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09-20-2016

Small Seeds, Big Benefits! 5 Seeds You Need to Eat

Jennifer Fisher

By Jennifer Fisher, TheFitFork.com

hemp-chia-sunflower-pumpkin-seeds

From top moving clockwise: Pepitas (green), Chia Seeds, Hemp Seeds, Sunflower Seeds

Seeds are proof that great things can come from small packages. When I was young and was so ready to be a “big kid,” my grandpa used to remind me that little acorns grew into mighty oaks with time. Little seeds are just that powerful! From seeds, apples trees grow, pumpkin vines ramble and potato patches proliferate. In fact, we can thank the humble little seed for all the plant-based foods that keeps us healthy and alive day in and day out.

Some are surprised to learn that many seeds are completely edible on their own – including those watermelon seeds your mother told you to spit out!  In addition to adding loads of flavor and texture to recipes and snacks, tiny little seeds also pack a big punch of nutritional benefits. The boost of dietary fiber, healthy fats, protein and array of various micronutrients found in seeds can, in turn, help optimize the way you look, feel and perform. Here are some of my favorite super seeds you should be snacking on:

watermelon-seeds-in-hand

Sprouted Watermelon Seeds

Watermelon Seeds: Watermelon seeds have come a long way lately, from spitting contests to the latest “it” seed in health and nutrition circles. Watermelon seeds are best consumed sprouted (you can buy them like this) for easier digestion of nutrients – additionally this process takes away the bigger black seed found in the fruit’s flesh and gives you, instead, a yummy little white seed that is brimming with vitamin B, magnesium and healthy fats. And, amazingly, this low-cal seed has 10 grams of protein per ounce!

Chia Seeds: This teensy little seed, hailing back to the Mayan and Aztec culture, has made a huge showing lately in the healthy food industry, incorporated into products like bars, cereals and even beverages. I like to use the slightly nutty-tasting chia seed in recipes for puddings, jams and various baked goods. When introduced to a liquid, these sand-sized seeds absorb several times their weight in water, making them quite satiating! Just one tablespoon of chia seed has 5g dietary fiber and is a good source omega-3 fatty acids and plant-based protein

Hemp Seeds: Not only is this delicious seed rich in healthy fats, calcium and magnesium, hemp seed is also considered a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino — putting it on par with meat, eggs and dairy for on-point muscle-making. Typically sold hulled and often referred to as “hemp hearts,” this seed has a softer texture tasting reminiscent of pine nuts mixed with sunflower seeds. Sprinkle them on salads, smoothie bowls and pat onto fish for a crust. Don’t worry, even though hemp seeds technically come from the Cannabis plant, they do not contain THC, the psychotropic compound in found in the buds and flowers used for marijuana.

Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds): Remove the white outer hull of the pumpkin seed and inside you’ll discover a little green gem loaded with iron, magnesium, vitamin K and testosterone-boosting zinc. As part of the super squash, these small seeds are also packed with protective compounds that help to reduce inflammation, cholesterol and the incidence of prostate cancer. And, while all of the fats found within the seed are considered healthy, pepitas actually contain less overall fat that most other varieties. Part chewy and part crunchy, pepitas make an exciting addition to salads, soups, oatmeal or “breaded” on fish or chicken.

Sunflower Seeds: Both budget and body-friendly, shelled and unshelled sunflower seeds have been popular for decades. Offering protein, iron, folate, zinc and dietary fiber, antioxidant-rich sunflower seeds may be best known for their abundance of vitamin E – a nutrient that could help improve the aging process, the immune system and overall heart health.   Sunflower seeds are always a winner on mixed greens, in granola or trail mix and, of course, straight out of the bag.

Jennifer Fisher is an enthusiastic Core Power fan and user. Along with being a contributor to the fairlife team, she’s a #FitFluential Ambassador, #IDEAfit Inspired Blogger and contributor at the Cooking Light Blogger Connection. Jennifer is also a fit food & healthy living guest speaker, competitive master’s runner, CrossFit enthusiast and mother of three teen boys! For more on Jennifer, visit her blog TheFitFork.com and follow her on TwitterFacebook and Pinterest.

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