Seeds of life! (part 1) Nature’s nutrient powerhouse

January 17, 2014

Seeds of life!
And God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth, … to you, it shall be for meat.”
– Genesis 1:29
There are many quotes relating to seeds. However, this one from Genesis reflects the truth of seeds: Seeds are the genesis of life. Every healthy seed contains the spark of life. In our bodies, that “whole, fresh, and lively” vitality is translated into nutrition and energy.
We eat many kinds of seeds. In reality, they are the basis of our food intake, taking the form of beans, cereal grains, pseudo-grains like quinoa and amaranth, nuts, and the small seeds we discuss here. This latter category, small seeds, has been gaining popularity among health conscious eaters over the last decade. The trend began with the popularization of the flaxseed, one of seven seeds covered in a recent issue of Nutrition News.
There is only one reason – besides possible enjoyment – to integrate seeds into your life and that is nutrition. These little dynamos are powerhouses of nutrition. Ounce per ounce, they outdo any other whole food you could name every time.
The nutrient components of seeds have much in common: protein, omega-3 and -6 oils; magnesium, calcium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, various vitamins, and fiber. The seeds contain two important phytochemical groups: lignans and phytosterols.
Lignans are found in plant fiber. They have both antioxidant and phytoestrogen properties. They may help regulate hormone levels, support the immune system, help with menopausal symptoms, improve prostate health, and help control stress.
Other areas of lignan activity include the reduction of LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, a risk lowering effect on diabetes, on colon and prostate cancers, and the support of hair growth. Most lignan research involves flaxseeds and sesame seeds.
Phytoestrogens mimic estrogen in that they link weakly with estrogen receptors. This can satisfy the menopausal body, reducing symptoms such as hot flashes. The category can be confusing as regards the risk of women’s cancers.
On the other hand, in a study conducted at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, researchers found that men consuming a diet rich in phytoestrogens showed a 26 percent lower risk of developing prostate cancer.
Phytosterols are compounds found in plants that have a chemical structure very similar to cholesterol, and when present in the diet in sufficient amounts are believed to reduce blood levels of cholesterol, enhance the immune response and decrease risk of certain cancers. As we discuss each seed, outstanding nutrient properties are mentioned.
In general, we recommend purchasing organic seeds. Their rich oil content can concentrate pesticides, which cannot be washed off. This is equally important if you are going to sprout the seeds.
Also, grind the smaller seeds, like flaxseed and chia, before using. This facilitates the absorption of the nutrients. If you grind your supply ahead of time, keep it in the freezer. Their high oil content makes them vulnerable to oxidation (rancidity).
Incidentally, both flaxseeds and chia interact with liquid to form a gelatinous mass. Soaking also enhances nutrient absorption. The resulting seed suspension can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.
All the seeds can be used as sprinkles on salads, cereals, and soups; baked into cakes, breads, and muffins (either whole or after grinding); or blended into smoothies. Of course, some of them are delicious snacks by the handful.
Continued next weekhealthy-seedsReprinted With Permission
Copyright © Nutrition News 2013
Home of the “Is It Healthy?” Game
All Rights Reserved.