5 Healthy Seeds You Should Be Eating

The materials needed to build complex plants are all packed into the tiny seeds. This is why seeds are one of the most nutritious foods around.

Seeds also provide a lot of fiber and contain healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. They are a great resource for vitamins and minerals, as well as healthy antioxidants.

Here are a few great examples of seeds to work into your diet.

5 Healthy Seeds You Should Be Eating

1. Chia seeds

  • Chia seeds are good sources of omega-3 fats, fiber, and many other nutrients. They also have many important antioxidant polyphenols.
  • Multiple studies have shown that consuming Chia seeds can increase ALA in the blood1. ALA is an omega-3 fatty acid that helps manage inflammation in the body. 
  • Eating Chia seeds may also help with managing your blood sugar levels. Some studies have shown that both whole and ground Chia seeds may help reduce after-meal blood sugar levels3. In another study, Chia seeds helped to reduce appetite along with reducing blood sugar levels4.
  • You can reduce your risk factors of heart disease by eating Chia seeds5. When 20 people with type II diabetes were involved in a study, those who consumed 37 g of Chia seeds daily for 12 weeks reduced their blood pressure and certain inflammatory chemicals significantly6.

2. Hemp seeds

  • Many vegetarians eat hemp seeds as a source of protein. Hemp seeds are over 30% protein, making them an excellent resource. They are also a complete protein source, meaning that they contain every amino acid that can't be produced by the body. In some studies, the protein quality of hemp seeds is shown to be much higher than those of other plant proteins7.
  • Hemp seeds contain a healthy 3-to-1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which is considered an ideal ratio for the human diet. Studies have shown that you can increase omega-3 fatty acids in the blood by consuming hemp seed oil9. In addition, hemp seeds contain gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), another healthy fatty acid with benefits for regulating inflammation8.
  • At least one study showed that those who suffered from eczema had less skin dryness and itchiness after they were on a regimen of hemp seed oil supplements for 20 weeks10. They also tended to use less skin medication.

3. Pumpkin seeds

  • Pumpkin seeds are high in phosphorus, omega-6 fats, and monounsaturated fats. Pumpkin seeds have been shown to provide numerous health benefits, probably because they have so many different nutrients.
  • Pumpkin seeds are rich in phytosterols, plant compounds that can help lower blood cholesterol11.  In one study, postmenopausal women were found to have lower blood pressure and improved HDL-cholesterol from the use of pumpkin seed oil. The same study also showed an improvement in menopause symptoms15.
  • Bladder stones occur when minerals crystallize in the bladder, leading to abdominal discomfort. In numerous studies, pumpkin seed oil was shown to improve symptoms of urinary and prostate disorders14. In another study, children had a lower risk of bladder stones when they ate pumpkin seeds, thanks to reduced calcium levels in the urine13.  Men with an enlarged prostate may also benefit from the use of pumpkin seed oil.

4. Sunflower seeds

  • There are many beneficial nutrients in sunflower seeds, including monounsaturated fats, vitamin A and protein.
  • Eating sunflower seeds may reduce the risk of heart disease by helping to manage inflammation levels. In an observational study involving 6000 individuals, those who ate plenty of nuts and seeds showed a reduction in inflammation levels16. Eating sunflower seeds at least five times per week was associated with a reduction in reactive protein (CRP), a key inflammatory chemical.
  • In another study, postmenopausal women with type II diabetes consumed 30 g of sunflower seeds or almonds every day for three weeks as part of a healthy diet. By the end of the study, both the sunflower seed and almond groups experienced a reduction in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. The sunflower seed diet showed a greater reduction in triglycerides than the almond diet.17

    5. Flaxseeds

    • Flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 fats and fiber. They are particularly high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). The fibrous outer shell of the seed is not easily digested by humans, so if you want to get the most omega-3 benefits from flaxseeds, you have to grind them before eating them18.
    • Flaxseeds also contain polyphenols, including lignans, which are an antioxidant that the body needs19. Lignans, as well as the omega-3 fats and fiber in flaxseeds, help reduce cholesterol levels and other factors associated with heart disease20. In one large review of 28 studies, eating flaxseeds was shown to reduce LDL cholesterol by an average of 10 mmol/l21.
    • The lignans found in flaxseeds are phytoestrogens, which can mimic estrogen in the body. Some studies have shown benefits associated with reduced risk of breast cancer23 in women and prostate cancer in men24.

    Seeds are easy to add to your diet. You can sprinkle them in yogurt, oatmeal, salads, and smoothies. Adding them to your diet is an easy way to include plenty of healthy nutrients in your daily regimen.

