7 Super Seeds for a Healthy Diet
In part 3 of my anti-cancer diet series, I highlighted the benefits of nuts for fighting and preventing cancer. In this blog, I’ll share the powerful benefits of seeds and why they are the superfoods we should all be consuming as part of our daily diet.
Seeds are packed with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties – they contain a host of vitamins (A,B,C,E) and minerals (magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, selenium, manganese), plus high levels of essential fatty acids and amino acids. Here are my top recommendations:
Apricot Seeds (Kernel)
Studies have known that the active compound in apricot kernels, known as B17, amygdalin or laetrile, demonstrated anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Apricot kernels also have high levels of vitamin E, pangamic acid (vitamin B15) and a half cup gives you 14 grams of protein and only 4 grams of net carbohydrates (10 grams of fiber). They taste and look like almonds – here’s one to try:
Black cumin (nigella sativa) is a medicinal plant that has been used for centuries throughout the world as a natural remedy. Of the wide range of chemical compounds present in black cumin, thymoquinone is the major pharmacologically active component with immune system stimulating, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer, hepatoprotective and hypotensive properties. Studies have shown its ability to promote apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells. You can buy black cumin seeds and throw them into a smoothie. Or you can use the seed oil which has a peppery flavor and can be used to top off salad dressings – I actually like the flavor of this oil and have a tablespoon each day as part of my daily regimen. Check out my earlier blog on the use of black cumin in salad dressings.
Chia is an annual herbaceous plant and the seeds have been consumed by humans for over 5,000 years. Chia seeds were one of the most important components of the Mayan and Aztec diets. Chia is a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, dietary fiber and phytonutrients. Studies have shown these tiny seeds have demonstrated anti-microbial, hypotensive and immunostimulatory effects. The nutritional value of chia is the reason why it is so widely used as part of a dietary protocol for prevention of obesity, hypertension, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. They’re a great addition to salads, smoothies and even baked dishes. If you want to grow your own chia plant, there are many cute garden kits available. For brown thumbs like me, here is bag of organic chia seeds to try: https://www.vitacost.com/mamma-chia-organic-chia-seed-12-oz.
Flaxseed is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, alpha linolenic acid, lignans (polyphenols) and fiber. These bioactive compounds have been studied for their anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative and lipid modulating properties. Research has shown the benefits of dietary flaxseed in a variety of cancers, cardiovascular diseases, gastro-intestinal health, brain development and function. Flaxseeds have a mild, nutty flavor that will taste great in salads, yogurts and smoothies. If you want to make some flaxseed crackers, here’s a recipe to try. You can throw in spices and even chia seeds to your liking. I make sure to bake this at a low temperature to keep all the nutrient goodness from being destroyed by heat. I make these in large batches and store them in the fridge to enjoy as a snack throughout the week.
Hemp seed is known for its high content and the right balance of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, amino acids, phenolic compounds, and fiber which contribute to its nutritional value. Studies have shown the antioxidative properties of several of the phenolic compounds called lignanamides in hemp seed. Keep in mind that hemp seed is different from marijuana in that it contains little to no active THC by dry weight (less than 0.3%). You can eat hemp in the form of seeds but it’s also available in milk, protein powder and oil.
Pumpkin seeds and oils are packed with vitamin K, B2, folate, minerals (manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper), polyunsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants and other nutrients that have shown to provide health benefits. Research has also shown the antioxidative properties of pumpkin seeds and oils and diets rich in them have been associated with a reduced risk of stomach, breast, lung, prostate and colon cancers. Pumpkin seeds are delicious and can be topped on salads, smoothies, fruit and added to baked goods. I prefer to munch on them raw as a tasty, satisfying snack. Here’s one to try:
Sesame seeds have been used for thousands of years and are a great source of fiber, plant protein, B vitamins and amino acids. Studies have shown sesame seeds to have immune-boosting, antioxidant and antiproliferative activities. The phenolic content and the associated bioactivity has been shown to be higher in black sesame seeds over the white varieties. It’s recommended to roast the sesame seeds to maximize protein and nutrient availability. The roasting process reduces oxalates and phytates which are compounds that can inhibit digestion and absorption of protein. So sprinkle some roasted sesame seeds onto your salads and dishes and use sesame oil (do not heat) to enhance the flavor of your dressings.
In a nutshell (no pun intended), seeds are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, and tons of flavor, so start incorporating them into your daily diet and reap the benefits.