Seeds have been consumed for thousands of years. They are highly nutritious, with protein, fiber and fats, as well as many micronutrients.
Health Benefits of Seeds
Sesame seeds are the oldest oilseed crop known to man. They have one of the highest oil contents of any seed. They are also rich in protein, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. Sesame oil is rich in omega-6 fatty acids but not in omega-3 fatty acids.
They contain a high level of natural antioxidants, which make the oil one of the most stable of vegetable oils. The nutrients of sesame seeds are better absorbed if the seeds are ground before consumption.
Flax seeds are rich in protein, fiber, B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and phosphorus. They are known for their high content in omega-3 fatty acids.
Lignan, one of the chief components of flax, contains plant estrogens and antioxidants. According to research, flax seeds may help lower cholesterol levels, stunt the growth of breast and prostate tumors, help stabilize blood sugar levels, alleviate constipation and bloating, eliminate toxic waste, strengthen the blood, and reduce depression.
Flax seeds should be consumed in moderation, as large amounts may have adverse effects due to its content in neurotoxic components.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in protein, magnesium, zinc, manganese, phosphorus, copper, potassium, fiber, as well as phytosterols, which according to research help reduce cholesterol.
Both in traditional medicine and modern medicine, the oil of pumpkin seeds is used to treat irritable bowel syndrome and other conditions.
Sunflower seeds are rich in fiber and fats, vitamin E, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc. They are also rich in phytosterols.
Sunflower seeds are particularly rich in vitamin E, which has significant anti-inflammatory effects that result in the reduction of symptoms in asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, as well as lower risks of colon cancer and diabetic complications.
Buying and Storing Seeds
Most seeds are sold either shelled or unshelled. They are usually available in bulk bins or prepackaged containers. Prefer prepackaged containers, as this will ensure the seeds are still fresh.
If you buy unshelled seeds, make sure the shells are not broken. If you buy shelled seeds, avoid those that have a yellowish color, as this may indicate they went rancid.
Seeds have a high polyunsaturated fat content and are therefore prone to rancidity, which means that they can be kept at room temperature for a few weeks but should preferably be stored in the refrigerator, in airtight containers. Seeds can also be frozen.
Flaxseed can be bought brown or golden, preferably organic, and flaxseed oil can be found in most health food stores. This oil is prone to rancidity and should be kept in the refrigerator.
Seeds can be eaten raw or toasted (except flax seeds), as a snack, or they can be added to salads, soups, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, cakes and desserts. Flax seeds should be consumed raw and can be sprinkled on salads or soups, mixed in smoothies, or added to water.
To toast seeds, place them in a small skillet over medium heat, and shake the pan until they are starting to darken.
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