April showers bring May flowers. (And what do May flowers bring? Pilgrims! Zing.) But this under-appreciated rainy month gives us a chance to plant more than colorful blooms. Seize springâ€™s sense of renewal and go back to nature â€” by stocking your kitchen with edible seeds. They might be small, but theyâ€™re also nutritional powerhouses. Speaking of small, Iâ€™m also thrilled to introduce Kidz Bytes, a new kidsâ€™ section helmed by Nicole Silber! Check it out below. Happy spring!
Seeds are poised to be the next big superfood, and they deserve the label. But even though they make for a cool clique, each brings unique nutritional benefits to the table. Hereâ€™s the lowdown on why we love each one.
So much more than bagel decoration, sesame seeds are high in calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Theyâ€™re too small for snacking (most will probably end up stuck in your teeth), but there are tons of ways to incorporate sesame seeds into your meals.
Nutrition Highlight: One serving (1/4 cup) contains 35% of your daily calcium, which is especially awesome for anyone who's lactose intolerant or pregnant!
Food Find: Raw Crunch Bars have it all! These are definitely a Middleberg Must.
Suggested Use: Sprinkle on veggies, mix in smoothies, use as a crust, make tahini
Good Read: Here's a deep dive into the benefits of the humble sesame seed.
Recipes to Try: Where do we begin? See the list below!
If you come across them once a year and see them as merely the slimy guts to be scooped from a jack-oâ€™-lantern, youâ€™re missing out! Pumpkin seeds are rich in protein, iron, and zinc. Theyâ€™re also a GREAT source of magnesium, which helps stabilize blood pressure, strengthen bones, and even lessen stress.
Nutrition Highlight: Zinc and magnesium! 1 1/4 cup serving provides 50% of your DV of magnesium (excellent for PMS, bone health, GI health, and beyond). The zinc richness is great for your immune system.
Good Read: See 9 unexpected benefits of pumpkin seeds.
How to Eat: In smoothies, toppings for oatmeal and porridge, mixed in granolas, trail mix and muesli, sprinkled on salads and baked goods, roasted as a snack, as a base for homemade nut butter.
Food Find: Blue Mountain Organics Pumpkin Seed Butter and Eden Foods single-serving salted pumpkin seeds
Recipe to Try: Roasted pumpkin seeds are an insanely easy snack. Theyâ€™ll quell your salty cravings and deliver a satisfying crunch. And this orange and pepita granola makes for a naturally sweet cereal or on-the-go snack.
Flaxseeds are the ultimate oldie-but-goodie. These heart-healthy seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which support heart health. Theyâ€™re also an awesome source of fiber and lignans, a powerful antioxidant. There are lots of ways to eat flaxseeds; The Kitchn has a great roundup of five easy ways to incorporate them into your diet. Plus, flaxseed meal (a.k.a. ground flaxseed) is great for baking â€” and gluten free.
Nutrition Highlight: Omega-3's!
Ground or Seeds? You'll get more of the omega benefits in its ground form.
Food Find: Mary's Gone Crackers Super Seed Crackers
Recipes: As an egg replacer, use this ratio: 1 egg = 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed + 3 tbsp. water. Soak for at least 5 minutes or until gelled.
Thereâ€™s a reason Chia Pets grew so impressively. Chia seeds, which are positively tiny, absorb 10 times their weight in liquid â€” which is why they make such a yummy pudding. Some chia varieties are white while others are black, but the nutritional difference is negligible. (The color really only matters if you want the seeds to visually blend with your food.)
Nutrition Highlight: Digestion + hydration + fiber! One tbsp. of chia provides you with 3 grams of omega-3 ALA and 6 grams of dietary fiber.
Good read: Get creative! Wellness Mama rounded up interesting ways to eat chia seeds.
Food Find: Ummm ... everything, everywhere! But we are loving NuttZo's Power Fuel nut butter with chia. Yes, you can always add chia seeds to homemade or store-bought nut butters, but this one is worth trying!
Important Note: Too much can lead to GI issues. Also, if you're undergoing surgery, chia can act as a blood thinner, so chat with your MD for when to stop.
Recipes: Yup, you can dump a scoop of chia seeds into a glass of water and swig. But these recipes are much more fun!
These itty-bitty seeds, also known as hemp hearts, supply you with every amino acid you need â€” rare in a plant protein. Following a trend you may have noticed, theyâ€™re also high in Omega's. They have a nutty, mild taste, so theyâ€™re easy to add to foods without changing the flavor profile.
Nutritional Highlight: Protein content! Just 3 tbsp. contains 10 grams of protein. Hemp seeds are a great way for to easily get in plant-based protein.
How to eat them: The easiest way to eat a serving of hemp seeds is to sprinkle them on yogurt (much less dangerous than granola), cereal, salads, in smoothies or smoothie bowls.
Food Find: Philosophie makes one of my favorite superfood blends. The Green Dream includes both chia and hemp in addition to other superfoods.
Recipe: Hemp milk is also a great nondairy milk, and itâ€™s easy to make. I also love using it on my avocado toast (spread 1/2 mashed avocado on bread or cracker of choice and add 2 tbsp. hemp hearts and a sprinkle of sea salt)!
Sunflower seeds are very â€™70s, which from a fashion standpoint means theyâ€™re on-trend this season. In seriousness, though, they deliver 100% of your daily requirement for alpha-tocopherol, which is the most active form of the antioxidant vitamin E. In true 1970s fashion, you can eat sunflower seeds raw.
Nutrition Highlight: Vitamin E + zinc (good for your immune system) + protein
Food Find: Go Raw Sprouted Organic Sunflower Seeds
Recipes: Try this tasty pesto (just be sure to soak the seeds overnight) and a creamy DIY seed butter.
Nigella seeds, a.k.a. black seeds, have a peppery flavor that makes them great for cooking. (Youâ€™ve probably had them sprinkled on flatbreads at Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants.) These ancient seeds have been used for basically forever... they were even found in King Tut's tomb!
Nutrition Highlight: Nigella seeds are a nice source of healthy oils/fats.
Good Read: I love this "What the heck do I do with these?" article from Smithsonian magazine!
Food Find: Amazing Herbs Black Seed
Recipe: Squash & nigella seed soup (save it for winter!)
Nigella's Crew (a.k.a. other lesser-known seeds):
- Sacha inchi seeds are super-rich in omega-3's, and they're also loaded with protein and fiber. The Peruvian seeds have a nutty taste when roasted!
- Watermelon seeds! Do you normally just spit these out when eating the summery melon? See them in a whole new way! They're high in protein and have an awesome nutty flavor that you probably wouldn't expect from a sweet fruit. Try Go Raw Sprouted Watermelon Seeds.
Are flax, chia and hemp seeds safe for kids?
Not only are these seeds (and the flour made out of them) safe, but they are great sources of fiber and brain supporting omega-3s. Like with all seeds and young children, be careful as they can pose a choking hazard â€” either grind them up or make sure your child is old enough to swallow them whole. Hemp seeds are both a kid and parent favorite with their mild, nutty flavor. When sprinkled in cold cereal, hemp seeds add protein and heart-healthy fats to elevate your little oneâ€™s breakfast. Flax and chia, whether whole or ground, are great fiber boosters that help manage constipation, and help kids to meet the recommended 18-25 grams of fiber per day. A little goes a long way, so start with 1 teaspoon per day to get small tummies adjusted. Throw these beloved seeds into yogurt, oatmeal, cold cereals, muffins, pancakes, granola bars, and smoothies.Try this fruity recipe for spring: Lemon Chia Pancakes with Mixed Berry Compote.
And if you have picky eaters, try these tips!