    References:

    1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22830971, Chia seed supplementation and disease risk factors in overweight women: a metabolomics investigation, 2012 Jul;18(7):700-8. doi: 10.1089/acm.2011.0443

    2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22538527, Supplementation of milled chia seeds increases plasma ALA and EPA in postmenopausal women, 2012 Jun;67(2):105-10. doi: 10.1007/s11130-012-0286-0

    3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23778782, Effect of whole and ground Salba seeds (Salvia Hispanica L.) on postprandial glycemia in healthy volunteers: a randomized controlled, dose-response trial, 2013 Jul;67(7):786-8. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.103. Epub 2013 Jun 19

    4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28000689, Comparison of flax (Linum usitatissimum) and Salba-chia (Salvia hispanica L.) seeds on postprandial glycemia and satiety in healthy individuals: a randomized, controlled, crossover study, 2017 Feb;71(2):234-238. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2016.148. Epub 2016 Dec 21

    5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25403867, Chia flour supplementation reduces blood pressure in hypertensive subjects, 2014 Dec;69(4):392-8. doi: 10.1007/s11130-014-0452-7

    6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17686832, Supplementation of conventional therapy with the novel grain Salba (Salvia hispanica L.) improves major and emerging cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: results of a randomized controlled trial, 2007 Nov;30(11):2804-10. Epub 2007 Aug 8

    7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20977230, Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method, 2010 Nov 24;58(22):11801-7. doi: 10.1021/jf102636b. Epub 2010 Oct 26

    8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24552275, Potential oil yield, fatty acid composition, and oxidation stability of the hempseed oil from four Cannabis sativa L. cultivars, 2015 Mar;12(1):1-10. doi: 10.3109/19390211.2014.887601. Epub 2014 Feb 19

    9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2868018/, The cardiac and haemostatic effects of dietary hempseed, 2010 Apr 21

    10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16019622, Efficacy of dietary hempseed oil in patients with atopic dermatitis, 2005 Apr;16(2):87-94

    11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16302759, Phytosterol composition of nuts and seeds commonly consumed in the United States, 2005 Nov 30;53(24):9436-45

    12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22591208, The association between dietary lignans, phytoestrogen-rich foods, and fiber intake and postmenopausal breast cancer risk: a German case-control study, 2012;64(5):652-65. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2012.683227. Epub 2012 May 16

    13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3799495, The effect of pumpkin seeds on oxalcrystalluria and urinary compositions of children in hyperendemic area, 1987 Jan;45(1):115-21

    14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2809240/, Effects of pumpkin seed oil and saw palmetto oil in Korean men with symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia, 2009 Winter; 3(4): 323–327

    15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21545273, Improvement in HDL cholesterol in postmenopausal women supplemented with pumpkin seed oil: pilot study, 2011 Oct;14(5):558-64. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2011.563882. Epub 2011 May 5

    16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16357111, Nut and seed consumption and inflammatory markers in the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis, 2006 Feb 1;163(3):222-31. Epub 2005 Dec 15

    17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24959542, Markers of cardiovascular risk in postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes are improved by the daily consumption of almonds or sunflower kernels: a feeding study, 2012 Dec 19;2013:626414. doi: 10.5402/2013/626414. eCollection 2013

    18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18689552, Bioavailability of alpha-linolenic acid in subjects after ingestion of three different forms of flaxseed, 2008 Apr;27(2):214-21

    19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19935863, Experimental and clinical research findings on the cardiovascular benefits of consuming flaxseed, 2009 Oct;34(5):965-74. doi: 10.1139/H09-087

    20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25694068, Dietary flaxseed independently lowers circulating cholesterol and lowers it beyond the effects of cholesterol-lowering medications alone in patients with peripheral artery disease, 2015 Apr;145(4):749-57. doi: 10.3945/jn.114.204594. Epub 2015 Feb 18

    21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19515737, Meta-analysis of the effects of flaxseed interventions on blood lipids, 2009 Aug;90(2):288-97. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.27469. Epub 2009 Jun 10

    22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25740909, Flaxseed consumption may reduce blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials, 2015 Apr;145(4):758-65. doi: 10.3945/jn.114.205302. Epub 2015 Mar 4

    23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15897583, Dietary flaxseed alters tumor biological markers in postmenopausal breast cancer, 005 May 15;11(10):3828-35

    24. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11445478, Pilot study of dietary fat restriction and flaxseed supplementation in men with prostate cancer before surgery: exploring the effects on hormonal levels, prostate-specific antigen, and histopathologic features, 2001 Jul;58(1):47-52

    25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28000689, Comparison of flax (Linum usitatissimum) and Salba-chia (Salvia hispanica L.) seeds on postprandial glycemia and satiety in healthy individuals: a randomized, controlled, crossover study, 2017 Feb;71(2):234-238. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2016.148. Epub 2016 Dec 21

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