Cliché as it is, big things come in small packages and seeds are packing big nutritional value in an itty bitty living space. Grains, beans, nuts, and seeds are all well, seeds, and they are the foundation of the food pyramid. Seeds are becoming a trendy addition to a healthy diet. Flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and even pumpkin seeds are proof of the cliché.
Flaxseed is a great addition to your diet because it’s low in calories but high in both soluble and insoluble fiber to keep you full longer. It also contains a large amount of mucilage gum, a gel-forming fiber that keeps food in the stomach longer and increases the number of nutrients absorbed. It’s even gluten free. Try these gluten free cookies as a snack or even for breakfast.
Banana Oat Flaxseed Cookies
2 ripe bananas
1 cup gluten free rolled oats
½ cup ground flaxseed meal
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
¼ cup sliced almonds
Pinch of salt
½ cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash the ripe bananas with a fork, add the remaining ingredients and mix together with a spoon. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
Chia seeds are another low calorie, high fiber food that will keep you full longer. They become gel-like in liquid because of all the fiber and expand in your stomach. Chia seeds have a balanced ratio of Omega 3, loaded with antioxidants and calcium. If you’re lactose intolerant, chia sees are an excellent way to get bone-healthy calcium. Try this chia seed pudding by Giada De Laurentiis that can be served for breakfast or dessert.
Chia Seed Pudding
1 cup vanilla-flavored unsweetened almond milk
1 cup plain low-fat (2 percent) Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, plus 4 teaspoons for serving
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 pint strawberries, hulled and chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
In a medium bowl, gently whisk the almond milk, yogurt, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, the vanilla and 1/8 teaspoon salt until just blended. Whisk in the chia seeds; let stand 30 minutes. Stir to distribute the seeds if they have settled. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, in a medium bowl, toss the berries with the remaining 4 teaspoons maple syrup. Mix in the almonds.
Spoon the pudding into bowls or glasses; mound the berry mixture on top and serve.
Much like flax and chia seeds, hemp seeds are high in soluble and un-soluble fiber to keep you full longer and wave off cravings. But they are also a perfect protein, containing all 20 amino acids and 9 of the essential amino acids are bodies do no produce. They are also high in the omega-6 fatty acid gamma linolenic acid which balances hormones naturally. High GLA foods are known to help with a variety of health issues like PMS, skin allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease and blood pressure. This recipe from Oh My Veggies for pesto substitutes hemp seed for pine nuts, adding additional protein and can be added to pizza or pasta for a delicious alternative to tomato sauce.
Hemp Seed Pesto
2 cups fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
1/4 cup shelled hemp seeds (also called hemp hearts)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
Kosher salt to taste (about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon is a good amount)
Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula if necessary.
Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are a familiar seed and contain an amazing amount of beneficial nutrients. Like the other seeds, they’re high in fiber, but they also contain half of the daily recommended amount of magnesium, a heart healthy mineral. Pumpkin seeds have a high zinc content. Zinc is beneficial for immunity, sleep, mood, eye and skin health, insulin regulation and prostates. Pumpkin seeds are an easy on the go snack. They’re versatile, so play with the seasoning to make it exactly how you want it. Try this version from Fine Cooking.
Crunch Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
1 cup large raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 tsp. olive oil
1-1/2 tsp. ground coriander
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. dried dill
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne (optional)
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Toss the seeds with the olive oil on a baking sheet large enough to hold them in a single layer. Spread in an even layer and roast the seeds in the oven, stirring occasionally, until golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately toss the seeds with the coriander, salt, dill, pepper, and cayenne, if using. Let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer to a small serving dish or two and serve. (If you’re working ahead, refresh the pepitas for a minute or two in the oven before serving).
There is a bounty of seeds with a host of nutritional benefits that can be added to anything from salad to desserts. Introduce them to your meals and reap the benefits.