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Edible seeds add flavor, texture and nutrition to foods. Wondering what seeds you can eat? Maybe you’ve heard that edible seeds are good for you? Here are six edible and tasty seeds you should try.
You probably eat seeds more often than you realize. It’s a safe bet that you don’t pick the seeds out of berries, bananas, eggplant, cucumbers or summer squash. But whenever you eat these foods, you’re eating the seeds, too. If you eat kiwifruit, pomegranates or tomatoes, you’re probably eat those seeds, too, without really thinking about it. The seeds in these fruits and vegetables just ‘go along for the ride.’ They’re small or soft enough that we hardly even notice them. But there are also seeds that can be deliberately added to our foods. These edible seeds add more than just flavor and texture, although that’s reason enough to eat them. Seeds naturally contain healthy fats and fiber and contribute small amounts of vitamins and minerals, too.
Just what is a seed, anyway? It’s basically a miniature plant that’s packaged up inside a protective coating, along with some food inside to nourish it and help it grow. In fact, plant seeds contain the same trio of protein, carbohydrate and fat that nourishes the human body, along with fiber and an array of vitamins and minerals.
Since a seed has the potential to become an entire plant—and since it contains the nutrients necessary in order to make that happen—it’s easy to see why the seeds of many plants can provide a lot of nutrients in a tiny package.
Sesame seeds aren’t just decoration for bagels and hamburger buns—they’re also a good source of the minerals copper and manganese, and they are higher in protein than many other seeds. Sesame seeds are particularly good on stir-fried vegetables and in salads. I like to press them onto one side of fish filets or poultry breast before I sauté them. It makes a tasty, crunchy crust.
Chia seeds come from a flowering plant in the mint family. These little seeds have a unique quality: they’re such a rich source of soluble fiber that they can absorb about 10 times their weight in water. If you put chia seeds into any liquid and let it sit for a few minutes, the liquid will thicken up quite a bit. Not only does this improve the texture, it can also make the food more filling. Chia seeds are great for thickening up shakes. I like to add the soaked chia seeds to meatballs or use them to thicken up soups. Another trick with chia seeds: stir some into your homemade salad dressing, and you can probably reduce the amount of oil you use.
Flax seeds, like many other edible seeds, provide omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. Flax seeds are also the richest source of compounds called lignans, which act as antioxidants in the body. The outer coat of flax seeds is very hard, though, and the whole seeds tend to pass through the digestive tract untouched. So, to get the most benefit of the nutrients inside, it’s best to eat flax seed in ground form (also labeled as flax meal). Try stirring some into yogurt, or add to protein shakes, hot cereal, soups or stews.
Hemp seeds have an impressive 5 grams of protein in just 2 tablespoons, and they offer up healthy omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and zinc. They’ve got a mild, nutty flavor and are great sprinkled onto vegetables and salads or added to grain dishes during cooking. You can also add hemp seeds to smoothies, stir into hot cereal or add to recipes for baked goods.
Cumin seeds are less well known than other seeds, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying their nutty, peppery flavor in grain dishes or spicy curries and stews. Cumin is an important flavor component in Indian, Middle-Eastern and Mexican cuisine, and the seeds provide several minerals, including iron, copper, zinc and phosphorus. Try adding cumin seeds to rice or lentils during cooking to perk up flavor.
Sunflower seeds are larger than most other seeds, which may be one reason why many people enjoy eating them on their own. If you buy sunflower seeds still in their pretty black and white shells, it takes a while to crack them open and eat them—which helps with portion control. That’s worth mentioning because, like other seeds, sunflower seeds are rich in healthy fats, so the calories in edible seeds can add up quickly unless you use them sparingly. Sunflower seeds also contribute zinc, folate and vitamin B6, and they contain choline—a nutrient that supports cellular health and nervous system function.
Now that you know more about seeds, I’m sure you’ll realize your diet contains plenty of edible seeds, just in the fruit and vegetables you choose every day. You can also make a more conscious choice to add edible seeds to your meals. I hope my suggestions above have inspired you and shown you a few of the benefits of edible seeds.