Seeds are bearers of life literally from the ground up. Whether they grow into an incredible fruit-bearing plant or a luscious vegetable, or are harvested in their whole form, seeds provide the basis of a wholesome, natural, and plant-based diet.
Seeds offer numerous benefits — learning about their benefits and usage will hopefully entice you to enjoy them more often. They are allergy-safe, low in fat, high in protein, and extremely versatile when it comes to everyday usage. Most people can also digest seeds much more easily than nuts, because they are smaller and the body seems to handle them very well.
Here is a summary of some of the best seeds to keep on hand in your home:
What: Dark and round with a silvery glow, these can be found whole or ground.
How to use: Add the seeds to baked goods (they can replace eggs) or trail mix, and substitute them for poppy or sesame seeds.
Nutritional benefit: Next to flax, these are the highest source of omega-3 fatty acids and are great for digestion, relief of constipation, reducing nervousness, treatment of insomnia, and improving mental focus. Chia seeds also don’t need to be ground up in order to obtain all of their beneficial oils and fibre.
Storage: Store in a glass jar in a dark cupboard.
Recipe: Baked falafels
What: Flax seeds are slightly larger than sesame seeds and have a hard, smooth and shiny shell. Their color ranges from deep amber to reddish-brown, depending upon whether the flax is of the golden or brown variety. While whole flaxseeds feature a soft crunch, the nutrients in ground seeds are more easily absorbed.
How to use: They can be ground or baked, sprinkled on cereal, in a smoothie, on top of salads, or added to granola. Also use them to replace eggs in baking recipes.
Nutritional benefit: Flax seeds promote heart health and are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. They are also a good source of fibre and help to lower cholesterol.
Storage: If kept in an airtight container in a dark, dry, and cool place, flax seeds will keep for three months or more.
Recipe: Spiced carrot ginger muffins
What: Sesame seeds are tiny, flat oval seeds with a nutty taste and a delicate, almost invisible crunch. They come in a host of different colors, depending upon the variety, including white, yellow, black and red.
How to use: These are the main ingredient to make tahini (sesame paste) and can also be added to granola and trail mix bars, used as sesame milk, sprinkled on top of salads, or mixed in a salad dressing. Soak them overnight and toast to make them easier to digest.
Nutritional benefit: Sesame seeds have highly active antioxidants and help to protect the liver from oxidative damage. They may act to reduce cholesterol and are also one of the best sources of calcium among plant-based foods.
Storage: Seal sesame seeds in an airtight container and keep them in a cool, dry, dark place. Open containers of tahini should be refrigerated.
Recipe: Chocolate coconut-almond bliss balls
What: Tiny, flat, yellowish-green seeds with a soft texture and nutty taste.
How: Sprinkle on salads, and mix into smoothies and salad dressings. Add into raw chocolate creations and substitute for sunflower and poppy seeds.
Nutritional benefit: Hemp seeds are a complete protein source as well as being extremely high in essential fatty acids and calcium. They contain over twenty trace minerals and are a great source of fibre and vitamin E while also containing chlorophyll.
Storage: Store in a sealed jar or a dark bag in the refrigerator. Make sure that the container is airtight. Hemp seeds can be stored this way for 3-6 months in a cool place.
Recipe: Carob fig frozen fudge
What: Small, flat seeds that come from a pumpkin. They have a slight crunch, interesting green colour, and nutty flavour.
How to use: Pumpkin seeds are best purchased raw, unroasted and unsalted. In the winter months, low toasting increases their flavour and digestibility. Otherwise, use them raw on salads and in soups, or blend them into salad dressings and smoothies.
Nutritional benefit: Pumpkin seeds are higher in protein than other seeds, as well as being a high source of omega 3, iron, zinc and phosphorous. They also contain calcium and vitamin B.
Storage: Keep pumpkin seeds in a sealed glass jar in a cool dry spot. Place them in the refrigerator or freezer for long-term storage.
Recipe: Super Bowl of trail mix
What: These seeds are found within the shell of the sunflower plant and are a whitish, pale gray in colour.
How to use: Once shelled, they can be substituted for nuts in many recipes. The seeds can be used to top salads, added to trail mixes, or ground into a nut butter or raw pâté.
Nutritional benefit: Sunflower seeds are a great source of energy and unsaturated fat. They contain calcium, protein, iron, and several vitamins.
Storage: Keep in a sealed glass jar in a cool dry spot. For long-term storage, place in the refrigerator or freezer.
Recipe: Sun seed nori rolls
Marni Wasserman is a culinary nutritionist in Toronto whose philosophy is stemmed around whole foods. She is dedicated to providing balanced lifestyle choices through natural foods. Using passion and experience, she strives to educate individuals on how everyday eating can be simple and delicious.