Experts say every healthy diet should include seeds since they contain everything needed to develop into a plant. This factor makes them highly nutritious. Seeds can add fiber, minerals, plant-based proteins, antioxidants, and more to meals, snacks, and smoothies. Moreover, the most nutritious seeds help support weight loss, boost digestive health, regulate blood sugar, and fight free radical formation.
Many seeds are edible and packed with essential nutrients and health benefits. For example, some of the most nutritious seeds are sunflower, chia, hemp, flax, pumpkin, poppy, pomegranate, sesame, pine nuts, and quinoa. Yes, the last two are not usually thought of as seeds, but scientists say they are botanically classified as seeds.
The following explains the botanical differences between nutritious seeds, nuts, grains, and beans:
- Seeds are embryonic plants enclosed by an outer covering.
- Nuts are a type of fruit with a hard shell and an edible seed. Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pine trees, part of the Pinaceae family.
- Grains are small, hard, edible fruit from cereal grass plants such as rice, wheat, millet, sorghum, barley, oats, and rye.
- Beans are types of legumes that belong to the Fabaceae plant family. According to Rachael Link, MS, RD, legumes are "the fruit or seed of plants of the legume family (such as peas or beans) used for food."
Some types of nutritious seeds are also categorized as pseudocereal grains. For example, quinoa and chia meet the requirements for a seed classification; however, they also fall under the pseudocereal grains category.
The Versatility of These Nutritious Seeds
Kate Patton, RD, with the Cleveland Clinic, explains these nutritious seeds have a massive impact on a person's body. This is because they are loaded with iron. This mineral helps make proteins that transport oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
Seeds also provide calcium, critical for healthy bones; magnesium which helps with hydration and bowel and brain health; and phosphorus, another mineral that repairs cells, filters waste, and other essential body functions.
These micronutrient powerhouses have vitamins and antioxidants that help reduce free radicals and lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
Adding nutritious seeds to a person's diet dramatically impacts their health and wellness; see nutrition values here. Dieticians say that a few servings of healthy seeds daily is a great way to enhance a person's diet.
Risks and Side Effects of Edible Seeds
As with any dietary changes, nutritionists warn of possible risks and side effects.
The first concern is calories. Not only are these the most nutritious seeds, but they are surprisingly high in calories. For example, the following shows the approximate calories for one ounce (28 grams) of seeds: flax, 150; hemp, 161; pumpkin (dried), 151; poppy, 147; sunflower, 164; chia, 137; pomegranate, 72; sesame, 160; pine nuts, 190; and one cup of cooked quinoa is about 222 calories.
The second is not as much a concern but a warning. Because most of these nutritious seeds are high-fiber foods, it is important to gradually increase how much is eaten to prevent digestive problems like constipation or bloating. Additionally, healthcare experts advise people to drink plenty of water, which is necessary to help food pass through the body.
Some doctors warn diverticulitis patients to avoid eating nuts, seeds, and popcorn. However, according to Mayo Clinic's Katherine Zeratsky RD, LD, "there is no evidence that these foods cause diverticulitis."
Nonetheless, "our bodies have a hard time digesting and absorbing the nutritional benefits of the actual seed," explained Patton. Fortunately, people can buy ground hemp, flax, sunflower, pine nuts, poppy, and pumpkin seeds. Many of these nutritious seeds are also available in butter or flour.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Healthline: 6 Super Healthy Seeds You Should Eat; by Ruairi Roberston, PhD
Cleveland Clinic: The 6 Best Seeds to Eat
Mayo Clinic: Does ground flaxseed have more health benefits than whole flaxseed? By Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
Mayo Clinic: Chia seeds pack nutritional punch; by Romi Londre, R.D.N.
Dr. Axe: Top 10 Healthiest Seeds to Eat + Their Benefits; by Rachel Link, MS, RD
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