Seeds are the "eggs" that contain the nutrients needed to nourish the growth of a new plant. So their high nutrient content shouldn't come as a surprise. What's surprising is that we generally relegate these nutritional wonders to the occasional snack rather than making them staples of our diet. In this article, we will discuss how adding more seeds to your diet can stengthen your body. Eating healthier can be part of an alternative treatment against illness.

With their gold mine of healthy minerals and their niacin and folic-acid contents, seeds are an excellent nutrition package. They are among the better plant sources of iron and zinc. In fact, one ounce of pumpkin seeds contains almost twice as much iron as three ounces of skinless chicken breast. And they provide more fiber per ounce than nuts. They are also good sources of protein.

Sesame seeds are a surprising source of the bone-building mineral calcium, great news for folks who have trouble tolerating dairy products. And seeds are a rich source of vitamin E. The only drawback: Some seeds are quite high in fat. Sunflower and sesame seeds provide about 80 percent of their calories as fat, although the fat is mostly of the heart-smart unsaturated variety.

Selection and Storage

Seeds are often sold in bulk, either with their hulls (shells) in place or with their kernels separated out. Make sure the seeds you buy are fresh. Because of their high fat content, seeds are vulnerable to rancidity. If they're exposed to heat, light, or humidity, they're likely to become rancid much faster. A quick sniff of the seed bin should tell you if the contents are fresh or not. Seeds that still have their hulls intact should keep for several months if you store them in a cool, dry location. Seed kernels (seeds that have had their shells removed) will keep for a slightly shorter period of time.

Pumpkin and squash seeds are similar in appearance -- both have a relatively thin hull that is white to yellowish in color. (Hulled pumpkin seeds are a popular ingredient in Mexican cooking.)

Pumpkin-seed kernels are medium-dark green in color. Sunflower seeds are easily recognized with their hard black-and-white-striped hull.

Preparation and Serving Tips

You can't go overboard with seeds because of their high fat content. But, in moderation, seeds can be mixed with cereals or trail mix or eaten by themselves. A sprinkling of seed kernels over fruits, vegetables, pastas, or salads adds a touch of crunchy texture and flavor. Sesame seeds are especially attractive as toppers for breads, rolls, salads, and stir-fries.

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