SEEDS of CHANGE
Better Nutrition|March 2021
Nuts may get all the glory, but seeds have plenty of healthy and culinary benefits too. Here are the ones to sprinkle into your diet more often as proof that great things come in small packages.
MATTHEW KADEY, MS, RD

Seeds are proof that Mother Nature works in marvelous ways. A diminutive seed contains all the makings of an entire plant. Despite their small size, they’re fruitful nutritional giants.

So what makes seeds so darn healthy? Don’t let their scaled-down size fool you: sunflower, chia, and their ilk provide a powerful blend of healthy fats, plant-based protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help stave off heart disease, cancer, and more. In fact, because seeds are so nutrient-dense, you don’t need to eat a huge amount to reap the benefits—just 2–3 tablespoons a day should give you a big nutritional boost without breaking the calorie bank.

And if you’re hunting for something that also tastes great and is ultra-versatile in the kitchen, look no further than seeds. Here are the top picks, where there is certainly not a bad seed in the bunch.

Fend off diabetes with CHIA SEEDS

As a fiber heavyweight, chia delivers 5 grams in a mere tablespoon serving, much of which is soluble fiber. When soluble fiber interacts with gastric liquids it forms a gel. In this gel form, soluble fiber works to slow down digestion to help keep you feeling full as well as tempering rises in blood sugar. This is a key factor in helping fend off type 2 diabetes, a condition that impacts about 34 million Americans. A number of research papers show that soluble fiber also helps reduce levels of LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol, making a daily chia habit ticker-friendly. Soluble fiber pulls off this trick by increasing the excretion of cholesterol-containing bile from the body.

Build muscle with HEMP SEEDS

Also called “hemp hearts,” which are the seeds that have had their hard outer shell removed, these habit-forming, sweet-nutty delights are a fantastic source of plant-based protein—roughly 10 grams in a 3-tablespoon serving. Since the protein contained within hemp seeds has been determined to be “complete,” as it contains a full arsenal of essential amino acids, hemp seeds are a useful food source for helping improve lean body mass. This, in turn, can enhance exercise performance and also keep your fat-burning metabolism revving along.

Hemp seeds’ other nutritional virtues include a bounty of heart-benefiting omega-3 fatty acids and many must-have minerals including iron, phosphorus, and immune-boosting zinc. And, no, they don’t contain any THC, so you’ll get only a nutrition high from chomping on them.

Look on the bright side with PUMPKIN SEEDS

If you’re suffering from the Covid blues, be sure to crunch your way through more pumpkin seeds. Sometimes referred to as pepitas in recipes, these squash-sourced seeds are a leading source of magnesium. Higher intakes of this mineral might be beneficial to mental health by helping ease systems of depression, according to an investigation in the journal PLOS ONE.

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