The Health Benefits of 5 Superfood Seeds
When it comes to snacks, nuts may outweigh seeds in terms of popularity. How easy is it to pick up a small, single-serving size of trail mix at the grocery store or gas station? However, what you may want to consider is upping your intake of seeds—particularly these five—because they contain a host of health benefits for the body. Cynthia Sass, RD, CSSD, LA-based performance nutritionist, lends insight on the nutrition and health benefits that are packed within five common healthy seeds.
Here's a breakdown of the five healthiest seeds you should be incorporating into your diet.
"Flax seeds supply plant-based omega-3 fatty acids called alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, which have been shown to protect against heart attack and stroke," says Sass. "The lignans in flax are tied to cancer protection, specifically breast and prostate cancers."
Lignans are characterized as polyphenols specifically found in plants. It's possible you have heard of the word polyphenol before in red wine and in dark chocolate. Polyphenols are a group of naturally-occurring compounds in wine, dark chocolate, tea, and various plant-based foods. These compounds have antioxidant properties, meaning they can prevent free radicals from encroaching on your cells, which would increase your risk of developing chronic conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.
Flaxseeds are believed to contain up to 800 times more lignans than other foods. Additionally, Sass says that flax seeds are linked to reducing blood sugar, harmful cholesterol levels, and even blood pressure.
Good news for those who love to sprinkle chia seeds into their morning cup of oatmeal or love chia pudding. Chia seeds, like flax seeds, are also rich in ALA, which Sass says works to reduce inflammation and improve circulation in the body.
"One study found that consuming 37 grams of chia seeds daily reduced a blood marker for inflammation by 40 percent," she adds. "Of the 12 grams of carbs in a one-ounce portion of chia seeds, a whopping 10 [grams] come from fiber—40 percent of the daily minimum target."
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Another perk that chia seeds provide? They are rich in satiating soluble fiber, which aids digestion.
"Hemp seeds are rich in vitamin E and minerals, including phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, and zinc," says Sass. "They also provide essential fatty acids, which have been shown to help lower heart disease risk."
Not only are hemp seeds a good source of healthful fat, but Sass also says that just three tablespoons lend 10 grams of protein. Sprinkle hemp seed atop your avocado toast or blend a few tablespoons of it into your next batch of homemade hummus.
Pumpkin seeds are chock-full of minerals, namely magnesium, manganese, iron, and zinc.
"In addition, pumpkin seeds are packed with cell-protective antioxidants, including carotenoids and vitamin E, which reduce inflammation and help fend off premature aging," says Sass.
Try coating a cup or two of pumpkin seeds in olive oil and sprinkle your favorite seasonings and roast them in the oven for a savory, crunchy midday snack.
"Sunflower seeds provide antioxidants known to fend off the free radical compounds that can attack healthy cells and lead to damage and premature aging," says Sass. "They also supply nearly 40 percent of the daily target for vitamin E, a powerful fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant known to help reduce inflammation."
Who knew that the common baseball players' snack of choice was chock-full of vitamins and cell-protecting antioxidants? Sass also notes that sunflower seeds pack one-third of the daily recommended intake of selenium, an essential mineral associated with repairing DNA in damaged cells, as well as destroying cells that have either become exhausted or dysfunctional through a process called apoptosis.
If you cannot get behind the texture of a sunflower seed, try dipping a spoon into sunflower butter and stir a tablespoon or two into your overnight oats or swipe across a piece of hearty bread with a dash of cracked sea salt and a drizzle of honey.
Now, aren't you ready to incorporate more of these healthy seeds into your diet?