Seeds Of Life_cover image

Seeds Of Life!

Nature’s Nutrient Powerhouse

  • Why Would You Want To Eat Seeds?
  • Which Seeds Are The Most Nutritious?
  • How Can You Integrate Seeds Into Your Diet?

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth, … to you, it shall be for meat.” Genesis 1:29

There are many quotes relating to seeds. However, this one from Genesis reflects the truth of seeds: Seeds are the genesis of life. Every healthy seed contains the spark of life.  In our bodies, that “Whole, Fresh, and Lively” vitality is translated into nutrition and energy.

We eat many kinds of seeds. In reality, they are the basis of our food intake, taking the form of beans, cereal grains, pseudo-grains like quinoa and amaranth, nuts, and the small seeds we discuss here.

This latter category, small seeds, has been gaining popularity among health-conscious eaters over the last decade.

The trend began with the popularization of the flaxseed, one of seven seeds covered in this issue of Nutrition News.

Read About 7 Tiny, Superior Foods. Look Inside….

Seeds Of Life_cover image

TOPIC: EDIBLE SEEDS

Because of their innate power, many seeds have their own legends. Some have several. One example is the sesame. Thought to have originated in India, Sesamum indicum are sacred to the Hindu elephant god Ganesha. The seeds are eaten to increase one’s life force or prana. The plants were once believed to grow near secret treasures or hidden doorways.

Seeds Of Life!

Nature’s Nutrient Powerhouse

• Why Would You Want To Eat Seeds?

• Which Seeds Are The Most Nutritious?

• How Can You Integrate Seeds Into Your Diet?

Read About 7 Tiny, Superior Foods. 

Look Inside….

Seeds Of Life!

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth, … to you, it shall be for meat.” Genesis 1:29

There are many quotes relating to seeds. However, this one from Genesis reflects the truth of seeds: Seeds are the genesis of life. Every healthy seed contains the spark of life.  In our bodies, that “Whole, Fresh, and Lively” vitality is translated into nutrition and energy. 

We eat many kinds of seeds. In reality, they are the basis of our food intake, taking the form of beans, cereal grains, pseudo-grains like quinoa and amaranth, nuts, and the small seeds we discuss here. This latter category, small seeds, has been gaining popularity among health-conscious eaters over the last decade. The trend began with the popularization of the flaxseed, one of seven seeds covered in this issue of Nutrition News.

There is only one reason – besides possible enjoyment – to integrate seeds into your life and that is Nutrition. These little dynamos are powerhouses of nutrition. Ounce per ounce, they outdo any other whole food you could name every time.

The nutrient components of seeds have much in common: protein, omega-3 and -6 oils, magnesium, calcium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, various vitamins, and fiber. The seeds contain two important phytochemical groups: lignans and phytosterols.1

Lignans are found in plant fiber. They have both antioxidant and phytoestrogen properties. They may help regulate hormone levels, support the immune system, help with menopausal symptoms, improve prostate health, and help control stress. Other areas of lignan activity include the  reduction of LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, a risk lowering effect on diabetes, on colon and prostate cancers, and the support of hair growth. Most lignan research involves flaxseed and sesame seed.

Phytoestrogens mimic estrogen in that they link weakly with estrogen receptors. This can satisfy the menopausal body, reducing symptoms such as hot flashes. The category can be confusing as regards the risk of women’s cancers.2

On the other hand, in a study conducted at Sweden’s  Karolinska Institute, researchers found that men consuming a diet rich in phytoestrogens showed a 26 percent lower risk of developing prostate cancer.

Phytosterols are compounds found in plants that have a chemical structure very similar to cholesterol, and when present in the diet in sufficient amounts are believed to reduce blood levels of cholesterol, enhance the immune response and decrease risk of certain cancers. As we discuss each seed, outstanding nutrient properties are mentioned. 

In general, we recommend purchasing organic seeds. Their rich oil content can concentrate pesticides, which cannot be washed off. This is equally important if you are going to sprout the seeds.

Also, grind the smaller seeds, like flaxseed and chia, before using. This facilitates the absorption of the nutrients. If you grind your supply ahead of time, keep it in the freezer. Their high oil content makes them vulnerable to oxidation (rancidity).

Incidentally, both flaxseeds and chia interact with liquid to form a gelatinous mass. Soaking also enhances nutrient absorption. The resulting seed suspension can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

All the seeds can be used as sprinkles on salads, cereals, and soups; baked into cakes, breads, and muffins (either whole or after grinding); blended into smoothies. Of course, some of them are delicious snacks by the handful. 

Sunflower Seed Here is the original health food seed. In the 60s, “health nuts” joined parrots in nibbling this delicious, nutritious seed. Many were the sore lips from cracking dozens of salted hulls. Today the seeds are universally available in this form (and are a favorite diet food). Plus, they are easy to come by hulled, raw, roasted, dry roasted, salted, no salt, organic or not. They are a staple at our house (hulled, raw, unsalted): on oatmeal, in granola, on salads, and by the handful. We love them!

