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The Seeds of a Healthy Diet

Selecting, Storing and Enjoying Seeds
  -- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian
My teenage daughter’s favorite grab 'n go breakfast consists of a few gulps of OJ, a toasted English muffin, and a handful of roasted sunflower kernels. “A perfect breakfast,” she states. Teenage translation: "I can sleep a few more minutes and eat it while I walk to the bus stop." However, it got me to thinking about seeds—those teeny, tiny tidbits of nutrition.

A seed is the part of a plant that contains the embryo of a future plant. To provide the embryo with a good source of energy, the seed often contains stored nutrients and oils that make the seed high in fat.

Nutritionally speaking, the health benefits of seeds have not been studied as much as nuts. However, seeds are excellent sources of fiber, selenium and vitamin E, and fairly good sources of protein, zinc, and iron. Because they contain a concentrated source of fat and calories, it is best to enjoy them in small amounts (1/8 - 1/4 cup), 3-4 times a week.

Common Seed Types <pagebreak>
Selection and Storage
Select seeds that are in sealed jars, bags or containers to help ensure freshness. Because seeds are high in fat, they will spoil easily. Store them in a cool, dark, dry location. Seeds can be refrigerated from 2 months to a year or kept in the freezer for up to 2 years.

Toasting and Seasoning
You can enhance the flavor of your seeds by lightly toasting them. Place a single layer of seeds in a skillet over low heat. Stir constantly for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown. To add flavor, coat lightly with olive oil and season with salt, soy sauce, garlic powder, chili powder, seasoning salt, or your favorite dry salad dressing mix.

You can eat some seeds, such as squash and pumpkin varieties, with or without their outer husk or shell. Others (safflower and sunflower seeds) have a tough coat that you must remove before eating. Seeds can be eaten alone as a snack or added to rice dishes, salads, homemade breads and muffins, stir-fries, trail mixes, yogurt, granola, cereal and oatmeal. Try SparkPeople's Seedy Cinnamon Granola Recipe as a breakfast cereal, yogurt topping, or as an afternoon snack!

Nutrition Information

Seed Type
(1/4 cup)
Calories Fat
Flaxseed  224  18  12  8
Hemp seeds  162  10  1 11
Pumpkin & Squash seeds in shell,  roasted


 3  4  3
Pumpkin & Squash seeds, roasted  71  3  0  3
Safflower seeds, roasted  130  10  2  4
Sesame seeds in shell, roasted  141  12  3  4
Sesame seeds, roasted  182  15  6  6
Sunflower seeds, roasted  207  19  4  6