Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Super Seeds

Good Day Everyone,

I’m going to follow up last week’s Granola Goodness recipe (click here) by talking about the seeds that I use in making my granola. Until a couple of years ago seeds were not a regular part of my diet. My mum has always talked about the health benefits of sesame seeds but I rarely incorporated them into my diet, other than in the form of Sesame Snaps – do you remember those? Although given the sugar content, I’m not sure they were the healthiest way of incorporating sesame seeds into my diet. I’d also eaten sunflower and pumpkin seeds as part of those ready mixed fruit and nut packs but until I moved to Singapore I’d never heard of flaxseeds or chia seeds.
In Singapore we became friends with an Australian girl who was a raw food chef and really into her healthy eating, yoga, liver cleanses and oil pulling and as we spent more time with her, I became more and more intrigued into looking at ways, other than pharmaceutical drugs, to improve my health conditions.  It was this friend, B, who introduced me to flaxseeds and chia seeds and the many health benefits they offer. I've always known that seeds are good for us, just like we all know that fruit and vegetables are good for us and sweets and crisps are bad for us, but it was only when I started researching properly into the health benefits of the different seeds that I realised just how good they are for us.
Golden flaxseeds
These seeds provide an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. They are also a good source of manganese, vitamin B1, fibre, magnesium, phosphorus and copper. Flaxseeds are quite unique within the seed group as they provide some pretty unique benefits.  The first one being the high content of omega-3 fatty acids which help to provide anti-inflammatory benefits (which is great for an arthritis sufferer like me), the second being the high content of lignans which offer fibre like benefits and antioxidant protection, and the third being their mucilage (gum) content which helps to improve the absorption of certain nutrients in the intestinal tract.
Flaxseeds are available in a powder form (as well as seeds) because the powder form is easier to digest and can easily be added to baked foods such as muffins and breads as the heat from the baking process does not diminish the nutritional benefits.
Left: white sesame seeds
Right: chia seeds
Sesame seeds:
An excellent source of copper which is known for its use in reducing the swelling and pain associated with arthritis. Sesame seeds are also a good source of manganese, magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, vitamin B1 and dietary fibre.
Chia seeds:
These seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, fibre, and a good source of calcium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, copper, as well as B vitamins, complex carbohydrates and proteins. Chia seeds have been labelled as a ‘super’ food as they contain more nutrients than flaxseeds and salmon. Like flaxseeds these seeds offer anti-inflammatory benefits which is helpful for people with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Chia seeds are high in fibre and absorb liquid, swelling up to nine times their original size. This means that they are very filling, whilst being low in calories (good if you’re trying to lose a bit of weight). They are also known to cleanse the digestive tract of toxins when eaten soaked in water.
Left: pumpkin seeds
Right: sunflower seeds
Pumpkin seeds:
Good source of protein and many minerals such as iron, zinc, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, copper and potassium. Whilst these seeds are not a very rich source of vitamin E, they do provide vitamin E in a wide range of forms and to reap the benefits of any vitamin it is best to have it in all of its different forms.
Sunflower seeds:
An excellent source of vitamin E, an antioxidant and we know that antioxidants are needed to mop up the damaging free radicals in our bodies. These seeds are also good sources for vitamin B1 and B6 as well as minerals such as manganese, copper, magnesium, selenium, phosphorus and folate.

So there you have some of the benefits of eating seeds :o) I could go into more detail about the different health conditions the different seeds are particularly beneficial for but then this post would become ridiculously long. I’m sure if you’re interested enough you’ll be happy to delve deeper into this yourself :o) 

I would say that most of us are probably aware of the benefits of fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and things such as omega-3 fatty acids but I'm not sure how many of us are aware of the benefits of the different minerals, other than calcium and iron, I know I certainly wasn't. So I decided to include a little section in this post to highlight the main (not all) benefits of the minerals I've mentioned above.

Zinc: keeps the immune system strong, helps heal wounds and supports normal growth
Copper: vital for the proper functioning of the organs and the metabolic process
Manganese: involved in numerous processes such as the processing of carbohydrates and activating enzymes responsible for the utilisation of key nutrients such as thiamine
Magnesium: helps keep blood pressure normal, bones strong and the heart rhythm steady
Selenium: has anti-oxidant properties and plays a key role in metabolism
Phosphorus: vital for strong bones and teeth (works with calcium)
Potassium: vital for the heart, kidneys and other organs to function properly
Calcium: we all probably know that calcium plays a key role in bone health but it is helps maintain heart rhythm and muscle function
Iron: critical for life as it plays a role in making red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body
Folate: the naturally occurring form of folic acid, plays a vital role in many bodily functions including cell repair and maintenance, it plays a key role in heart health and foetal development

Nowadays, seeds have become a regular part of my diet. Not only do I consume them via my granola recipe but I also add them to salads and stir fried vegetables. I quite like to toast my seeds in a dry frying pan before adding them to my salads and stir fries as I like that roasted kind of flavour. I will add flaxseeds and chia seeds to smoothies and desserts but you do have to be careful as chia seeds absorb a lot of liquid and become quite gloopy and will dramatically thicken any smoothie or dessert. Sometimes if I’ve not managed to include seeds into any of my food or drink then I’ll even eat them on their own, a bit like a spoon full of medicine or like you would a handful of nuts.

Now I can’t claim that eating seeds has had some miraculous effect on my health and overall well being, but what I can claim is that by incorporating them into my diet, combined with other health and lifestyle changes that I’ve made over the past year or two has seen me move from one of the lowest points of my life (health wise) at the of 2011, to a place where I am much healthier physically, emotionally and mentally despite my arthritis progressing to more joints. I certainly do feel and notice the difference if I go too long without eating seeds. This may just be a psychological thing in that I’m aware of the fact that I’ve not had any seeds for a while or it could be that there is indeed a difference – who knows? But what I do know is that I feel happier eating seeds because I feel that I am feeding my body good, nutritional foods and I also believe that inner health is reflected in outer health.

I hope this little post has given you some tips or ideas as to how you can incorporate seeds into your diet or at the very least highlighted some of the benefits they offer. Obviously these are not the only seeds you could eat, these are just the five that I most commonly eat. Which seeds do you eat most often? How do you like to incorporate them into your diet?

Love Sheen xxx

Note:  Most of the information about the health benefits of the seeds and minerals has come from the following websites;

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