Chia Seeds: Made famous in 1977 through Chia Pet™ infomercials, the history of this small seed actually goes back to 3500 BCE where they were prized offerings to Mesoamerican gods. Sprinkle chia into moist foods as this releases the jelly-like exterior, similar in texture to tapioca. Never consume chia dry by the spoonful as each seed swells to 27x its original size when in contact with moisture and could pose a choking hazard. They are a complete protein and a good source of calcium, zinc and alpha-linoleic acid. Chia seeds contain 5 grams of soluble fiber in every tablespoon, daily intake can help reduce LDL cholesterol.
Flax Seeds: Flax was the fabric, paper and oil of choice until the invention of the cotton gin in 1793. With its low smoke point (225°F), flaxseed oil is best used in non-heat applications. Whole flaxseeds can pass through the GI system without being broken down, so consume them in ground form and refrigerate between uses. An easy addition to baked goods, one tablespoon provides 10% DRI for magnesium and is good source of protein, fiber and ALA. Farmers increase the omega fat content of their chicken yolks by supplementing flaxseeds in their poultry feed.
Pumpkin Seeds: Pepitas have been used as food in Oaxaca, Mexico for the past 7,500 years. The outer white shell contains significant fiber and is edible, but shelled, green seeds are preferred. A nutrition powerhouse, 1/4 cup of seeds provide 42% DRI for magnesium, 40% for zinc, 3 grams fiber and 3 grams protein.
Sunflower Seeds: Containing more vitamins and minerals compared to other seeds, including folate and anti-inflammatory vitamin E, these seeds are native to North America, where they have been used to make bread and cakes for the past 3,000 years.
Sesame Seeds: Thought to have been used as a culinary ingredient since before recorded history, sesame means “oily seed” and is 50% oil and 25% protein by weight. Sesame has a long shelf-life thanks to the antioxidant sesamol. Tahini is a ground paste made from sesame seeds similar to nut butter. Sesame oil has a high smoke point and can be used in cooking, however, toasted sesame oil should only be drizzled on a dish after cooking.
Consider incorporating these beneficial seeds in a healthy trail mix, smoothies or as a topping for yogurt and oatmeal.
Amber Phillips, MS, RD is a registered dietitian at Island Hospital. She has a Master’s degree in nutrition from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA and a Bachelor’s degree in biology from Metropolitan State University, St. Paul, MN. Phillips has a keen interest in community education. “Nutrition advice can be confusing and sometimes conflicting,” says Phillips. “My role as a dietitian is to follow the latest research and make it easy to understand for my patients and the public.” To schedule an appointment with Phillips, call (360) 299-1300 x2567.