Seeds aren't just for the birds! Seeds are small but mighty nutritional powerhouses that deliver vitamins and minerals that might otherwise be in short supply in our daily diets. Want to boost your energy? There's a seed for that. Need more fiber? There's a seed for that too.
And the really cool thing about seeds is that you can sprinkle them on just about any food to amp up the beneficial nutrients in every meal or snack.
So which ones should you be eating? We've narrowed down seven seeds that could prove beneficial to your daily nutritional routine.
Flax seeds are mild, nutty and packed with nutrients. Just 1 tablespoon (7 grams) will provide you with fiber, protein and a helpful array of vitamins and minerals. Flax seeds contain thiamine, copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, vitamin B6, iron and folate. It's almost like having a huge multivitamin in one tiny seed! Thiamine, in particular, is in a relatively high concentration, and is believed to boost metabolism and cell function. In just 1 tablespoon of flax seeds, you can gain 10 percent of the thiamine you need daily.
Not only are sunflower seeds tasty (and perfect for snacking at outdoor baseball games), but they also have high levels of omega-6 fats that may help reduce cholesterol levels and inflammation. By lowering inflammation, these seeds also may decrease the risk of heart disease. One ounce (28 grams) of sunflower seeds has a whopping 6.4 grams of omega-6 fats, as well as 47 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin E.
Chia seeds are a powerful source of antioxidants, known for their anti-aging and anti-cancer benefits. As if this wasn't enough, these tiny black-and-white seeds contain fiber that makes them beneficial for weight loss. One study, published in 2016, found that people who ingested 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of chia seeds daily for six months reduced their belly circumference by 3.5 percent. For people at risk for chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes or heart disease, adding chia seeds to smoothies or salads can be a relatively easy way to boost fiber.
"Chia is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, an essential fatty acid that's found in abundance in fish and seafood. Omega-3s are known for a host of significant health benefits including heart health, joint health and cognitive function," says Trista Best, a registered dietitian at BalanceOne.com. "Because roughly 60 percent of the brain is made of fat, and half that amount is omega-3 type fats, foods rich in this nutrient are a great addition to any vegan diet. This fat works in the brain to make nerve cells, improve memory and support one's capacity to learn."
If you're on the hunt for a good source of calcium, look no further than the humble sesame seed. Even if you're most familiar with sesame seeds atop a hamburger bun, they can be sprinkled on cooked vegetables, cereals or — when in a paste form called tahini — used as dressings or dips. Sesame seeds are loaded with calcium, offering nearly 88 milligrams in just 1 tablespoon. And, with 42 milligrams of magnesium per tablespoon, they also have the potential to help lower blood pressure, according to the National Institutes of Health.
While hemp seeds originate from the Cannabis sativa plant, they don't offer any mind-altering benefits. They are, however, ripe with protein, fiber and good-for-you antioxidants, such as omega-3 and omega-6. In just 3 tablespoons (30 grams) of seeds, are nearly 10 grams of protein. And it's a full protein too, which means it contains a complete set of all nine essential amino acids. Among other benefits, hemp seeds are believed to boost heart health and perhaps help ward off neurological conditions like Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's disease, says nutritionist Juliana Tamayo of FitnessClone.com. Hemp seeds can be sprinkled whole on cereal, yogurt or salads, or be made into hemp milk.
Pumpkin seeds are not only tasty (try them roasted), but offer a nutritional boost for heart health, bone strength and can even better one's mood. Just 1 tablespoon (10 grams) of pumpkin seeds has 40 milligrams of magnesium. This is an important nutritional benefit, considering a whopping 80 percent of Americans don't get enough magnesium, which is necessary for controlling blood pressure, reducing heart disease and improving bone health. Magnesium can even improve blood sugar levels.
Encased by the flesh of the flavorful ruby-red fruit, pomegranate seeds are a delightful treat that also happen to carry a number of health benefits. Pomegranate seeds are high in flavonols, an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit everything from blood pressure to joint pain. Some studies have shown promising results about pomegranate seeds, including their potential to inhibit the growth and spread of breast cancer cells, and ability to improve memory.