Nothing nutty about eating seeds | Health | The Seattle Times

Nothing nutty about eating seeds

Why should nuts get all the nutritional glory while birds get all the seeds? Seeds offer just as much nutrition and culinary versatility as their larger cousins. Even better, they are a good dietary alternative for many people who have peanut or tree-nut allergies, as adverse reactions to edible seeds are fairly uncommon.

There’s a clear difference between nuts and seeds that isn’t obvious to non-botanists. In general, seeds are rich in the antioxidant vitamin E, which is beneficial for heart health and cancer prevention. Seeds also contain phytosterols, plant compounds that can help lower cholesterol and offer other health benefits.

Flaxseeds are unique among seeds in that they are an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), one of the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Numerous studies have suggested that flaxseeds have cardiovascular benefits. Flaxseeds are also a good source of several nutrients, especially fiber and antioxidants. Whole flaxseeds keep for one to two years in the refrigerator. Ground flaxseeds are more digestible but have a shorter shelf life, about six to 16 weeks in the refrigerator.

Chia seeds have outgrown their reputation as a novelty gift item (“Ch-ch-ch-chia!”) to claim status as a nutritional powerhouse. They nearly rival flaxseeds for their omega-3 and fiber content and may help promote stable blood sugar levels after eating. These tiny seeds contain respectable amounts of calcium and other minerals important for bone health, as well as several antioxidant minerals.

Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc, magnesium and iron. They contain small amounts of several forms of vitamin E, and research suggests that there is a health benefit to consuming E in all of its different forms. They also contain other antioxidant nutrients, giving them distinctive health properties. When roasting pumpkin seeds, limit oven time to 20 minutes to avoid undesirable changes to the oil inside.

Sunflower seeds are a good source of many important vitamins and minerals and are rich in the powerful antioxidant pair vitamin E and selenium. They get great ratings for phytosterol, protein and fiber content. Opt for unsalted sunflower seeds.

Sesame seeds are especially rich in cholesterol-lowering phytosterols and are higher in protein than any nut or seed. They contain a number of minerals that are important for bone health (such as calcium) or act as antioxidants (such as zinc). The fiber in sesame seeds may promote healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Sesame paste (tahini) is an important ingredient in hummus. Allergies to sesame seeds are increasing, particularly among people allergic to peanuts or certain tree nuts.

While seeds are nutritious, they are high in calories and (healthful) fat, so be mindful of portion sizes. Consider using them as a substitute for other protein-containing foods, instead of simply adding them to your diet. Sprinkle on salads or sautéed veggies. Add to your morning oatmeal or cold cereal. Mix some into yogurt. Add to baked goods or homemade granola.

Because of their high fat content, seeds benefit from being stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, ideally in the refrigerator, or even the freezer.

Next time: Should you believe health claims?


Health benefits of sunflower seeds

According to a micronutrient research facility, people who ingest seeds and nuts regularly have a lower possibility of having heart ailments or diabetes mellitus. The health benefits of sunflower seeds are profoundly documented by Taoist anti-aging medical practitioner Dr. Mao Shing Ni. He asserts that the seeds be added to one’s diet because of their significant nutritive content.

The seeds contain Vitamin E.

This can help protect cells against the effects of free radicals and substances that oxidize and harm protein structure, the cell membranes, including DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). This nutrient also helps in the maintenance of blood circulation and production of red blood cells (RBCs). One ounce of sunflower seeds has a total of 10 mg of vitamin E in it. Fact sheets for dietary supplements indicate this is already 35 percent of a person’s recommended daily requirement of Vitamin E.

Other health benefits are attributed to the seeds’ content of Thiamine, a B-vitamin.

This nutrient functions to stimulate cell catalysts or enzymes to stimulate chemical reactions that cells require in order to work efficiently. When a person has adequate levels of thiamine in the body, this assists in obtaining energy from food and generates the basic units or nucleic acids that comprise human DNA. An average human male requires 1.2 mg of Vitamin B1 daily while a female requires 1.1 mg. Every ounce of sunflower seeds contains 0.4 mg of thiamin or Vitamin B1.

Sunflower seeds also contain copper.

This mineral is excellent for maintaining the skin and hair. One ounce of the seeds contains 512 mg of copper or more than fifty percent of the recommended daily intake of this nutrient. The body utilizes copper to produce melanin responsible for giving the hair and skin their nice healthy colors. The minute particles of this protein pigment can take in the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. In this way, people are protected from damaged tissues due to overexposure to sunlight. Copper also supports the mechanism of the body’s metabolic processes to assist body cells in producing energy.

To sum up

Including sunflower seeds in your daily diet regimen is very easy. Aside from eating seeds in raw form, you can just mix an ounce of the seeds in your cold or hot beverage or sprinkle them over salads and other food servings. You can even eat these with a sandwich, a bowl of oatmeal, breakfast cereal, or with a cup of non-dairy ice cream or yogurt. Another way to incorporate sunflower seeds to your meals is by soaking them in water and then later on combining it with your pureed soup. This not only fortifies the food with essential nutrients but it also adds a hint of flavor and nice texture to the food. There are numerous ways to get more sunflower seeds and thus consume more of the nutrients needed by the body.