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It’s hard to believe that something so small can contain the building blocks of a healthy diet. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about seeds is their heart-protective quality. Seeds serve as a good protein source, too, and are plentiful in other nutrients like fiber, magnesium and Omega 3.
How to Use
|Almonds||What we know as a nut is actually a seed that hides inside the fuzzy fruit of the almond tree. Loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, a handful of almonds helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. They also provide a good amount of protein, fiber, magnesium, calcium and iron.||Eat a handful of them raw with skins on to retain the most nutritional value.||Superior Nut Company, Braga Organic Farms, Jaffe Bros, Sunridge Farms, Natural Zing, Live Superfoods and Trade Joe’s.|
|Chia seed||The seed from the chia plant is native to South America. It contains 25% of your daily-recommended calcium. Omega3, chia’s fiber, forms a gel that slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, binds it to toxins in the digestive system, and helps eliminate waste. Due to this high fiber content, chia seed absorbs ten times its weight in water, making it an excellent source of hydration. This also means a slower conversion of carbohydrates to sugars, resulting in greater stamina and endurance.||Try this DIY energy drink, called Chia Fresca, that’s favored by indigenous Mexican tribes: Mix one tablespoon of chia seeds with 1½ cups of water. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a teaspoon of agave nectar.||Navitas Naturals, Bob’s Red Mill, Raw Food World, Now Foods, Health Warrior, Chia Company, Spectrum, Swanson Premium, Salba Smart, and Trader Joe’s.|
|Flaxseed||Brown or golden, this seed comes from the flax plant and has a mild, delightfully nutty flavor. It’s rich in heart-healthy nutrients—fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Just make sure to grind it first (or buy a pre-ground meal) to release its nutritional benefits.||In muffin recipes, replace one egg with one tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with three tablespoons water. Let sit for 15 minutes.||Spectrum, Now Foods, Bob’s Red Mill, Nature Made, Flax USA, Arrowhead Mills, Premium Gold, FitFlax, Omega, and Frontier.|
|Hemp seed||Although they come from the same Cannabis species as marijuana, they’re bred with much lower levels of the psychoactive chemical THC and loads of digestible, healthy protein. It’s a high-quality protein, too, with a balance of all the essential amino acids (nutritional building blocks that help form proteins and muscle). They’re also loaded with fiber and packed with other nutrients, such as omega-3 and omega-6, vitamin E, the B vitamins and folic acid. Buy whole or shelled (also called hulled). The shelled seeds taste milder and pack more nutrients; the whole seeds give you more crunch and fiber.||Throw a tablespoon into your breakfast smoothie for a healthy dose of protein.||Nutiva, Manitoba Harvest, Navitas Natural, Manitoba Harvest, Nature’s Earthly Choice, Foods Alive, and Gerb’s Gourmet Seeds.|
|Pecans||Just like almonds, the pecan has an identity crisis: This “nut” is actually the seed of a species of hickory tree. A handful of pecans reduces your overall risk of heart disease—unsaturated fats lower LDL cholesterol.||Toast and toss on top of your summer salads. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spread pecans on a baking sheet. Toast, tossing once, until fragrant, approximately 5 to 10 minutes.||Bergin Nut Company, Superior Nut Company, Now Foods, Good Sense and Nature’s Path.|
|Pumpkin Seeds||Also known as pepitas, these flat olive-green seeds are sold with or without their white shells. More than just the slimy innards from your Jack-o-lantern, shelled pumpkin seeds offer protein, magnesium and zinc. They are also abundant in phytosterols, which help lower cholesterol. Most of the nutrients are contained in the seed, but the edible white shell holds extra fiber. Because of their high oil content, store in an airtight container, refrigerate and eat within two months.||Mix pumpkin seeds (with or without the shell) with a little oil and salt. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes for a tasty snack.||Go Raw, Bob’s Red Mill, David Seeds, Superior Nut Company, Energy Club and Eden. ,|
|Quinoa||Often confused as a grain, quinoa is actually the seed of a plant related to chard and spinach (which makes it tolerable for those with Celiac disease or grain sensitivities). It’s a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids and loaded with vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and B6, vitamin E, magnesium, iron and zinc. Quinoa is also an excellent source of dietary fiber, boasting 5.2 grams in a one cup serving.||Rinse quinoa under running water in a fine-mesh strainer before cooking to remove any remaining saponin (a bitter substance). To cook, combine every 1 cup of quinoa with 1 1/2 cups water and a pinch of salt in a pot. Boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed.||Nature’s Earthly Choice, Bob’s Red Mill, Eden, truRoots, Alter Eco, Arrowhead Mills, Now Foods, Ancient Harvest, and Roland.|
|Sesame Seeds||Native to Africa and India, the seeds of the sesame plant lend a delicate taste and crunch to sweet and savory recipes. They contain more cholesterol-lowering phytosterols than any other seed and are rich in minerals, such as iron, copper, selenium and magnesium.||Lightly toast in a pan and toss on veggie stir-fries||Bob’d Red Mill, McCormick, Arrowhead Mills, Now Foods, Kevala, and JFC.|
|Sunflower Seeds||The kernels of the big, bright-yellow sunflower are enclosed in a hard black or gray shell. They provide disease-fighting antioxidant power, vitamin E, magnesium selenium and folate.||Add to homemade trail mixes or granola.||Bob’s Red Mill, Bergin Nut Company, David Seeds, Wagner’s, and NOW Foods.|
Image Source: Satoru Kikuchi/Flickr