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Seeds: Small in Size, Big in Nutrition: Seeds are rich in healthy fat, fiber, and protein.

It's easy to overlook seeds when you're planning healthy meals, but they provide a big bang for your nutrition buck. Many varieties of seeds contain alphalinolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid. Research has shown that ALA can help protect blood vessels from inflammatory damage and lower the risk of atherosclerosis (narrowing and hardening of the arteries).

Seeds are also rich in fiber, and higher fiber intake has been linked with a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, as well as improving digestive health and preventing constipation. And, seeds provide protein that your body needs for muscle maintenance and growth, healthy bones, and production of enzymes and hormones.

Here are more details on some of the most popular seeds on the market right now: Flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and sunflower seeds.

Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, flaxseeds are very high in lignans, fiber compounds that act as powerful antioxidants, and mucilage, a type of fiber that may improve absorption of nutrients. One ounce (about three tablespoons) of flaxseeds contains 5 grams (g) of protein, 8 g of fiber, and several other nutrients, including thiamin, magnesium, copper, and manganese.

Research has linked flax consumption with lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels and blood pressure, as well as less plaque buildup in arteries. A diet that includes flaxseed may also help regulate blood glucose and relieve constipation.

To get the most nutrients out of flaxseeds, use ground flaxseed; whole flaxseeds aren't broken down in your digestive tract. You can easily grind flaxseed in a spice or coffee grinder. Or, you can buy flaxseed that has already been ground; flax meal and milled flaxseed are the same as ground flaxseed.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds provide a healthy dose of protein (4 g) in a one-ounce serving (about two tablespoons), as well as omega-3 fatty acids and 11 g of fiber. Chia seeds are also good sources of key minerals, including calcium, manganese, and iron.

Chia seeds contain a type of soluble fiber called mucilage, which supports digestive health by delaying gastric emptying and improving intestinal absorption of nutrients. When chia seeds are combined with water, they form a gel that can help bind ingredients together, so chia can be used as a replacement for eggs in many baking recipes, including cookies, muffins, and pancakes. A general rule of thumb is to mix one tablespoon of chia seeds with three tablespoons of water and substitute it for one egg in a recipe.

Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds provide you with an impressive nutrient load: Each one-ounce serving (about three tablespoons) provides 10 g of protein, 10 g of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, and 3 g of fiber. Other nutrients in hemp seeds include iron, thiamin, magnesium, zinc, and manganese.

Hemp is finally overcoming its negative reputation based on its relative, the marijuana plant. Hemp plants have an extremely low cannabinoid content (the substance that produces a psychoactive effect in marijuana), so eating hemp seeds will not cause you to "get high" if you eat them.

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are a superfood when it comes to vitamin E; a one-ounce serving provides 11 international units (IUs) of vitamin E, which is about half of the daily recommended dietary allowance. Sunflower seeds also provide heart-healthy fats, protein (5 g per ounce), fiber (3 g per ounce), in addition to copper, manganese, selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, and phytonutrients, such as cholesterol-lowering phytosterols. Choose dried or dry-roasted, unsalted seeds rather than seeds roasted in oil, to to limit your consumption of salt and processed oils.

Storage Tips

Since seeds contain fat that can break down and go rancid, proper storage is important. Keep all of your seeds in a tightly sealed container in a cool place, such as your refrigerator or freezer. Storing seeds in a warm pantry or kitchen can cause them to go rancid more quickly, as well as depleting the seeds of some of their healthy properties.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Boost your seed consumption by:

* Stirring seeds into your oatmeal or sprinkling them over your cereal.

* Making a healthy smoothie by blending seeds with fruit, ice, and low-fat yogurt.

* Tossing some seeds into stews, casseroles, side dishes, and meat loaf.

* Sprinkling seeds over green salads.

* Giving cookies, muffins, and pancakes a nutrition boost by adding seeds to the dough or batter.

Caption: Stir a spoonful of seeds into oatmeal for an even healthier breakfast option.
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Title Annotation:NUTRITION
Publication:Women's Health Advisor
Date:Mar 30, 2019
Words:743
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