Seeds are tiny, nutritional powerhouses. A good source of complete protein and phytochemicals, they reduce both unnecessary inflammation and lower cancer risk. Here’s a rundown of several beneficial seeds you can easily incorporate into your diet:
Pseudo-grains: Quinoa, Millet, Buckwheat, and Amaranth
Quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, and millet are often classified as grains, but they are actually seeds. This is an important differentiation because, unlike grains, these seeds contain the essential amino acids that the body cannot synthesize, making them complete proteins. (Grains are often missing Lysine.) Additionally, these seeds are gluten-free, and easily digestible. In traditional Chinese medicine, millet is thought to be healing to many digestive ailments, and is considered to be a building block, along with rice, in the maintenance of healthy digestion.
Seeds Rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Chia, hemp, and flax seeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as soluble dietary fiber, protein, and phytochemicals. Upon digestion, chia seeds create mucilage, a gelatinous substance, which is soothing to the G.I. tract. Several studies have indicated that both the chia seeds and its mucilage are protective in animal models of inflammatory arthritis.
Flax seeds contain both insoluble and soluble fiber which increases bowel motility, supports the microbiota, and lowers total cholesterol and triglycerides. It has also been found to be protective to the liver in fatty liver syndrome, and it improves insulin resistance in diabetics. The whole seed cannot be absorbed in the body. Therefore, flax should be ground and kept in the refrigerator to exert its’ physiologic benefits.
Spices and Berries
One of the most well studied seed-spices is nigella, sometimes referred to as black cumin, or black seeds. Nigella has been studied in rheumatoid arthritis and been shown to reduce levels of inflammatory markers and improve pain. Cumin and coriander, which are widely used throughout the world in cooking, are potent anti-inflammatory agents which also aid in digestion. Berries including strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries contain small seeds which have potent anti-cancer phytochemicals.
Here’s how to get seeds into your diet:
Swap out grains for quinoa, millet, and amaranth, all of which make good breakfast porridges.
Sprinkle ground flaxseed onto yogurt, berry compote or over nut butters on toast.
Have fresh or cooked frozen berries daily.
Use whole seeds in your cooking for both expanded flavor and nutrition.
Kitchen-Prescription Recipe: Crispy, Seeded Quinoa with Roasted Cauliflower and Tahini
3 cups of cooked, cooled brown quinoa
3 tablespoons of expeller pressed grape seed oil
2 teaspoons whole spices-a mix of cumin, coriander, nigella, or fenugreek
2 tablespoons of Chia seeds
2 tablespoons of hemp seeds
1 medium head of cauliflower, broken into bite sized florets
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 tablespoons of tahini-middle eastern sesame paste
Sumac and chopped fresh mint for serving
Preheat the oven to 400°. In a cast-iron pan heat the grapeseed oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the whole spices and toast in the oil for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Stir in the cooked quinoa, Chia seeds, and hemp seeds, and combine with the spiced oil. Season to taste with up to 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Scrape the mixture onto a sheet pan, and spread the grains into a thin layer. Bake in the over, and check the mixture every 10 minutes, stirring so that the contents of the bottom of the pan reach the top. Continue to do this for approximately 25 minutes, or until the mixture is considerably drier and crispy. Remove from the oven.
While the quinoa is crisping, make the roasted cauliflower. Toss cauliflower with the olive oil and sprinkle with half a teaspoon of kosher salt. Spread onto another sheet pan, and roast for approximately 25 minutes, or until the cauliflower is soft and browned in areas.
To serve, spoon the crispy quinoa onto a plate, topped with roasted cauliflower, drizzle with tahini, and sprinkle with sumac and fresh mint.
Give your quinoa a quick rinse before using. Saponin, the bitter, soapy substance that protects the quinoa plant from fungal and insect attacks, also contains toxins that can cause stomach irritation in some people. While the level of toxicity is low, some people may be sensitive to this compound.
Buy spices from a company with the shortest supply chain possible—ideally one that sources spices straight from their origin and sells them directly to you. Here are a couple vetted sources: