Seeds are loaded with important nutrients, such as fiber, protein and heart-healthy fats but they also come packed with essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. When consumed as part of a healthy diet, seeds can help reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure while supporting weight loss and boosting digestive health. Some may even protect against certain cancers. Best of all, one serving of seeds is only a handful (28 g), making it super easy for you to get your daily requirement.
Here are the top 5 seeds to stock if you want to up your nutrition and give your body what it needs to maintain and repair itself while working at optimal condition.
#1 – Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds contain a good amount of protein, monounsaturated fats and vitamin E. One ounce (28 grams) of sunflower seeds contains vitamin E (47% of the RDI), manganese (27% of the RDI) and magnesium (23% of the RDI).
Sunflower seeds contain high levels of both monounsaturated and omega-6 fats, and may help reduce inflammation and cholesterol levels, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease. An observational study of more than 6,000 adults found that a high intake of nuts and seeds was associated with reduced inflammation (1). In particular, consuming sunflower seeds more than five times per week was associated with reduced levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a key chemical involved in inflammation.
Another study examined whether eating nuts and seeds affected blood cholesterol levels in postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes (2). The women consumed 30 grams of sunflower seeds or almonds as part of a healthy diet every day for three weeks. By the end of the study, both the almond and sunflower seed groups had experienced reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. The sunflower seed diet also reduced triglycerides in the blood more than the almond diet.
#2 – Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil are good sources of phosphorus, monounsaturated and omega-6 fats. One handful (28 g) of pumpkin seeds contain manganese (42% of RDI), magnesium (37% of RDI), and phosphorus (33% of RDI). These seeds have been reported to have a number of likely health benefits, such as improving heart health and symptoms of urinary disorders, likely due to their wide range of nutrients.
Pumpkin seeds are also good sources of phytosterols, which are plant compounds that may help lower blood cholesterol (3). A study of postmenopausal women also found that pumpkin seed oil may help reduce blood pressure, increase “good” HDL cholesterol and improve menopause symptoms (4).
One observational study of more than 8,000 people found that those who had a higher intake of pumpkin and sunflower seeds had a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer (5).
A couple of studies have shown that pumpkin seed oil can improve symptoms of prostate and urinary disorders and may reduce symptoms of overactive bladder and improve quality of life for men with enlarged prostates (6, 7). Another study in children found that pumpkin seeds may help lower the risk of bladder stones by reducing the amount of calcium in urine (8).
#3 – Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds are commonly consumed in Asia, and also in Western countries as part of a paste called tahini. Similar to other seeds, they contain a wide nutrient profile. Notably, one ounce (28 grams) of sesame seeds contains copper (57% of the RDI), manganese (34% of the RDI) and magnesium (25% of the RDI).
They are a great source of lignans. In fact, sesame seeds are the best known dietary source of lignans. This may help improve sex hormone status for estrogen. Sesame seeds may also help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
A couple of interesting studies have shown that sesamin from sesame seeds may get converted by your gut bacteria into another type of lignan called enterolactone (9, 10), which can act like the sex hormone estrogen. Lower-than-normal levels of this lignan in the body have been associated with heart disease and breast cancer (11).
Another study found that postmenopausal women who ate 50 grams of sesame seed powder daily for five weeks had significantly lower blood cholesterol and improved sex hormone status (12).
Sesame seeds may also help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which can worsen symptoms of many disorders, including arthritis (13). A study on sesame seed powder found semi-professional athletes had significantly reduced muscle damage and oxidative stress, as well as increased aerobic capacity (14).
#4 – Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are a good sources of fiber and omega-3 fats, along with a number of other nutrients. A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of chia seeds contains thiamine (15% of the RDI), magnesium (30% of the RDI) and manganese (30% of the RDI). Chia seeds are effective at lowering blood sugar and reducing risk factors for heart disease. Like flaxseeds, chia seeds also contain a number of important antioxidant polyphenols.
Chia seeds may also help reduce blood sugar. A couple of studies have shown that whole and ground chia seeds are equally effective for reducing blood sugar immediately after a meal (17, 18). Another study found that, as well as reducing blood sugar, chia seeds may reduce appetite (19).
Chia seeds may also reduce risk factors of heart disease (20). A study of 20 people with type 2 diabetes found that eating 37 grams of chia seeds per day for 12 weeks reduced blood pressure and levels of several inflammatory chemicals (21).
#5 – Flaxseeds
Flaxseeds, also known as linseeds, are an excellent source of fiber, omega-3 fats, lignans and other nutrients. However, the omega-3 fats are contained within the fibrous outer shell of the seed, which humans can’t digest easily. Therefore, if you want to increase your omega-3 levels, it’s best to eat flaxseeds that have been ground (22, 23). A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of flaxseeds contains a wide mix of nutrients, including manganese (35% of the RDI), thiamine (31% of the RDI) and magnesium (28% of the RDI)
A lot of evidence has shown flaxseeds may reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and even the risk of cancer (24).
Flaxseeds contain a number of different polyphenols, especially lignans, which act as important antioxidants in the body (25). Lignans, as well as the fiber and omega-3 fats in flaxseeds, can all help reduce cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease (26, 27, 28). One large study combined the results of 28 others, finding that consuming flaxseeds reduced levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol by an average of 10 mmol/l (29).
Flaxseeds may also help reduce blood pressure. An analysis of 11 studies found that flaxseeds could reduce blood pressure especially when eaten whole every day for more than 12 weeks (30).
A couple of studies have shown that eating flaxseeds may reduce markers of tumor growth in women with breast cancer, and may also reduce cancer risk (31, 32, 33). This may be due to the lignans in flaxseeds. Lignans are phytoestrogens and are similar to the female sex hormone estrogen. What’s more, similar benefits have been shown regarding prostate cancer in men (34).
Eat More Seeds
As you can see, consuming these top 5 seeds provides a host of health benefits. These seeds come packed with high nutrient profiles beyond the vitamins and minerals listed above. This article just scratched the surface. Because just a handful contains such large amounts of our recommended daily intake, seeds are an easy and healthy way of getting in essential nutrition every day to keep our bodies maintaining and repairing themselves in optimal condition.
Snack on a handful of seeds daily. They’re a highly versatile ingredient for cooking so it won’t be hard to do. Include them in trail mix, salads, yogurt, oatmeal, stir fries and with vegetables. Seeds like sesame can also be eaten as a nut butter when ground into tahini. Look for ways to pop a handful and remember to choose raw, unsalted versions for the best benefits. Your body and health will thank you.
Like this article? Share it so that others can learn these health secrets and start living their best lives today.