness of asthma, prevent migraine headaches, reduce high blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • omega 6 fatty acids
  • phytosterols, plant compounds that are very similar to cholesterol which are thought to be beneficial in lowering cholesterol levels, decreasing the risk of cancer and boosting the immune system.

 Sesame Seeds:

An ancient seed from Asia, sesame seeds are valued for their oil and their ability to resist rancidity. Although sesame seeds are not generally eaten on their own as a snack, ground sesame seeds form a paste called tahini, which is often used in hummus – a spread or dip that can be eaten as a snack with vegetables or bread. Sesame seeds contain the unique substances sesamin and sesamolin, which have been found to lower cholesterol levels and keep the liver from being damaged from oxidative stress. Other nutrients found in sesame seeds are:

  • protein
  • fiber from good carbs
  • omega 6 fatty acids
  • vitamins and minerals: manganese, copper, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B-1, calcium, iron, selenium and phosphorous
  • phytosterols, plant compounds that are very similar to cholesterol which are thought to be beneficial in lowering cholesterol levels, decreasing the risk of cancer and boosting the immune system

Flax Seeds:

Flax seeds are not a seed that can be eaten on its own as a snack – they are better ground and mixed into foods like smoothies or energy bars. Flax seeds are delicate little seeds that need to be ground in order for us to derive nutritional benefits from them. Whole flax seeds will pass through the gastrointestinal tract undigested. Here are some of the nutrients found in flax seeds:

  • fiber, including soluble fiber which can low blood cholesterol levels.
  • Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) an essential fatty acid that is a potent anti-inflammatory.
  • lignans, plant compounds that have an effect similar to estrogen (phytoestrogens) that can stabilize hormone levels. Lignans also contain antioxidants which fight free radicals

There seems to be a controversy as to whether or not heat will destroy the nutritional value of flax seeds. I have read that ground flax seeds should be kept in the fridge. I have also read that using ground flax seed as an ingredient in baked goods such as biscuits or muffins does not destroy the flax seed’s nutrition. This, along with information about flax seed oil, begs to be investigated for a future blog – so stay tuned to my blog.

To sum it all up – pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and flax seeds are full of a wide variety of vitamins and minerals and have many health benefits. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds can definitely be a ‘stand alone’ on-the-go healthy snack. While sesame and flax seeds really are best when used in a recipe such as a nutritional snack bar or as tahini (in the case of sesame seeds) they still offer some versatility and loads of health benefits. These seeds can be consumed in their raw state or roasted, although the debate goes on about whether or not roasted seeds contain the same amount of nutrition as the raw seeds. It is possible that preference and individual taste will be the deciding factor!

Are you wanting to learn more about super foods that are easy to buy and have top notch nutritional value for you? Ready to ‘rock’ your healthy lifestyle and take it to the next level? Contact me – I’d be happy to support you along your health journey!

 

Informational Resources:

True Activist

Rodale News

Mark’s Daily Apple 

 

© 2014 Cathy Ormon Health Coach. All rights reserved.