Nutrition Articles

The Seeds of a Healthy Diet

Selecting, Storing and Enjoying Seeds

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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
  • Flaxseed has been part of the human diet for thousands of years. However, its popularity has increased recently due to its health benefits. These seeds must be ground before you eat them so that your body can utilize the nutrients.
  • Hemp Seeds have a delicious, nutty flavor.  Unlike marijuana, hemp seeds contain virtually no THC (the psychoactive ingredient in pot), so you don't have to worry about failing your company’s drug test.
  • Pumpkin and Squash Seeds aren't just for Halloween! These seeds with a chewy, peanutty flavor make a pleasant snack year-round.
  • Sesame Seeds add a crunchy texture to many Asian dishes. They are often sprinkled on steamed veggies, added to salads, sprinkled on breads and tossed into stir-fries. These nutty tasting, oval-shaped seeds are often ground into a paste called tahini. This paste is a staple ingredient in many Middle Eastern foods such as halvah, hummus, soups and sandwiches.
  • Sunflower Seeds come from the huge head of the sunflower, which is filled with these delicious seeds with a nutty flavor. People of all ages enjoy cracking the shell open with their teeth, digging out the kernel, and spitting out the shell's remains. Sunflower kernels make tasty additions to trail mix, granola, stuffing, and baked goods.
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

    My favorite are poppy seeds. But unlike hemp seeds, they can cause a false positive in drug testing.

    I know plenty of people who eat the whole sunflower seed, shell and all. I have no idea if this is any better for you. I think it's mostly a matter of laziness. - 9/3/2014 12:26:25 PM
  • PSHINDE2109
    These seeds are wonderful in our diet. We should know the way to include them in our diet. Some recipes with these seeds are given at

    - 4/16/2014 6:01:39 AM
    Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wanted to mention that Iíve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all Iíll be subscribing for your feed and I am hoping you write once more soon!
    usiness-partners.html - 10/23/2013 3:07:00 AM
  • The calories listed for pumpkin seeds in shell and out of shell are the same. Does this mean the shell in indigestible and has no calories? - 6/9/2012 2:25:07 PM
  • I LOVE seeds! There were times in my life when I could afford to get them - but they NEVER seem to go on sale - and they are WAY WAY too expensive for me now. When I can get some, somewhere, I take handsful - and eat a few at a time, so they last for a very long time. But that's probably too little to get the benefit. Does anyone know where or how to get them really, really cheap? - 5/9/2012 11:16:19 AM
  • Just about any seed is a nutrition powerhouse, and many more are staples of our diets. Whole categories were left out of this article, not just chia seeds! ;-) How about beans, peas, lentils, corn, wheat, barley, almonds, pecans, filberts, peanuts, and many, many more. If you can put it in the ground and conditions are right, it will grow and make more of itself... it's a seed! - 2/7/2012 8:54:45 AM
  • This is a great article! Very informative and helpful to me, as I am trying to lower my cholesterol and blood pressure. Thank you so much! - 10/22/2010 10:41:53 AM
  • Watching Dr. Oz today, regards to foods for the brain....and this list here is missing CHIA seeds! Course I am not running out for them at this point. They are a source of omega fatty acids, and I am getting plenty! - 9/23/2010 6:20:58 PM
  • I buy Hodgson's Mill ground flaxseed and store it in the freezer. My main use of it is in baking my "best of bran muffins" (from a diabetic snacks cookbook), which calls for 1/2 cup per recipe (24 muffins). I might try sprinkling it on cereal or into yogurt, though! Time to branch out. - 5/1/2010 11:03:03 AM
  • Thank you so much for posting the information. I did not realize that Sunflower seeds were so high in fat. Hmmm , good thing I don't like them. - 3/31/2010 8:34:21 AM
  • Loved the article. I eat flax seeds a few times a week, ground fresh and on my oatmeal. I like to keep sunflower seeds on hand. The article missed the joy of sunflower seeds on a salad. Here is a favorite of mine: romine lettuce, onion, fresh strawberries and sunflower seeds, topped with a balsamic vinegar or some type of vinaigrette dressing. If you want to add some protein, throw in some cooked chicken. Yum! - 3/27/2010 9:44:39 AM
  • So true so true, I love seeds and when I have the time I try to go to the correct place to buy them. - 3/22/2010 3:34:17 PM
  • Sunflower seeds are made into a "butter" that is a nutritious substitute for peanut butter. I used it in recipes and on bread, crackers, etc. for my grandson while he was allergic to peanuts. It's not the same as peanut butter, but it's really yummy and just as versatile! - 3/22/2010 1:10:21 PM
    You did not include chia seeds in your article.. - 3/22/2010 10:21:13 AM
  • Thank you for this concise reminder about how great most nuts can be! - 3/1/2010 11:54:05 PM

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