Seeds play an important role to your everyday diet

FInd out what seeds provide what nutrients, and why you should incorporate them daily.

Seeds can be a versatile addition to your diet. They can provide you with proteins, fiber and healthy fats that have many added benefits and disease fighting properties. Many seeds can help prevent certain cancers, arthritis, high cholesterol and even heart disease. Here are some seeds that you can simply sprinkle on your dishes to add robust flavors and some crunchiness:

  • Pumpkin seeds or pepitas: These seeds offer protein and magnesium essential in energy production. A quarter cup of these seeds provides you with a third of your daily zinc requirement, essential for boosting the immunity. Use pepitas as a snack, add to your creamy soups or to your salads.
  • Sesame seeds: These seeds are of the sesame plant that is native to Africa and India. They add a mild taste and crunchiness to your foods. They are very versatile and are widely used in Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. These tiny seeds are rich in iron, copper, selenium and magnesium. Sesame seeds can add a crunch to your chicken, fish or baked goods.
  • Chia seeds: It’s the new power-house seed that everyone is talking about. Chia seeds are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and antioxidants. They are also very high in fiber. Chia seeds can be enjoyed in your smoothies or on your yogurt since they have to be soaked before they can be enjoyed.
  •  Sunflower seeds: These were grown for over 5,000 years in the Southwest of the United States. They are full of antioxidants and contain high amounts of vitamin E. In addition, they provide about a third of the daily requirement of selenium. They also provide 20 percent of the folate daily requirement. Enjoy these seeds in your salads, pasta and rice dishes.

Seeds are also high in polyunsaturated fats, which are healthy fats, but can add calories to your diet so make sure you moderate portions. About a handful, equivalent to one ounce, of seeds each day is an appropriate amount to add to your diet.

To store nuts and preserve their freshness, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator or in the freezer to prevent the fats from going rancid. They should last up to several months.

Michigan State University Extension offers various educational programs that focus on lifestyle changes to promote healthy eating. For more health and nutrition tips visit http://msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/food_health.

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