The Seeds of a Healthy Diet: Selecting, Storing and Enjoying Seeds

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), three to four 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 two months to a year or kept in the freezer for up to two 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 one to two 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 coating 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. 

Nutrition Information

Seed Type
(1/4 cup)










Hemp seeds





Pumpkin & Squash seeds in shell,  roasted





Pumpkin & Squash seeds, roasted





Safflower seeds, roasted





Sesame seeds in shell, roasted





Sesame seeds, roasted





Sunflower seeds, roasted





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Member Comments

thanks Report
Great article. Report
Great seeds. Thanks for sharing. Report
Definitely an old article, but still good! Needs chia seeds added to the list though. Report
I love putting toasted sesame seeds on my salads. I've snacked on sunflower and pumpkin seeds for years.

Great chart on seed nutrition. Report
I like most pumpkin and chia seeds Report
Love all the seeds! Report
Great! Report
I put grounded Flax/chia seed in my oatmeal every morning. Report
thanks Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Great information Report
I add ground flaxseeds to my smoothie. It also adds fiber. Report


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.