From promoting heart health to decreasing inflammation, seeds make a big nutritional impact! I’ve advised people to go nuts for their health for years; now for an early taste from my new book (available this fall), here is the skinny on two of these tiny powerhouses – sunflower and sesame seeds.

Sunflower Seeds

Do you remember planting your first sunflower seeds as a kid? Then the huge stocks took over the family garden. How fun was that farmer-like experience, growing healthy snacks in your own yard! Today we know sunflower seeds play a role in heart health and bone health. They are a good source of plant-based protein with 6 grams of protein in 60 ml (¼ cup). In that same size – sunflower seeds have 24% of your Daily Value (DV) of selenium which is an essential mineral and antioxidant, plus 60% DV of vitamin E which is a fat soluble vitamin. Together , they are a dynamic duo to combat oxidative stress. I’m saving the heart health facts for my new book, but let’s explore how sunflower seeds help promote bone health!

  • Bone Health

There are components in sunflower seeds called lignins. Research has shown that these lignins may contribute to the pathway of bone growth. The researchers believe the lignins (along with other substances in the body such as calcium and vitamin D) promote the growth of osteoblasts which are responsible for bone formation (1). This leads to a stronger skeletal system.

Sesame Seeds

It’s time to add this tiny powerhouse for big nutrition, new flavour and texture to your menu! The first time I ate tahini paste (ground sesame seeds with oil) I was backpacking in Turkey. It was love at first taste! Like sunflower seeds, sesame seeds are a good source of plant-based protein with 6.5 grams of protein in 60 ml (¼ cup). Surprisingly, in that same size, sesame seeds contain 38% DV of the mineral iron – which is a great option for vegetarians. Sesame seeds have a good 1:4 ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids. In addition to heart health, stay tuned for my new book to discover the benefits of this ratio and the unique health benefits of black sesame seeds!

  • Heart Health

Research has shown that sesame seeds are full of heart healthy fats and antioxidants. For example, eating sesame seeds as part of a balanced healthy diet may decrease total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol. A study conducted with healthy postmenopausal women published in 2006 showed that consumption of powdered sesame seeds decreased total cholesterol by 5% and LDL cholesterol by 10% (2). In another study, after 4 weeks of regular consumption of sesame seeds by people who had elevated cholesterol, the LDL (bad) cholesterol particles were less prone to oxidative stress (3). These results confirm the positive antioxidant effects of sesame seeds.

3 Tips to Plant These Seeds on Your Menu

  1. Add both seeds to fibre up any meal or snack.
  2. Sprinkle ¼ cup of sesame seeds on a vegetable stir-fry for extra protein and iron.
  3. Toss ¼ cup of sunflower seeds in Greek yogurt with berries for breakfast on the go.

Recipe

Savoury Biscuits

As you know, my favourite and earliest food memory is cheese. I’m always looking for different ways to plant cheese (along with seeds) on my menu. I found this easy recipe and video from bbc.co.uk/food for savoury biscuits. The recipe uses linseed (known as flax seeds in Canada), pumpkin, black sesame and sunflower seeds, along with spelt flour.

Let me know your favourite way to plant more seeds on the menu and stay tuned for my new book this fall!

References:

  1. Choi EM. Sunflower seed extract enhances the differentiation of osteoblastic MC3T3-E1 cells. Food Agric Immunol. 2013;25(1):9-19
  2. Wu WH, Kang YP, Wang NH, Jou HJ, Wang TA. Sesame ingestion affects sex hormones, antioxidant status and blood lipids in postmenopausal women. J Nutr. 2006 May;136(5):1270-5.
  3. Chen PR, Chien KL, Su TC, Chang CJ, Liu TL, Cheng H, et al. Dietary sesame reduces blood cholesterol levels and enhances antioxidant capacity in hypercholesterolemia. Nutrition Research. 2005 June;25(6):559-567.