Edible seeds are powerful in so many ways. They can be easily included in meals to add extra nutrition. Some also make perfect snacks when you’re on the go.
In fact, seeds have many of the same advantages that you find with nuts, but they’re much more versatile and allergy-friendly. Of the many different seeds that you can choose from, these 4 choices are particularly significant.
While quinoa isn’t technically a grain, it is prepared and eaten like one.
The seeds have a nutty flavor and are somewhat crunchy, even when cooked. They’re typically pale yellow, small and oval shaped, although you can find quinoa in a variety of colors. The flavor can vary with color too.
It’s often called a pseudograin and is sometimes considered a superfood. The term isn’t surprising, as quinoa has many advantages over regular grains.
- Quinoa is higher in nutrients than many grains.
- It is a significant source of protein and fiber, containing more protein than most grains.
- It still provides the same benefits as whole grains.
- Quinoa contains all the essential amino acids (1).
- It is a particularly good source of lysine. This amino acid is often lacking in plant-based protein sources.
- The seeds are gluten-free.
- Some grain-free diets still include quinoa (although others exclude it).
- It is a key source of antioxidants (2,3)
Key nutrients in quinoa include iron, zinc, folate, manganese, magnesium and phosphorous (4). The protein and fiber content make quinoa particularly relevant for weight loss.
How to Eat Quinoa
Quinoa is normally cooked and can be eaten hot or cold. It is often prepared as a side dish or used as an alternative to rice in a meal.
Because of its flavor profile, quinoa can be included in sweet or savory dishes. The site Fit Foodie Finds has a list of 10 interesting recipes to try, while Damn Delicious offers another 15 healthy recipes.
In some cases, the seeds are used as a flour – typically after they’ve been sprouted and ground. Even so, cooking is the most common way to use the seed.
2. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds rank high on any list of edible seeds. They’re an appealing snack, especially around fall. They also have many advantages (5,6).
- They’re a significant source of zinc, which may help boost your immune system and supports prostate health.
- Other important compounds include magnesium, vitamin K, thiamin and folate.
- Pumpkin seeds also contain oleic acid, which helps promote health.
- They’re a source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.
- Like other options, pumpkin seeds offer significant fiber and protein.
Pumpkin seeds are particularly relevant if you’re making pumpkin butter or using pumpkin in other recipes. You’ll often find that recipes use the flesh of pumpkin, but ignore the seeds.
Roasting those pumpkin seeds gives you a good snack and reduces waste.
How to Eat Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds can be eaten roasted or raw. You’re likely to get more benefits from the raw seeds, as high temperatures can destroy some plant-based compounds.
Even so, many compounds are unaffected and roasted pumpkin seeds are a very appealing snack.
Roasting them yourself gives you complete control over the flavor and temperature. Choosing a low temperature (170°F or less) for 15 or 20 minutes offers the best of both worlds.
You can flavor them as you like. Many herbs and spices combine well with roasted pumpkin seeds. Himalayan salt is a popular choice too.
3. Chia Seeds
Like quinoa, chia seeds have become incredibly popular in recent years. The seeds are tiny, yet they’re very nutritionally important (7).
- Chia seeds are high in protein and fiber.
- They contain all the essential amino acids.
- They’re a key source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Most of the carbs come from fiber, so you can include chia seeds on a low-carb diet.
- The seeds contain various other nutrients, including calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous and B vitamins.
- They’re a significant source of antioxidants (8).
The seeds are very important for weight loss. You’re getting protein, fiber and many nutrients, while the calorie content remains low. You can also easily add chia seeds into many different weight loss meals.
In fact, a 1-ounce serving of dried chia seeds contains 4.4 grams of protein and 10.6 grams of fiber – for only 137 calories (9).
How to Eat Chia Seeds
One of the most notable things about chia seeds is their lack of taste. The seeds don’t have much flavor at all. This makes them incredibly easy to include in meals.
You can simply eat chia seeds as-is, no preparation needed. They’re often used as a topping for yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, smoothie bowls and the like.
Chia seeds can also be softened in liquid. This gives you access to more nutrients and creates a gel-like consistency. Chia pudding is a popular and healthy way to take advantage of the texture – like in this recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie.
For anyone not interested in chia puddings, Bon Appetit offers 20 other recipes to try.
4. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are a popular favorite for seed lovers. They have a slightly nutty flavor and are appealing enough that you can simply eat them on their own.
They’re important nutritionally too and have been linked to improved health.
- The seeds are high in vitamin E, thiamin and folate.
- Vitamin E is a significant antioxidant and helps decrease inflammation as well.
- Sunflower seeds include other nutrients too, like vitamin B6, niacin (vitamin B3), magnesium, iron and selenium.
- They’re a key source of fiber and protein.
- Sunflower seeds may also reduce heart disease risk (10).
How to Eat Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds consist of an edible kernel, with a black shell (or hull) on the outside. While the hulls are edible, eating them isn’t recommended. They can cause constipation and the edges of the shells may cause tears in your digestive tract.
The seeds are easily eaten as-is and are often roasted to create a very popular snack.
You can also add sunflower seeds to many dishes, including salads, smoothie bowls and even desserts. The seeds provide extra nutrients, along with an interesting texture variation.
Just pay attention to any sunflower seeds you buy. Some brands may be processed in polyunsaturated oil or contain excess sodium. It’s often better to buy (or grow) raw sunflower seeds and roast them yourself, like in the video below.
Seeds and Health
Of course, there are plenty of other seeds to choose from. The healthiest option is to include many of these in your diet.
For example, you can add ground up flax seeds into baking (also called flax meal). This can even be used as a low carb flour. Poppy seeds and hemp seeds can be easily included in baking for extra protein and nutrients.
Roasted pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds make fantastic snacks, especially when you add some spices. Chia seeds, hemp seeds and sesame seeds can be mixed in with yogurt, oatmeal and many other dishes to make your food more interesting.
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Better health starts in the kitchen, with the food that you eat and the meals you prepare. Getting the best outcomes involves making good choices about the food and the ingredients that you use.
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