Super Seeds with Super Health Benefits

The health benefits of super seeds are nothing to sneeze at, with dozens of vitamins and minerals, fiber, antioxidants, protein and more. Discover the amazing benefits five super seeds have to offer.

Seeds

Super seeds like chia, quinoa, flax, hemp and amaranth offer amazing health benefits—and they're tasty, too. Clockwise from left: flaxseed, chia, hemp, quinoa, roasted flaxseed, amaranth and red quinoa.

Photo by Bill Milne

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Kim Lutz begins Super Seeds (Sterling Publishing Co., 2014) by exploring the astonishing nutrient profiles and health benefits of super seeds, from providing vitamins and minerals to delivering protein and fiber. After covering everything you need to know about basic super seed recipes and the tools you'll need to use super seeds in various forms, Lutz offers 75 mouthwatering recipes perfect for vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free diets. The following excerpt is from Chapter 1, "The Power of Super Seeds."

Super seeds are itty-bitty powerhouses that aren’t just loaded with nutrients, they are popular, versatile players in the kitchen, whether you’re enjoying quinoa as a side dish or tossing some flaxseed meal into a batch of breakfast muffins. Super seeds bring something nourishing and delicious to the table every day and at every meal. Explore the astonishing nutrient profiles and health benefits of chia, quinoa, flax, hemp, and amaranth seeds with this handy guide. They all deliver dozens of vitamins and many minerals, plus fiber, antioxidants, fatty acids, amino acids, protein, and much more. Here you’ll discover just how powerful these little seeds truly are.

Super Seed Recipes

Quinoa Veggie Burger Recipe
Hemp Pesto Recipe

Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

The nine essential amino acids in chia make it a high-quality source of protein. One ounce (a little less than 2 tablespoons) of chia delivers a whopping 11 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein. It’s the dietary fiber in chia that helps make it so filling. Many people are turning to chia to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. The fiber in chia keeps you feeling full and allows for a slower breakdown and absorption of food. Chia also can contribute to strong bones with healthy doses of calcium, phosphorus, and manganese.

Health Benefits of Quinoa

There’s a reason this South American seed is at the top of so many superfood lists. One cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of complete protein and 5 grams of dietary fiber. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Essential amino acids are the amino acids that must come from our food, since our bodies are unable to produce them. Quinoa is rich in several of these essential amino acids, making it an excellent source of plant-based protein. Since quinoa is cholesterol-free and also full of fiber, it is a healthy alternative to animal-based sources of protein, including meat and cows’ milk. In addition, quinoa contains more than 10 percent of the dietary recommended daily allowance for a wide range of vitamins that includes thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and folate, and it is packed with minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and manganese.

Health Benefits of Flaxseed

Ground flaxseed is an excellent source of fiber (each tablespoon contains about 8 grams) as well as a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, copper, thiamin, and manganese. Also, since flax can be used to take the place of eggs, it is particularly helpful to folks who need to watch their intake of dietary cholesterol. In fact, all five super seeds are cholesterol-free. Whole flaxseed is encased in a very tough exterior, however, making it indigestible unless it is ground. Because it can pass through the digestive system intact, however, some people use whole flaxseed as a laxative. In addition, flax—and hemp seed, as well—is a very good source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, which play a role in protecting against inflammation and high blood pressure.

Health Benefits of Hemp Seeds

Hemp seed is loaded with protein. Just one ounce (3 tablespoons) of shelled hemp seeds contains more than 10 grams of protein. You can eat either whole hemp seed or shelled hemp seed. I prefer shelled, or hulled, hemp seeds (also called hemp hearts) because they are easier to eat. (Although the hull also contains nutrients, it is fibrous, crunchy, and a bit hard to chew.) Hemp seeds taste nutty and have a nutty texture, and since they are seeds, they are a great alternative to nuts for people who are nut allergic. Not only are hemp seeds loaded with protein (2 tablespoons have 10 grams of protein) they are also a good source of other important nutrients including iron, magnesium, and zinc, all of which are crucial minerals for good health.

Health Benefits of Amaranth

This seed truly is the king of all seeds when it comes to protein. One cup of cooked amaranth contains more than 9 grams of protein. Unlike a lot of other plant-based proteins, amaranth contains all the amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that we need, making it a complete protein. Amaranth is also a good source of fiber (5.2 grams per cup), unlike animal proteins. When you consider the vitamins and minerals that are packed into this grainlike seed, you can’t help but be wowed. One cup of cooked amaranth contains more than 10 percent of the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, and selenium; and it is a fantastic source of magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese. And amaranth is gluten-free.

Vitamins, Minerals and Other Important Chemical Elements in Super Seeds

Vitamin B6 is necessary for more than 100 enzyme reactions and is involved in metabolism, brain development, and immune function.
Folate is a form of vitamin B and is necessary for cell division and DNA synthesis.
Calcium contributes to strong bones, helps muscles move, sends messages through the nerves, and helps blood circulation.
Zinc helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses; it also helps heal wounds.
Copper helps form strong and flexible connective tissue. It also plays a critical role in cellular energy production.
Selenium is important for reproduction (a deficit may contribute to male infertility), thyroid function, and protecting the body from infection.
Magnesium contributes to bone formation.
Phosphorus is important for bone health, DNA and RNA formation, and for oxygen delivery to body tissues.
Manganese is a component of many essential enzymes that work with bone development, metabolism, and wound healing.
Thiamine is also known as vitamin B1 and helps our bodies convert carbohydrates into fuel. It also contributes to a strong immune system.
Iron is essential for a healthy body. It helps metabolize protein and contributes to healthy blood.


Reprinted with permission from Super Seeds: The Complete Guide to Cooking with Power-Packed Chia, Quinoa, Flax, Hemp & Amaranth © 2014 by Kim Lutz, Sterling Publishing Co. Photography by Bill Milne.