Smaller than a finger nail, but packing the punch of a full plate, seeds are loaded with a whole host of nutrients and minerals. This month, Kelly McCabe, Registered Dietitian at Eat and Think, has given us the low-down on six of the best seeds out there, and how you can add them to your diet.
Why they are great: Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of folate which is essential before and during pregnancy. Like other nuts and seeds they also contain Vitamin E – an anti-oxidant which can help to support immune function and maintain healthy skin and hair.
How to add them to your diet: Add sunflower seeds to breakfast cereals, yoghurt or salads. They are also great when used to top healthy cookies or muffins, or baked into breads.
Why they are great: Chia seeds are high in iron, folate and magnesium. They are also a great source of soluble fibre, which helps to stabilise blood glucose, this keeps us fuller for longer and also helps to lower cholesterol levels.
How to add them to your diet: Try making chia seeds into an easy, yet healthy dessert by mixing with milk/yoghurt and fresh fruit and leaving to soak overnight. Or, alternatively, add a handful to smoothies, porridge or healthy baked goods such as wholewheat fruit muffins.
Why they are great: Hemp seeds are a good source of plant based protein. Like chia seeds, they are rich in soluble fibre too and are a good source of polyunsaturated fats, which help to protect our heart health.
How to add them to your diet: Add them to baked goods such as cakes and flapjack. You can also sprinkle them on salads or in smoothies.
Why they are great: Like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds are a source of B vitamins, including folate. In addition though, they are also packed with the nutrients and minerals of iron (helps to make red blood cells), magnesium (helps to turn the food we eat into energy and keep our bones healthy), zinc (helps to make new cells and enzymes, process carbohydrate, fat and protein in food, and the healing of wounds) and protein.
How to add them to your diet: Raw or roasted, pumpkin seeds make a healthy snack. You can also use them in baking, cooking, or, if you’re feeling fancy, as a garnish for soup. In addition, their oil makes a healthy addition to salad dressings and dips.
Why they are great: Flax (or linseeds) are another excellent source of soluble fibre. They help lower cholesterol, make you feel fuller for longer and helps to stabilise blood sugar levels. Flaxseeds are also high in lignans (plant-based phytoestrogens). Ground flaxseeds are an excellent natural bowel regulator as well.
How to add them to your diet: You have to make sure you grind flax seeds before eating them, otherwise they can pass through your body undigested – with your body unable to absorb the seeds nutrients. We recommend adding a large tablespoon to your morning breakfast cereal or smoothie. Try this delicious raspberry and coconut granola recipe containing linseed.
Why they are great: Sesame seeds are packed full of calcium and are therefore perfect for people trying to protect their bone health.
How to add them to your diet: Sprinkle them on stir-fries or salads, or roll dates in them for a nutritious sweet treat. You can also try using tahini (ground sesame seeds) as a substitute for butter in sandwiches or mixed with olive oil and lemon juice as a salad dressing.
Overall, seeds have a range of health benefits, therefore it is important to include a variety of them in your diet on a regular basis. One of the easiest ways to do this is to make your own nut and seed mix. Store this in a Kilner jar in the fridge and snack on a handful each day.