Types of Seeds
We want to highlight one of our favorite categories. Seeds are a great source of protein, especially for those who are allergic to nuts or don't eat meat. So let's learn a little more about our favorite seeds.
Chia seeds are small black seeds that come from salvia hispanica. This plant is also referred to as chia and is part of the mint family. People have been incorporating chia seeds into their diet as far back as the ancient Aztecs and Mayans. They believed chia seeds to be a great source of energy and strength. That idea is still believed in the modern world since chia seeds are recognized as a superfood.
Not only are they packed with all kinds of nutrients, chia seeds are also naturally gluten free. They are popular for having a high content of antioxidants (1). Studies show antioxidants help protect the body from various diseases of aging (2). Chia seeds are also full of fiber, which helps regulate the body's digestive system. Along with fiber, they are also high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
Flax seeds come from the Linum usitatissimum plant, which is also used to produce linens.These seeds have consumed for centuries, dating back as early as 3000 BC. It is said that King Charlemagne, of 8th century France, was such a strong believer in the health benefits of flax seeds, he legally required his subjects to consume them. In the modern world, there is some preliminary research to back up King Charlemagne beliefs about flax seeds.
There are two main varieties of flax seeds, golden and brown. Brown flax seeds are more widely known and consumed. The health benefits of flax seeds mainly come from their omega-3 fatty acids, lignans, and fiber content. The body does not produce omega-3 fatty acids, so they must be obtained from a persons diet or from supplements. Another nutrient flax seeds provide is lignans. Lignans have powerful antioxidant properties that can help lower the risk of cancer (3). Like chia seeds, flax seeds are also rich in fiber.
Hemp seeds are quickly growing in popularity. They come from the Cannabis sativa plant. Although cannabis the drug (marijuana) and hemp seeds both come from the same plant, they come from different strains. Hemp seeds have lower concentrations of THC and higher concentrations of CBD, this greatly reduces or eliminates any psychoactive effects that are attributed to marijuana.
Hemp seeds have a variety of health benefits. One benefit is the 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. This is believed to be the optimal range and can even help with skin disorders. Hemp seeds also have high levels of gamma-linolenic acids (GLA) which is believed to help decrease PMS symptoms in women(4). GLA is has also been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.
Pumpkin seeds are often referred to as pepitas, which is the Spanish word meaning "little seed of squash". They come from pumpkins and other cultivars of squash, most commonly cucurbita pepo. Pumpkins are native to North America, but were quickly spread across the world. Many people think of the white seeds scooped out of pumpkins around Halloween time, but shelled pumpkin seeds are more widely consumed. Shelled pumpkin seeds are green, flat, and oval.
Pumpkin seeds have long been celebrated for their valuable nutrients. One of these valuable nutrients is vitamin E. Vitamin E is believed to reduce inflammation. They are also considered one of the best natural sources of magnesium. Magnesium is used in many functions of the body, such as controlling blood pressure (5) and regulating blood sugar levels (6). Also, pumpkin seeds are a natural source of tryptophan, zinc, and magnesium which are all believed to help promote good sleep (7).
It is believed that sesame seeds are the oldest condiment known to man. These seeds come from the Sesamum indicum plant. The famous phrase "open sesame" reflects the sesame seed pod, which bursts open when the pod reaches maturity. There are two main varieties of the hulled sesame seeds, white and brown.
These seeds have been used folk medicine for thousands of years, but studies have shown some of these health benefits may be true. One health benefit is they may aid in blood cell formation. Sesame seeds contain iron, copper, and vitamin B6 which are all needed for the formation and function of blood cells. They are also a good source of selenium which support the the functions of the thyroid. Selenium, iron, copper, and vitamin B6 are also all important for having a strong immune system (8).
Sunflower seeds come from the Helianthus annuus plant, also known as the sunflower. Sunflower seeds are the most widely recognizable seed in the world. Technically, the seed with the traditional black and white colors is the sunflower seed and the sunflower kernel is what is inside the shell. These kernels are used as snacks or as an ingredient in dishes from all over the world.
Like the other seeds highlighted today, sunflower seeds are full of nutrients. A couple of these nutrients are magnesium, linoleic acid, and vitamin E. Magnesium is known to help reduce blood pressure levels and help reduce the risk of heart disease. Linoleic acid is a unsaturated fatty acid. The body also uses lenoleic acid to help reduce blood pressure as well as lower cholesterol. The vitamin E found in sunflower seeds can help prevent chronic inflammation, which is a risk factor for many chronic diseases.
All Things ConSEEDered
There are more types of seeds that you can eat, we just highlighted a few of our favorites. These seeds are our favorites because of their amazing health benefits and delicious taste. Keep and eye out for future posts about ways to incorporate these seeds into you diet and more facts about our other favorites. If you have any questions or comments, let us know in the comment section below.