The #1 Food You Should Be Eating Every Day, but Aren't
You might be all about eating dark leafy greens regularly, or making sure you have blueberries on your oatmeal every darn day, but here's one nutrient-dense food group you're likely overlooking: seeds.
"One surprising food you should eat every day and likely don't are seeds! Some wonderful examples include pumpkin, sunflower, chia, flax, hemp, and poppy," says Justine Rosado, RD, CDN, CDCES.
Although nuts seem to always be in the spotlight, Rosado says that it's time for seeds to steal the show. "Often overshadowed by nuts, seeds are tiny powerhouses loaded with healthy fats, essential vitamins and minerals, and protein. The health benefits of consuming seeds include cholesterol-lowering effect and antioxidant properties," she continues, pointing to this research.
The healthy fats in seeds play a crucial role in micronutrient absorption in the body. "Seeds are rich in unsaturated fats, which are known to enhance vitamin absorption and transport, and contain anti-oxidative properties," elaborates Rachel Fine, RDN, of To The Pointe Nutrition.
Flax and chia seeds come out on top
Flax seeds, specifically, are a favorite of Fine's because they contain antioxidants and boast an essential fatty acid known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). "Flax seeds are my favorite and often the most economical seed. Flax is a rich source of lignans, a powerful phytochemical with anti-oxidative characteristics," says Fine, noting that flax also contains the highest percentage of omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) per serving. "ALA fatty acids convert in the body to EPA and DHA, which are two important omega-3s specifically important for heart health and brain health," she adds.
Fine is a fan of chia, as well. "Chia seeds are rich in soluble fiber, which has been shown to improve cholesterol. Fiber also helps to keep us full between meals, maintains blood sugar control for sustainable energy, and promotes digestive regularity," offers Fine. "Chia seeds are also a great source of calcium and unlike flax, don't need the extra step of grinding before eating (chia is easier for the body to digest without the need to grind the seeds beforehand)."
How to eat more seeds
So how do you slip more seeds into your diet? Rosado suggests throwing a spoonful into your morning smoothie, homemade trail mix, or as a crunchy topping to your salad—"a favorite combination of mine is pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, and poppy," she says—but the possibilities are virtually endless. "Try roasting the seeds beforehand for an ideal texture and to release even more flavor!" adds Rosado.
As Fine highlights flaxseeds must be ground in order to digest and gain the full health benefits. The RDN enjoys sprinkling flax in oatmeal and yogurt, but we love adding flax to slimming salad dressings, too.
One important thing to note: Take caution with portion sizes as seeds (similar to nuts) are calorie-dense, says Rosado. "The best advice to reap the benefits of seeds would be to stick to the suggested portion size of 1 ounce or about a ¼ cup," she says.