I have been sprinkling seeds on everything from yogurt to salads since I can remember. My Mom has always been on the uptrend of anything “nutritious” and had us toting wheat bread sandwiches with fruit to school instead of the coveted “lunchables” or white bread fluff-a-nutters my peers were munching.
I never understood why I was including seeds in my diet, I just was. It was when I went off to college and began to shop for food on my own that I started to look into what I was eating and what benefits food yielded. If I was going to be spending $8 on a bag of chia seeds, I needed to know it was worth it.
Enter my obsession with the tiny powerhouses. The trend of incorporating these nutritious minefields is not anything new, however they have been growing in popularity and are at an all time high right now. You know something is trending if you begin to see variations of it in your local Trader Joes. I was blown away at the variety of seed-incorporated merchandise there. Everything from oatmeal to bars and cookies, there are seeds up and down the aisles.
So what is it about seeds that has everyone in a frenzy buying them up off the shelves? The answer is the nutritional punch they deliver so conveniently. It takes little to no thought to sprinkle seeds into your oatmeal, smoothies, or yogurt parfait and you can count on extra protein, healthy fats (such as omega 3s) and a whole lot of fiber. See my post on the holy trinity for more detailed info on the importance of these in your diet.
With so many seeds and very little time to do your due diligence, I have made it easy for you and included the top three seeds that I choose to consume on a daily basis and why. Everyone is different in terms of taste and what you are hoping to achieve in your diet. For me, I have never noticed the taste of seeds when added to my foods and I am always looking for a way my diet can incorporate as many nutritional components as possible.
Seed #1, flax seeds. I love flax seeds for their versatility and the laundry list of nutritional benefits they provide. You can choose to enjoy your flax seeds whole (often times they are found in breads and crackers this way) or you can grind them to make a fine flour. I choose the latter because the process of grinding flax seeds brings out more nutritional value, and when it comes to nutritional value more is always better. When they are in their whole form, flax seeds have the opportunity to pass right through you and your body does not have the chance to absorb all the benefits flax seeds can provide. These benefits include, dietary fiber which helps with body regulation, omega 3 fatty acids which are considered good fats and essential for heart health and lignans which help the body rid itself of free radicals.
Uses: ground and used in baking or sprinkle on salads, yogurt or in smoothies. Vegans like to use ground flax mixed with water as an egg substitute.
Seed #2, chia seeds. Chia seeds are one of the most popular seeds and for good reason. The uses of these powerful beads are endless. I have been known to use them heavily in any dessert I am making and especially in my morning meals as they are notorious for their filling quality. You can find chia ground down but it is most common to use them in their whole form, straight out of the bag you purchased them in. I tend to stock up when I see the organic version at Trader Joes because they are so affordable there and I go through them like water. Lets talk nutrition.
Check out these statistics from a recent article in Time, in 1 ounce of chia seeds (a little less than 3 tablespoons) there is 10g of fiber and 5g of protein! To put this in perspective, one of the “hottest” sources of protein is an egg which has 6g of protein. For vegans, chia seeds are an excellent source for some of their daily recommended protein. Chia seeds are also an great source of calcium (so important for women), omega-3 fatty acids and phosphorus. Remember when I said chia seeds are notorious for how filling they are? This is because Chia seeds can absorb up to 10 times their weight in water. If you are new to the seeds, have them sit in some coconut milk (full fat) mixed with fresh vanilla bean in the fridge overnight. In the morning you will have the most delicious and decadent pudding!
Uses: consumed whole in salads, yogurt, and oatmeal, or used in baking to add volume to breads, muffins or cookies. Also used to thicken puddings and smoothies.
Seed #3, hemp seeds. Ok so technically hemp seeds are nuts, but for the purpose of this post I am including them in my top 3 seeds. You would be hard-pressed to find a better bang for your buck in the nutrition department. Compared to the above seeds which have impressive nutritional profiles, hemp seeds have considerably higher percentages of protein and more vitamins. According to an article on authoritynutrition.com, 25% of their total calories is high quality protein and have been found to be great sources of arginine and gama-linolenic acid (which have been linked to a reduction in heart disease). The list of vitamins and minerals these little guys contain is extensive and some of my favorites include, both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc. The more research that is done on hemp seeds the more benefits are found and insistence that we include them in our diets.
Uses: Sprinkle on top of anything you would like texture and subtle nutty flavor. Including cereals, oatmeal, smoothies, yogurt or salads.
I could quite literally talk about seeds all day long. With no effort at all you can be adding tons of nutrition to things you are already consuming daily. It’s as if we have uncovered one of nature’s best kept secrets!
For me, it’s something I have been programmed to do from early on. Some helpful tips from me to you on incorporating these nutrient-super heros into your life:
- Start small. Do not overwhelm yourself and do an overhaul on your diet. Think of things you are already making yourself that would take little to no effort to add a few dashes of seeds. For example, you eat Greek yogurt with blueberries for breakfast. Try layering your yogurt with some ground flaxseed and sprinkle some chia seeds on the top. It not only brings nutrients to the party but it makes your food look even prettier!
- Shop smart. Whenever I am perusing the isles of my go-to grocery stores (one of my favorite things to do!), I make sure to check out the sections of pantry staples I use on a weekly basis. I love a bargain and especially on things I am going to buy anyway. When I see the value pack of seeds marked down to a lower price than a single pack, you better believe I am going to pounce! I stock up on seeds this way because I know I am going to be using them a lot and who likes to pay full price every time? Shop smart!
- Plan ahead. I am going to delve in to the power of meal prepping and planning out healthy habits in future posts but for now I will refer only to prepping your seeds ahead of time. This is key for anyone that does not feel father time is on their side, especially during the work week. Prep ahead. I do this on a Sunday or if I just got back from purchasing a bunch of seeds because they were on sale. I combine my chia and hemp seeds together in a large bowl, then pour them in an airtight mason jar or Wecks jar and keep them in the fridge. Why in the fridge? Because it will ensure their freshness and make them last longer. Whenever I am preparing meals or running out the door with a smoothie, I grab my glass bottle of seeds and sprinkle and go! I also store my ground flax seeds in mason jars in the fridge and add this to anything I am baking or if I am making flax eggs.
- Experiment. Make this incorporation of seeds into your life fun and exciting. The first time I made pudding with chia seeds, my husband’s mind was blown! It’s really fun to see the consistency of things change and re-create “un-healthy” foods into something nutritious and delicious. Have a science-experiment in your kitchen and watch in amazement how your jeans fit a little better and your skin glows a little brighter.
Welcome to the obsession.