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The healthiest seeds

6 super healthy seeds you should eat

Along with a healthy diet, seeds can help reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. Here are 6 super seeds to eat for better health.

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6 super healthy seeds you should eat
Last updated on October 29, 2023, and last reviewed by an expert on February 8, 2023.

Seeds contain all the starting materials necessary to develop into complex plants. Because of this, they are extremely nutritious.

6 super healthy seeds you should eat

Seeds are great sources of fiber. They also contain healthy monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and many important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

When consumed as part of a healthy diet, seeds can help reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.

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This article will describe the nutritional content and health benefits of six of the healthiest seeds you can eat.

1. Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds, or linseeds, are a great source of fiber and omega-3 fats, particularly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

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.

A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of flaxseeds contains a wide mix of nutrients:

Flaxseeds also contain several different polyphenols, especially lignans, which act as important antioxidants in the body.

Lignans and the fiber and omega-3 fats in flaxseeds can help reduce cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease.

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.

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.

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.

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.

In addition to reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer, flaxseeds may also help reduce blood sugar, which may help lower the risk of diabetes.

Summary: Flaxseeds are an excellent source of fiber, omega-3 fats, lignans and other nutrients. Much evidence has shown they may reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and even cancer risk.

2. Chia seeds

Chia seeds are very similar to flaxseeds because they are also good sources of fiber and omega-3 fats, along with several other nutrients.

15 proven health benefits of sesame seeds
Suggested read: 15 proven health benefits of sesame seeds

A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of chia seeds contains:

Like flaxseeds, chia seeds also contain many important antioxidant polyphenols.

Interestingly, several studies have shown that eating chia seeds can increase alpha-linolenic acid in the blood. Alpha-linolenic acid is an important omega-3 fatty acid that can help reduce inflammation.

Your body can convert alpha-linolenic acid into other omega-3 fats, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are the omega-3 fats found in oily fish. However, this conversion process in the body is usually quite inefficient.

One study has shown that chia seeds may increase levels of EPA in the blood.

Chia seeds may also help reduce blood sugar. Some studies have shown that whole and ground chia seeds are equally effective for reducing blood sugar immediately after a meal.

Another study found that, as well as reducing blood sugar, chia seeds may reduce appetite.

Chia seeds may also reduce risk factors of heart disease.

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, including C-reactive protein (CRP).

Summary: Chia seeds are a good source of omega-3 fats and effectively lower blood sugar and reduce risk factors for heart disease.

3. Hemp seeds

Hemp seeds are an excellent source of vegetarian protein. In fact, they contain more than 30% protein, as well as many other essential nutrients.

Suggested read: 11 science-based health benefits of pumpkin seeds

Hemp seeds are one of the few plants with complete protein sources, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids your body can’t make.

Studies have also shown that the protein quality of hemp seeds is better than most other plant protein sources.

A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of hemp seeds contains:

The proportion of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in hemp seed oil is roughly 3:1, considered a good ratio. Hemp seeds also contain gamma-linolenic acid, an important anti-inflammatory fatty acid.

For this reason, many people take hemp seed oil supplements.

Hemp seed oil may have a beneficial effect on heart health by increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood.

The anti-inflammatory action of the omega-3 fatty acids may also help improve symptoms of eczema.

One study found that people with eczema experienced less skin dryness and itchiness after taking hemp seed oil supplements for 20 weeks. They also used skin medication less, on average.

Summary: Hemp seeds are a great source of protein and contain all the essential amino acids. Hemp seed oil may help reduce symptoms of eczema and other chronic inflammatory conditions.

4. Sesame seeds

Sesame seeds are commonly consumed in Asia and Western countries as part of a paste called tahini.

Similar to other seeds, they contain a wide nutrient profile. One ounce (28 grams) of sesame seeds contains:

Like flaxseeds, sesame seeds contain a lot of lignans, particularly one called sesamin. In fact, sesame seeds are the best-known dietary source of lignans.

Some interesting studies have shown that gut bacteria may convert sesamin from sesame seeds into another type of lignan called enterolactone.

Suggested read: 10 proven health benefits of flax-seeds

Enterolactone can act like the sex hormone estrogen, and lower-than-normal levels of this lignan in the body have been associated with heart disease and breast cancer.

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.

Sesame seeds may also help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which can worsen symptoms of many disorders, including arthritis.

One study showed that people with knee osteoarthritis had significantly fewer inflammatory chemicals in their blood after eating about 40 grams of sesame seed powder every day for two months.

Another recent study found that after eating about 40 grams of sesame seed powder per day for 28 days, semi-professional athletes had significantly reduced muscle damage and oxidative stress and increased aerobic capacity.

Summary: Sesame seeds are a great source of lignans, which may help improve the sex hormone status for estrogen. Sesame seeds may also help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.

5. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are one of the most commonly consumed and are good sources of phosphorus, monounsaturated fats and omega-6 fats.

A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of pumpkin seeds contains:

Pumpkin seeds are also good sources of phytosterols, plant compounds that may help lower blood cholesterol.

These seeds have been reported to have several health benefits, likely due to their wide range of nutrients.

One observational study of more than 8,000 people found that those with a higher intake of pumpkin and sunflower seeds had a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer.

Another study in children found that pumpkin seeds may help lower the risk of bladder stones by reducing the amount of calcium in the urine.

Bladder stones are similar to kidney stones. They’re formed when certain minerals crystalize inside the bladder, which leads to abdominal discomfort.

Some studies have shown that pumpkin seed oil can improve prostate and urinary disorders symptoms.

These studies also showed that pumpkin seed oil may reduce symptoms of overactive bladder and improve the quality of life for men with enlarged prostates.

A study of postmenopausal women also found that pumpkin seed oil may help reduce blood pressure, increase “good” HDL cholesterol and improve menopause symptoms.

Summary: Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil are good sources of monounsaturated and omega-6 fats and may help improve heart health and symptoms of urinary disorders.

6. Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds contain a good amount of protein, monounsaturated fats and vitamin E. One ounce (28 grams) of sunflower seeds contains:

Suggested read: 6 evidence-based health benefits of hemp seeds

Sunflower seeds may be associated with reduced inflammation in middle-aged and older people, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

An observational study of over 6,000 adults found that a high intake of nuts and seeds was associated with reduced inflammation.

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.

The women consumed 30 grams of sunflower seeds or almonds as part of a healthy diet every day for three weeks.

By the study’s end, the almond and sunflower seed groups had experienced reduced total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. The sunflower seed diet reduced triglycerides in the blood more than the almond diet.

However, “good” HDL cholesterol was also reduced, suggesting that sunflower seeds may reduce both good and bad types of cholesterol.

Summary: Sunflower seeds contain high levels of both monounsaturated and omega-6 fats and may help reduce inflammation and cholesterol levels.

Summary

Seeds are great sources of healthy fats, vegetarian protein, fiber and antioxidant polyphenols.

Furthermore, they can help reduce the risk of certain diseases. In particular, the lignans in certain seeds may help lower cholesterol and cancer risk.

Seeds are extremely easy to add to salads, yogurt, oatmeal and smoothies and can be an easy way to add healthy nutrients to your diet.

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