By Parul Thapar*
A seed is a small embryonic plant that is enclosed in a covering called seed coat and contains the stored food in the form of carbohydrates like glucose, sucrose, starch, etc. The seed consist of mainly three parts i.e embryo, endosperm and testa. The endosperm is a collection of stored food that the young plant uses to grow. The embryo is called ‘baby’ of the seed which develops into a new plant while testa is the outermost layer of the seed which protects the endosperm and embryo from damage through outer environmental factors. In plants, the seeds are of two types- naked seeds which are present in gymnosperms like pine, cycas, etc. that do not develop into flowering plants. On the other hand, seeds found enclosed within the fruit develop on flowering plants called angiosperms. Some of these seeds are edible and some are not edible but give rise to new plants when grow in the soil. The edible seeds include seeds in dry fruits like- almonds, cashew nuts, walnuts, etc.; vegetable seeds like- pears, beans etc.; fruit seeds like- pomegranate, melon etc.; cereals like wheat, rice, pulses, etc. (Fig. 1).
The edible seeds contain nutrients like vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, antioxidants that help in the prevention of certain infectious diseases and can be regarded as nutritious seeds. The various seeds that may help in the prevention of diseases are mentioned below:
- Beans: Beans are a good source of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and vitamin B6(pyridoxine), therefore beans help in the growth and development of the skin and protect the skin from various skin disorders. Beans also contain a low amount of minerals like zinc which is beneficial for preventing and treating skin diseases like atopic eczema. It is a kind of eczema disease which occurs mainly in babies and children. The skin becomes itchy and dry causing redness, swelling, cracking, crusting, thick skin and scaling.
- Nuts: Nuts are the rich source of omega-6-fatty acids and the richest source of vitamin E (tocopherol). Omega-6-fatty acids prevent the skin from inflammation and maintain the cells of the skin. Vitamin E prevents Parkinson’s disease of the brain by acting as an antioxidant that shows neuroprotective activity by inhibiting the free-radicals generated by 6-hydroxydopamine, a neurotoxin which lowers the effect of dopamine (neurotransmitter) in the nervous system. This directly keeps the skin away from getting any disorder. Nuts also contain vitamin B2 and vitamin B6 which helps in the growth and development of the skin and thus protects the skin from seborrheic eczema. This disease occurs due to some kind of fungal infection on the skin. Another cause is the deficiency of vitamin B in the diet. Also, people with Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy are often susceptible to seborrhea. In this disease, there is a development of yellowish, oily flakes on the skin of scalp, face and behind the ears. Nuts also contain minerals like zinc and selenium that help to prevent cataract and macular degeneration of eyes. Zinc along with the enzyme retinal dehydrogenase catalyzes the conversion of inactive retinol into its active form, thus forming active antioxidants and protect the lens of the eyes from damage.
- Whole Grains: Grains like wheat, rice, etc. are the rich source of omega-6-fatty acids which prevents the skin from inflammation and maintains the cells of the skin, thus treating the skin from nummular eczema. In this type of eczema, round or oval patches occur on the skin. These patches are scaly and extremely itchy. It also leads to inflammation of the skin. The whole grains also consist of vitamin E which acts as an antioxidant and plays an important role in the nervous system by preventing Parkinson’s disease of the brain which can also help in the inhibition of eczema. Consumption of whole grains also increases the amount of minerals like zinc in the diet. In the eyes, the zinc along with the enzyme retinal dehydrogenase catalyzes the conversion of inactive retinal into its active form, thus forming active antioxidants. Therefore, the intake of grains in their whole form increases the level of antioxidants (vitamin E and zinc) in the eye lens helping in the prevention of diseases like macular degeneration and cataract.
- Cereals: Cereals like pulses contain vitamins including vitamin A (retinol), vitamin E (tocopherol), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), minerals like zinc and lutein pigment. Vitamin A and E are antioxidants which prevent the formation of free radicals. Vitamin B2 acts as a coenzyme in various redox reactions including the prevention of free radicals, thus acting as an antioxidant. Therefore, the major role of cereals is in the prevention of cataracts of the eyes.
- Wheat Germ: Wheat germ is high in vitamin E (tocopherol) and minerals mainly selenium. Selenium is essential for the formation of selenoproteins like glutathione peroxidase within the lens of the eye. Glutathione peroxidase acts as an antioxidant preventing the formation of free radicals that damage the eye lens. Thus, consumption of wheat germ can control cataract disorder in the eye as vitamin E and selenium combine with the enzyme in the lens of the eye. Vitamin E in wheat germ may also show neuroprotective activity against free-radicals generated by 6-hydroxydopamine, a neurotoxin which lowers the effect of dopamine (neurotransmitter) in the nervous system. Therefore, wheat germ helps in the prevention of Parkinson’s disease. Hence, prevention in Parkinson’s disease also leads to the prevention and treatment of seborrheic eczema.
The intake of nutritious seeds at regular intervals within the diet and in different forms of food can serve as an important meal in the prevention of various disorders of the body and also helps in boosting of the immune system.
* Author is Assistant professor, Biotechnology, CT University Ludhiana Punjab, India