Seeds are one of the most nutritious foods available to humans and with a large variety to choose from, they can provide a lot of flavor, texture, and sustenance to our diets. Although beans, cereal grains, and some nuts are all technically seeds, today we'll take a closer look at some of the most common edible seeds.
Chia seeds are one of the hottest food trends of this decade and for good reason. They are packed with vitamins and minerals and supply an extraordinary amount omega-3 fatty acids. These tiny seeds have an amazing ability to form a gel when soaked in water, which makes them an incredibly versatile ingredient. From use as an egg substitute to a soup or smoothie thickener, chia seeds are both helpful and healthful in the kitchen.
Flaxseed, another omega-3 powerhouse, is also prized for its fiber content. Flaxseeds can be purchased whole or ground (milled), depending on your intended use. Whole flaxseeds are excellent for adding texture, color, and fiber to foods, but they are hard to digest and the nutrients may not be as accessible. Ground flaxseeds add a wonderfully nutty flavor to foods and supply a generous dose of nutrients, but the delicate omega-3 fatty acids can go rancid quickly during storage.
Culinary use isn't the first thing that comes to mind for most people when discussing hemp, but the seeds of this hearty plant have a multitude of food uses and an entire food industry has been built upon them. Not only do hemp seeds provide ample amounts of healthy fats, but they contain high levels of protein and all nine essential amino acids. Hemp seeds can be used whole, ground into meal or flour, steeped in tea, sprouted, or even made into a dairy milk substitute.
When most people think of pomegranate seeds, they picture the bright, jewel red sac that surrounds the actual seeds. Together the juice-filled sac and seed are called an aril. The juicy filled sacs are delicious, but the crunchy seed inside each aril is equally as enjoyable and healthful. The crunchy seeds are an excellent source of fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. The brightly colored juicy sac that surrounds the seed is high in Vitamin C and other antioxidants.
Pumpkin and other squash seeds aren't just an autumn treat but can be enjoyed year round. Also known as pepitas, pumpkin seeds can be eaten with or without the outer hull. The tough white hull provides a great deal of texture and fiber, while the inner green seed is soft, tender, and are rich in fatty acids and minerals. Pepitas are a common ingredient in Mexican cuisine where they are used both in recipes and as a convenient snack.
Sesame seeds are tiny and tender and have a very high oil content. When toasted the seeds (and their oil) take on an incredibly nutty flavor, which is often used to accent dishes, especially in Asian cuisine. When sesame seeds are ground into a paste it is called tahini, which is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine. Like other seeds, sesame seeds are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds can be purchased with or without the hull. The hull of the sesame seed is quite a bit woodier than the pumpkin seed and it is usually discarded rather than consumed. Sunflower seeds are known for their high levels of Vitamin E, which has strong antioxidant properties, as well as it's heart-healthy fatty acids.