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By: Lauren McRae
Sometimes the best gifts come in small packages and sometimes the best foods do too. They might not look like much but seeds can pack a hefty nutritional punch. Tiny titans of a healthy diet, seeds contain nutrients like protein, fiber, iron and omega-3 fatty acids.
Jennifer Panicko, Registered Dietitian at NorthShore, discusses the big benefits of adding any of these five seeds to your already healthy diet:
Chia seedsPacked with fiber, chia seeds are filling and nutrient-rich, adding omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, potassium and iron to the mix too. Their pleasant nutty flavor means they can be consumed raw or added to yogurts, oatmeal and sprinkled on top of favorite whole grain snacks.
Try this: Soak chia seeds in liquid overnight (water or nut milks work great), and add any desired flavorings (such as unsweetened cocoa powder or cinnamon). The seeds will absorb the liquid and expand, taking on a pudding-like texture. Layer with fruit for a parfait in the morning.
Sunflower seeds With lots of B vitamins, especially folate, sunflower seeds are a great snack for pregnant women and those looking to boost the strength of their immune systems. They also have lots of vitamin E, and, even better,
Flax seedsSmall but mighty, flax seeds are brimming with nutritional value. They contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, lignans—which are plant-based phytoestrogen that has been shown to lower one’s risk for some types of cancer—and both soluble and insoluble fiber. Make sure to grind the seeds before consuming to ensure you get their full benefits.
Try this: Bake ground flaxseed into a batch of muffins. It will add just a hint of nutty flavor.
Sesame seedsThe health benefits of sesame seeds go on and on. They are high in antioxidants, which help boost the immune system, and have been shown to lower hypertension and bad cholesterol, and reduce stress levels. With a delicate nutty flavor, they can be added to just about anything.
Pumpkin seeds A delicious source of B vitamins and iron, pumpkin seeds are also high in a particular amino acid that has been shown to reduce anxiety: tryptophan. They’re also a fantastic source for omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower bad cholesterol levels. Serve them raw or roasted, either will make a healthy snack.
Try this: Use a food processor to make pumpkin seed butter. Drizzle it on fruit or spread onto whole-grain toast.