By Taruna and Dr. Anuradha Mishra
In this modern era of busy lifestyle, maintaining good physical and mental health is very challenging. Everyone is looking for ready to eat nutrient rich food items. Nowadays, the attention of nutrient dense food is gained by oil seeds because of their positive impact on health promotion and disease prevention.
At the present time, the market is full of seed mix, also known as super foods. A lot of options of seed mix are available in the market with different compositions that lead to confusion in the mind of customers. No doubt there are a lot of benefits from the consumption of seed mix, but have you ever thought about the side-effects of consuming seeds? Is it okay to consume seeds daily? What is the best time to consume seeds? How do these tiny seeds provide health benefits?
A seed is a fertilized ovule consisting of an embryo and food reserves for the embryo. Building blocks necessary for an embryo to develop into a complex plant are present in a seed because of which, they are extremely nutritious.
As seeds are a good source of healthy fats, proteins, fibre, and minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, and zinc, as well as vitamin B complex and vitamin E, they are well known for their nutritional and therapeutic benefits.
One of the most important components present in the seeds that are necessary for maintaining human health is the ‘seed oil’.
Common edible seeds suitable for the consumption of humans are pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, mustard seeds, nigella seeds, sesame seeds, etc.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SEEDS
Alkaloids, carotenoids, flavonoids, glycosides, saponins, terpenoids, tannins, steroids, and polyphenolic compounds are important bioactive components found in seeds that exhibit excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
These components are also effective against cancer, diabetes, obesity, neurological disorders, cardiovascular disease, skin diseases, and chronic illnesses.
The health benefits and nutrient composition of some common seeds are:
- Chia seeds: Chia seeds are very popular these days because of the high amount of fibre along with omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Chia seeds are loaded with anti-oxidants. By reducing appetite, chia seeds lead to weight loss and may decrease blood sugar level as they are rich in calcium and phosphorus, they also promote bone health.
- Sesame seeds: Sesame seeds are a source of good fat that helps in reducing bad cholesterol. They are also rich in polyphenols, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, etc. Sesame seeds are well known for reducing the stress hormone. They also aid in reducing inflammation as they are warm in nature and boost the immune system.
- Sunflower seeds: They are a rich source of omega-6, mono-unsaturated fats, protein as well as a reserve of Vitamin-E. Studies show that regular consumption of sunflower seeds promote healthy blood sugar levels and lower the risk of developing heart diseases and high cholesterol level. Sunflower seeds also help in reducing inflammation, boosting energy levels. They have the capacity to reduce both LDL and HDL, that’s why their consumption is recommended in a moderate amount.
- Pumpkin seeds: They are well known source of phytosterol which is a plant-based compound that helps in lowering blood cholesterol. Apart from it, they are loaded with omega-6 fatty acid and phosphorus. Pumpkin seeds are good for bones, nerves, and heart. They also promote wound healing, reduce inflammation, and lower blood cholesterol level.
- Flax seeds: They are regarded as a superior source of omega-3 fatty acid and digestive fibre. They may aid in reducing cholesterol and blood pressure.
Flax seeds are known to improve gut health as they relieve constipation.
They also aid in weight loss and control blood sugar levels. Studies suggest that flax seeds can also reduce the risk of cancer.
- By maintaining satiety for longer periods of time and supplying energy, seeds aid in weight loss.
- High levels of mono unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in seeds lower the LDL in body and maintain heart health.
- Seed protein is a good source of plant protein and is healthier than animal protein. Seed protein is high in Arginine, that relax blood vessels.
- Regular consumption of seeds reduces the risk of blood clotting and blood coagulation.
- Seeds promote gut health, as they contain high amount of dietary fibre and help in getting rid of toxins.
- Make skin, nails and hair healthy as they are full of antioxidants.
SEEDS TO AVOID
No doubt seeds are known to be a good source of life-enhancing nutrients. But every seed is not good for human health, as consumption of some harmful seeds may lead to life-threatening disorders. Few of the seeds that are not good for consumption:
- Tomato seeds: It is advised that tomato seeds should not be consumed in huge amount on a daily basis. As studies have suggested that consumption of tomato seeds can result in developing kidney stones.
- Apple seeds: A compound ‘amygdalin’ is present in apple seeds as a part of the seed’s chemical defence, which is poisonous to humans. During chewing or digestion of amygdalin, hydrogen cyanide is released which is toxic and can even result in death.
- Litchi seeds: Some natural toxins that are present in the seeds of litchi can be deadly to humans when consumed. As per the research, a particular kind of amino acid is found in litchi seeds that can cause brain inflammation and has an impact on blood glucose level.
Seeds of apricot, plums, cherries, and peaches also contain some cyanogenic compounds that can be harmful to human health. So, it is better to avoid eating their seeds while consuming fruit.
Seeds are undoubtedly nutritious, and including them in daily diet can be beneficial. But too much of good can also be bad. Here are some things that can happen if seeds are consumed in excess amount.
- Overeating of seeds can lead to obesity instead of weight loss, as they provide high calories.
- Packed seed mixes that are available in the market contain added sugar, salt and preservatives that can harm the body and can even lead to food intolerance.
- In some individuals, seeds can cause allergic reactions.
- Some seeds may cause low blood pressure, abdominal pain, nausea, and bloating when taken in excess.
- Seeds can elevate the levels of tannins as well as phytate, as seeds are rich in fiber.
High level of tannins and phytate can cause digestive issues and may cause bloating, diarrhea or intestinal gas.
WAYS TO ADD SEEDS TO DIET
Add a variety of seeds or add seed mix to get maximum benefits instead of sticking to one type only. Pick a seed mix that contains chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, etc.
One can easily make a healthy seed mix at home by adding the above mentioned seeds in equal quantities. You can modify your seed mix by adding or eliminating one or more seeds according to your body’s requirements.
- Add some seeds to breakfast or take seed mix as an evening snack.
- Eat night-soaked seed mix in the early morning empty stomach with a glass of water to get maximum benefits.
- Sprinkle a handful of seeds on top of salad, curries, oats, snacks, sprouts, etc.
- Try to add seeds in fruit shakes, yoghurt, etc.
- Make energy bars, bites and chocolates with seeds.
- Add seeds on the top of cakes, muffins, cookies, cupcakes before baking.
- Try to mix it with dry fruits, whole grains, etc.
- Eat chia seed pudding, cupcakes or try chia seed jam with bread.
It is recommended to consume small amounts or 1 spoon seed mix daily or 3 to 4 times a week. One should drink at least 1.5L of water if he/she is consuming seeds without soaking. Overall, with moderation and not overdoing it, one can yield the most positive results from using seeds regularly.
About the Author
By Taruna and Dr. Anuradha Mishra, Department of Food Science and Technology, MMICT and BM (HM), Maharishi Markandeswar deemed to be University (MMDU), Mullana, Ambala.