Called “The Amazing Kernel”, according to research completed by Dr. K. Phillips of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, sunflower kernels have been shown to protect against cardiovascular and other diseases and to contain antioxidants and anticarcinogens (anti-cancer). In particular, sunflower seed is rich in vitamin E, betaine, phenolic acids, choline, arginine, and lignans. (Brain food.) In addition, they have an exceptionally high phytosterol content and are a good source of magnesium as well.

In 2008, Science News reported that a mini-protein from sunflower seeds could be the key to stopping the metastasizing of tumors in prostate cancer patients. Jonathan Harris, who conducted the study, commented that the spread of cancer to the spine is far more deadly than the originating tumor.

A second study from the mid-2000s showed the potential of a rare substance from the sunflower plant (DCQA) to  interrupt the reproduction of the AIDS virus.3 Attempts to follow up on this study showed that work is being done to isolate the action of DCQA, leading “to the discovery of more selective and potent inhibitors in the future” (ie, drugs).4

Flaxseed This is the seed that launched a thousand seed-eaters. Because it is a source of non-animal omega-3 fatty acids, the trend continues. However, the properties of flaxseed go beyond its omega-3 contents. Flax contains seven times more lignans than sesame seed, the next contender. It is also a potent antioxidant with an ORAC rating of over 19,000. (Pomegranates are 10,500.)

According to Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., writing for the Mayo Clinic, “flaxseed may help lower total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels”, both of which help reduce the risk of heart disease. Flaxseed also works to stabilize blood sugar. 

Zeratsky reinforces our contention that flaxseed is best used when ground before eating. Because of its high fiber content, flaxseed should not be taken at the same time as medications or supplements. Also, be sure to drink lots of water when eating any high fiber food. Incidentally, flaxseed helps maintain regularity.

The flax plant has been used since antiquity to produce linen cloth. More recently, before flaxseed was processed as food, it was called linseed. Industrial linseed oil remains popular as a preservative for wood. Also, at one time, the gelatinous substance achieved from soaking the seeds was used to “set” hair in curls. [My mom told me. Ed.]

Chia Seed Yes, the chia seed appears again, this time as the latest seed darling. Chia seeds come from a flowering plant in the mint family that’s native to Mexico and Guatemala. History suggests it was an important food crop for the Aztecs.

Scientific research on chia apparently rests on the efforts of one man, Wayne Coates, also known as “Mr. Chia”. According to Dr. Coates’ blog, chia contains the highest plant content of omega-3 fatty acids. Like the other seeds, chia seed stabilizes blood sugar and contributes to healthy blood profiles, lowering heart disease risk.

In an article on HuffingtonPost.com, Coates recommends one add chia seeds to everything, commenting that, unlike flaxseed, chia seeds don’t need to be ground to impart their nutritional riches. Based on my experience, I suggest you either grind or soak them before eating. In my opinion, one would have to have the digestive system of a bird to get the nutritional sizzle from these tiny seeds.

The editor of  www.rawreform.com agrees with me, supplying a recipe for the basic chia gel. Add 1/3 cup seeds to 2 cups of water. Stir the mixture well to avoid clumping. As with flaxseed, the gel will form in about 10 minutes. It will stay good for about three weeks. To use the seeds in smoothies, one can set up the gel in juice or non-dairy milk.

Pumpkin Seed – Called pepitas in the Southwest, where they are native, these little gems are the up and coming seeds. They are the answer to using those seeds scraped from the Halloween jack-o-lantern.5 The nutrient content of pumpkin seeds makes eating them desirable for everybody.

Known for their support of the prostate gland (possibly because of their zinc and vitamin E content), they have a salutary effect on the urinary tract. The German Commission E has approved their use for bed wetting, irritable bladder, and the urine-drippling of prostate enlargement. The Australian website, www.pumpkinseed.net, reports two trials in which eating pumpkin seeds as a snack helped prevent the most common types of kidney stones, possibly by reducing substances in urine that instigate this problem.

Pumpkin seeds also contain phytoestrogens, which are especially rich in the seed oil. In a  small study published in  Climacteric (May 5, 2011), postmenopausal women showed significantly heightened levels of HDL (good) cholesterol after 12 weeks of a mere 2 grams daily of pumpkin seed oil (about ½ t.) Again, this also supports heart health.

Pepitos contain a wide variety of antioxidants and a generous amount of minerals. Although most research has taken place with animal models (usual with whole food research), evidence points to pumpkin seeds, extracts, and oils to improve insulin regulation in diabetic animals and to have a protective effect on their kidneys.

Uniquely, pumpkin seed lignans have anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. They are widely used to expel various types of intestinal worms.

Sesame Seed – “Open Sesame!” from The Arabian Nights brings us to the unexpected seed. So common – sprinkled on hamburger buns, no less – how many of us think of the lowly sesame seed as a health food? The term “open sesame” is a clue to its origins and magical properties.

Sesame seed contains its own unique lignans: sesamin and sesamolin. Lignans have been shown to have cholesterol-lowering, high blood pressure regulating, and blood sugar stabilizing effects. In particular, sesamin has been found to protect the liver from oxidative damage. 

