As the old saying goes, “good things come in small packages.” And in the kitchen, seeds are no exception. These tiny wonders are a staple in a healthy pantry: nutrient-dense and packed with disease-fighting minerals and enzymes, they can be used in just about any recipe. Here are three favorites that are easy to incorporate into your everyday diet.
What is it? Brown or golden, this seed comes from the flax plant and has a mild, delightfully nutty flavor.
Why we love it: Flaxseed is rich in fiber (aids digestion and cardiovascular health) and omega-3 fatty acid (provides anti-inflammatory benefits, strengthens skin cells and is also great for cardiovascular health).
Where to use it: When baking, replace ¼ cup of flour for ¼ cup of flaxseed; or, use as an egg substitute by mixing three tablespoons of flaxseed with ¼ cup of water, let sit for 15 minutes.
Special Instructions: To get the most from flaxseed, grind it first. Either buy the seed whole and grind it yourself, or buy pre-ground flaxseed meal and keep refrigerated.
What is it? Hemp seeds come from the same Cannabis species as marijuana. However, they’re bred with much lower levels of the psychoactive chemical THC.
Why we love it: Hemp seeds are loaded with digestible, vegan protein: Just two tablespoons have 24% of your daily requirement (impressive, huh?). It’s a high-quality protein, too, with a balance of all the essential amino acids. They’re also loaded with fiber (yay, digestion!) and packed with other nutrients, such as omega-3 and omega-6, vitamin e, the b vitamins and folic acid.
Where to use it: Blend one tablespoon into your breakfast or post-workout smoothie for an extra hit of protein; or add a tablespoon on top of your salad for extra crunch.
Special Instructions: You can buy hemp seed whole or shelled (also called hulled). The shelled seeds taste milder and pack more nutrients; the whole seeds give you more crunch and fiber.
What is it? The seed from the chia plant (yes, the same seed that grows Chia Pets) is native to South America, where ancient Aztec warriors used it before going into battle or running long distances on foot. Chia seeds are prized for their energy inducing properties.
Why we love it: Contains 25% of your daily-recommended calcium. Omega 3, chia’s fiber, forms a gel that slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, binds it to toxins in the digestive system, and helps eliminate waste. Due to this high fiber content, chia seed absorbs ten times its weight in water, making it an excellent source of hydration. This also means a slower conversion of carbohydrates to sugars, resulting in greater stamina and endurance.
Where to use it: In this DIY energy drink, called Chia Fresca, that’s favored by indigenous Mexican tribes: Mix one tablespoon of chia seeds with 1½ cups of water. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a teaspoon of agave nectar.
Special Instructions: Unlike flaxseeds, chia seeds don’t need to be ground. They’re virtually tasteless.
About the Author
Amanda Etty is a Toronto, Canada-based magazine editor and yoga instructor with a passion for health and wellness. She’s the voice behind A Glass of Goodness, a blog about smoothie recipes and ideas for easy, everyday healthy living.