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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.
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!
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. Through her company, An Ounce of Prevention, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy to apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.
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