What are the health benefits of seeds? Including hemp seeds?!

Big nutritional benefits can come in small packages.

Seeds are one of the easiest, cheapest and most versatile ways to add nutrition to a meal. They can be a sneaky addition – scattered into stir-fries, added to smoothies, sprinkled into cereals, yoghurt or salads – or they can be the centre-stage stars of a biscuit, veggie pattie, raw ball or slice.

Seeds are sources of:

  • soluble fibre (for bowel health, try equal quantities of ground linseeds, pepitas and sunflower seeds on your breakfast)

  • protein (when complemented with legumes, except hemp seeds which are a complete protein – more on them shortly)

  • vitaminE

  • healthy oils

  • satiety(that‘full’,satisfied feeling after a meal).

Seeds are little power houses of healthy fats, soluble fibre and various minerals and vitamins, including vitamin E. They vary in the phytochemicals, minerals and vitamins they provide, so mix them up for a range of benefits.

So what do different seeds have to offer?

LINSEEDS, CHIA AND HEMP SEEDS are rich in the omega-3 essential fatty acid alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which the body cannot make on its own. The Heart Foundation recommends 2g of plant-based ALA daily to lower the risk of heart disease

FLAXSEEDS provide lignans, a type of phytoestrogen that can relieve symptoms of low oestrogen in some women, such as vaginal dryness

SESAME SEEDS are a source of vitamin E and have the highest concentration of phytosterols, a compound found in plant cells that has been shown to help reduce cholesterol absorption

UNHULLED SESAME SEEDS have 9-10 times the calcium of hulled sesame seeds

BLACK SESAME SEEDS are higher in antioxidants than white sesame seeds

SUNFLOWER SEEDS are the richest in vitamin E

PEPITAS (pumpkin seeds) are the most tolerated seeds for a low-FODMAP diet.

HELLO HEMP

Hemp seeds are enjoying a popularity boom, particularly since the Government overturned an 80-year ban on its domestic consumption, which was in place due to drug concerns.

However, hemp is different to other varieties of Cannabis sativa – commonly referred to as marijuana – as it contains no, or very low levels of, THC (delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the cannabinoid associated with the ‘drug’ properties of marijuana.

Hemp seeds are a complete protein and contain all the essential amino acids. They’re now found in many health food stores and, thanks to their deliciously nutty flavour, also some surprising kitchens.

 "They’re great for the nut-free lunchbox and many of the seeds feed the friendly gut bacteria."

Recipe

Raw seed slice

Serves: 30
Prep: 10-15 minutes, then 1-2 hours to set in fridge

Gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, nut free

Ingredients

  • 1⁄2 cup linseeds/flaxseeds, freshly ground
  • 1⁄2 cup sesame seeds (unhulled or black, if available)
  • 1 cup pepitas
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1⁄2 cup chia seeds
  • 1⁄2 cup hemp seeds
  • 1⁄2 cup raw honey
  • 1⁄2 cup unhulled tahini*

Method

  • Line a slice tin (26-30cm x 18-20 cm) with baking paper.
  • Mix all seeds together in a bowl. Place honey and tahini in a large saucepan and melt on low heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring regularly, until a smooth paste.
  • Add seeds and stir well to combine (best achieved with your hands, either by lightly oiling your hands or food- handling gloves with olive or coconut oil, and mush/squash until well combined).
  • Press firmly into the tin and smooth down with the back of a metal spoon.
  • Refrigerate or freeze for 1-2 hours. Cut into small squares and serve immediately. Keep chilled.

Nutritional information

Various sesame bars can be found in health foods stores (and even the local petrol station). This slice is a super- powered variation of the sesame seed and honey bars popular in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine. It combines a variety of seeds, of various tastes and textures, to create a sweet and crunchy slice.

The linseeds, chia and hemp in this slice provide plant sources of the omega-3 essential fatty acid, alpha- linolenic acid (ALA), which in the right conditions can be converted in the body to the same omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) found in fish.

While both omega-3 and omega-6 PUFA are needed in the diet, the western diet often contains too much omega-6 (found in meat and vegetable oils). This slice helps to boost dietary omega-3 PUFA, and get closer to the ratio of omega-3 and 6 found in Mediterranean and Japanese diets.

* For a variation, add 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon.

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