Nuts and oilseeds are often considered high in calories. Since many people are not aware of the nutritional information of nuts and seeds, these are consumed less as compared with other super healthy foods like oats, greens, fruits and vegetables.
Seeds like flax seeds (known as alsi seeds in India), fenugreek seeds, sesame seeds / gingelly seeds (til), garden cress seeds (halim seeds), and aniseeds (saunf) are rich in iron, calcium, fiber, and protein. These are the nutrients which is commonly deficient in Indian diet. Another advantage of eating nuts and seeds is that you just need to consume a small quantum to meet a good percentage of the recommended intakes. No wonder, they offer several benefits to the mankind.
These underrated seeds are a valuable food source. Therefore healthy and edible seeds can give maximum health benefits. Sesame seeds (til), flax seeds, fenugreek seeds, and aniseeds are commonly consumed in India. In western countries there is a greater consumption of sunflower seeds, melon seeds, pumpkin seeds, and quinoa. Amaranth seeds, garden cress seeds are some lesser known and less consumed seeds which are laden with minerals and vitamins
Health benefits of seeds vary from one type of seed to another. Seeds have high amount of heart friendly fatty acids MUFA and less of PUFA. The endosperm in the seed is the source of nourishment to the emerging and growing new plant. So their high nutrient content doesn’t come as a surprise. With their gold mines of vitamins and minerals, seeds are excellent nutrition providers. They are among the better plant sources providing minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc.
Here are some germs of life packed with nutrients:
► Sunflower seeds are loaded with nutrients like unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, lignans, vitamin E, selenium, copper, folate, zinc, iron and phytochemicals.
► Pumpkin seeds are known for their beta carotene that converts to Vitamin A, antioxidants, magnesium, vitamin B complex, protein, plant source of iron, and fiber.
► Flax seeds are abundant in omega 3-fatty acids and soluble fiber which are immune boosting and heart protective.
► Garden cress seeds are the richest source of iron. One gram of cress seeds contains one mg of iron. So even if we consume 1 tbsp of this seed daily we can be close to our recommended intake of iron.
► Fenugreek seeds regulate blood sugars.
► Sesame seeds are a great source of calcium and iron.
► Quinoa seeds are rich in good quality protein, fiber, magnesium and vitamin E known to be a potent antioxidant.
Seeds may vary in their nutritional value, but the fact remains that most edible seeds are highly beneficial in terms of health.
Ways to Eat Seeds:
► Seeds could be roasted and eaten. For example, roasted almonds and roasted pumpkin seeds could be eaten as a healthy snack or packed into kids’ lunch boxes.
► Seeds could be roasted or toasted, powdered, and added to food preparations. Roasted sesame seeds are added to many Asian dishes to add a nutty flavor and a subtle crunch to them.
► One to two heaped tablespoons of flax seeds or mixed seeds (flax and sesame), roasted and then powdered could be consumed every day with water at a fixed time.
► Flax seeds, aniseeds, black sesame and white sesame could be mixed made into a delectable sweet and salty mix to be had post meal.
► Seed or seed powders can be sprinkled over cereals, mixed with fresh green vegetables, yoghurt or added to snacks.
► The sesame seed powder could be mixed with the regular flour and used in baking breads and chapatis.
► Nutrient laden sesame seeds and amaranth seeds could be consumed as a sweet “chikki” – a candy commonly eaten in India.
► Seeds like fenugreek, garden cress, and quinoa could be sprouted and consumed as salads or vegetables. They could be added to wraps, sandwiches or stir-fries as well.
The seeds have to be consumed with caution. One has to judge the amount that can be digested easily and the form in which they should be consumed without any stomach disturbances as they contain antinutrients that interfere with the absorption of nutrients. Some people may find it difficult to digest nuts and seeds. Again, cases of seed allergy are rising in some countries. Overeating of seeds can cause allergic reactions in some people
Seeds with their own characteristic nutritional benefits would immensely benefit the body if made a part of the daily diet. Gone are the days when we just perceived them as add on for taste and look enhancements. We are all gradually changing our perspective towards health and wellness. With rising incidence of ailments we are becoming more aware and conscious of incorporating nutrient dense foods into our diets. Seeds, for sure, are a true super food.