Seeds nutrition content and insights provided by Nutrition Innovation Manager Aaron Martin, CISSN.
Seeds can be powerful little (or big) nutrition amplifiers in our diet. Although most seeds are great to incorporate into your diet there are three in particular which provide a significant punch. Flaxseed, Chia Seeds & Coconut are three of which you should make an effort to eat more of.
Flaxseed – the valiant staple
What is Flaxseed? Flaxseeds are tiny, tear dropped shaped seeds coming from the Flax plant, a plant grown much like a grain. These Flax plants produce pods which are full of the nutritiously rich flaxseed. The plant has been recognized for its benefits since ancient times; so much so, laws were passed requiring the consumption of flaxseeds.
Why should I eat it?
The health benefits of flax are quite amazing – some call it the most nutritious food on the planet. This is mainly due to three reasons:
- High Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids – Healthy fats provide heart health. 1 tbsp of flax contains around 1.8 g of plant Omega 3s
- Lignans – These are extremely powerful antioxidants. Flaxseeds contains significantly more lignans than other foods around the world. Lignans are known as one of the most promising nutrients to prevent all sorts of cancers and help heal your body of a range of aliments- including improved blood pressure, lower inflammation and improved fasting glucose levels. These antioxidants are one of the main reasons to eat flaxseeds daily.
- Fiber – Flax contains both insoluble fiber and soluble fiber. Both of these assist in reducing sugar cravings while improving fat loss and colon health.
Start with about 1 tablespoon per day or about 13 g. Because they are difficuly to chew, consider grinding the seeds fresh before consuming. This ensures the freshest possible taste and better absorption of the health oils.
Try adding 1 tbsp. to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt or in baked goods as a binder.
Chia seeds – the tiny titan
What are Chia seeds? Chia means “strength” in the mayan language and has been known as ancient Aztec warrior fuel to sustain their endurance. Chia is a small green herb around 1 meter high. Blue flowers fill out to provide a seed head – of which is cultivated the ever impressive chia seed.
Why should I eat it? Chia seeds are one of the most popular superfoods for a few reasons:
- Antioxidants – Chia seeds are full of antioxidants. It has been stated Chia seeds have the ORAC value of 10,000 Vitamin E Equivalents.
- Minerals – Chia seed have an abundance of a number of minerals – most notabile are calcium, potassium and magnesium. The abundance of all three of these help support strong bones and muscles.
- High in Omega 3 ALA – Chia has about 2.4 g of omega 3 fatty acids per 1 tbsp. This is more than Flax seed & contributes to heart health.
- Fiber – Chia is packed with fiber; 1 tablespoon has about 5 grams of fiber. The fiber in chia will help balance insulin levels and provide a gel-forming soluble fiber in the gut acting as a pre-biotic to support the growth of probiotics in the gut.
It is recommended to consumer about 2 tablespoons of Chia seed daily. A benefit of chia, unlike flax the seeds, is they do not need to be grinded or milled to unlock the benefits of chia as our bodies can digest it whole.
Chia can be added to smoothies and baked goods, used to make pudding, mixed in with yogurt or ice cream for a distinct crunch, or sprinkled on whole grain toast with natural peanut butter.
Coconut – the tropical energizer
What are Coconuts? Coconut is referred to the whole coconut palm; this is in fact the “seed” of the coconut palm tree. This is technically called a drupe, not a nut. It can be correctly called a fruit, drupe or seed – but ironically it’s not technically a nut! Coconut trees are grown in tropical climates which are frost free. They can be harvested to supply coconut oil, coconut water or the coconut meat in the form of fresh coconut meat or dried and shredded coconut. For purposes of this article we will expose the health benefits of consuming this oil on a regular basis.
Why should I eat it? Coconut oil has nearly 1500 studies proving its impressive health benefits to the body.
Energizing Healthy fats – Coconut oil is full of saturated fat. Contrary to what many think this saturated fat in coconut oil is VERY health. 60% of the saturated fat in coconut is known as Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFA) – these particular types of fat are easily burned as energy and easy to digest. MCFA have been studied to help burn fat, improve thyroid function, improve satiety and balance blood sugar levels among a range of other benefits.
Memory enhancer – The fatty acids in coconut oil have been proven to increase Ketone production. Ketones supply energy to the brain without the need for insulin to shuttle glucose into cells. This is especially useful in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s or simply to maximize brain function by creating an easily absorbed, efficient fuel for the brain.
Internal Organ Support – Coconut oil is useful for boosting the immune system as the type of fat it contains holds antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. It is also useful for preventing heart disease. The natural saturated fats in coconut help increase the healthy cholesterol in your body known as HDL. Lastly, coconut oil can help cure and heal urinary tract infections as well as protect the liver from damage.
Start with 1 tbsp. of coconut oil daily. Work your way up to 2- 3 tbsp of coconut oil depending on your dietary needs. Coconut oil is an excellent option for healthy fats. Combine daily with chia & flax seed for a trifecta of health benefits!
Try using coconut oil in place of butter or other vegetable oils when cooking vegetables and other stove top items. Try adding into smoothies, oatmeal, on top of a sweet potato, or baked goods.