Health nuts are getting serious about seeds. The blogosphere is going crazy for chia seeds (yes, like the “pets”), and hemp seed sales grew by 156 percent between 2008 and 2010. It’s no wonder: Seeds deliver as much protein as nuts (and in some cases more), and all three of these seeds deliver heart-healthy alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based omega-3 fat, also found in walnuts.
Chia seeds may have celebrity status as the newest superfood fad, but they’ve been around for centuries (they were prized by the Aztecs). The seeds absorb liquid easily, gelling and making a creamy addition to oats and pancakes. That property also makes them easy on sensitive stomachs, says Dr. David C. Nieman of Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.
“Some other seeds, like flax, are harder to digest because they have more lignan, a tough fiber,” says Nieman.
Nutritional boons of chia seeds (per tablespoon): 2g protein, 4g fiber, 1.75g omega-3s.
Flax delivers more ALA than any other plant food. Grind seeds in your (cleaned) coffee grinder or food processor before adding to baked goods or sprinkling over cereal (your body can’t digest the seeds whole). Or mix flaxseed oil into salad dressings or smoothies.
Nutritional boons of flax seeds (per tablespoon): 2g protein, 3g fiber, 13 percent dv manganese, 2g omega-3s.
Hemp plants (aka Cannabis sativa) may be illegal to grow in the United States because of their association with the mood-altering cultivars of the plant, but eating hemp seeds is increasingly popular. As versatile as, and similar in taste to sunflower seeds, hemp seeds can be eaten raw, toasted, sprinkled on yogurt or salads or ground into seed butter.
Nutritional boons of hemp (per tablespoon): 4g protein, 16 percent dv phosphorus, 16 percent dv magnesium, 1g omega-3s.