Recently, the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (of the American Chemical Society) published the amounts of phytosterols found in common nuts and seeds. Sesame seed showed the highest amounts. (Followed by sunflower seed and then pumpkin seed.) Remember, phytosterols are the cholesterol mimics known to reduce cholesterol, enhance immune response, and decrease the risk of certain cancers.

A study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (of the Society of Chemical Industry, August 2008) demonstrated that both sesame seed extract and konjac gum may offer protection against different strains of the E. coli and Salmonella bacteria. The study shows that these substances act as binders with the toxic bacteria attaching themselves to the fibrous foods rather than to the gut cells of the hosts (that’s us). Petra Becker, lead researcher said that a diet rich in high fiber foods may offer protection from G-I infections or reduce the severity of symptoms caused by E. coli or Salmonella.

Appropriately, Dr. Becker commented, “The importance of fiber, particularly from certain foodstuffs, in maintaining a healthy gut and digestion cannot be underestimated”. 

Sesame seed is thought to be one of humanity’s first condiments and surely the source of its first oil (known for its resistance to rancidity). And we love them still. Sesame seeds, plain or toasted, are tasty sprinkled on steamed veggies. Or mix veggies to be roasted with sesame seeds, plus a little oil and salt. Tahini, “sesame butter”, is not just great on crackers but makes a wonderful salad dressing when blended with celery and lemon juice. Halvah is a delicious sesame candy.

Lastly, my favorite is gamasio, Asian sesame salt. In a skillet, toast about a cup of seeds. Stay with them! When they are evenly golden, put them into the blender with some good salt. (Start with <1/8 t.) Blend briefly – until crumbly and still only slightly broken. Taste for saltiness. Serve on steams. So yummy I eat it by the teaspoonful.

Siri Says: Throughout this issue, you see underlined blue words. These indicate hyperlinks. When you subscribe online, one click on the underline takes you to the web and further information about the underlined topic.

Footnotes:

1 The prefix phyto- means plant. Phytochemicals are plant compounds. These don’t contribute nutrients, but contain biologically active components that affect our bodies in healthful ways.

2 The Women’s Sports Medical Center of the Hospital for Special Surgery in NYC has made the following statement: “In a woman past menopause, the weak phytoestrogens supplied in 

a soy rich diet may supply just enough of an estrogenic effect to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flushes, vaginal dryness, mood swings and other common menopausal 

symptoms. Scientists believe this helpful effect is also without increased risk of breast and uterine cancer.” [It. Ed.] They go on to state, “In premenopausal women … eating a 

phytoestrogen-rich diet may interfere with normal estrogen activity. Therefore, scientists are cautious until further research in this group of women confirms the risks or benefits.” Notice 

that this article refers to soy, which is the richest source of phytoestrogens. Isoflavones and coumestans are also phytoestrogens.

3 DCQA is dicaffeoyl quinic acid.

4 AIDS is now a pandemic. In sub-Saharan Africa, it is the leading cause of death. There is an urgent need to develop novel classes of anti-AIDS drugs. Investigation of DCQA activity may

lead to the development of more potent and specific pharmaceuticals for the treatment of AIDS. 

5 Search “roasting pumpkin seeds” online. There are a number of recipes and techniques.

Sidebar:

Hemp: Seeds Of Dissent

My favorite of all the seeds, these delicious buttery bits taste like a bite of a walk in the forest. They are so reminiscent of green freshness. The only seeds with a complete protein profile, they are also rich in essential fatty acids. We love them sprinkled on oatmeal (along with other seeds and fresh fruit). The whole raw seeds are widely available in natural product stores and are the basis for hemp milk and hemp protein powder.

In fact, there’s only one downside to hemp seeds: They are illegal to grow in the US. That’s right! You can buy them. You can eat them. But, you can’t grow them. At this time, most hemp seeds are imported from Canada. 

   Hemp seed comes from a variety of Cannabis, the same family as that infamous “weed”, marijuana. In spite of the fact that industrial hemp contains less than .3% THC (.003 parts per 1000), it continues to be classified as a drug by the feds. This is actually tantamount to banning culinary poppy seeds for their opium content.

A crop with a great deal of commercial promise, in a bold move, California has put a new industrial hemp law into place. Defining industrial hemp as a fiber or oilseed crop (or both) production is limited to the non-psychoactive types of the plant Cannabis sativa L. and the seed produced from it. Perhaps this will start a nationwide trend. Farmers in Colorado are currently growing hemp outside the law.

Sidebar:

Black Cumin: Seeds Of Healing

Well-known health guru Gary Null says, “Black cumin oil is probably the single most important oil you can put in your system”. The danger of non-specific inflammation is common knowledge among health savvy people. Black cumin seed oil has been called “the next generation anti-inflammatory nutrient”. Why? Because it eases inflammation while at the same time enhancing the immune activity of the T-cells.

The Nigella sativa has been  “exhaustively investigated for therapeutic purposes”, including recently for its potential as a cancer therapy. But that’s not all. One trial study shows that it can be effective against arthritis, a highly inflammatory disease. Another study looking at nasal allergies showed that relief from symptoms (via immune stimulation) was phenomenal.

According to Null, HIV-AIDS is one of the most important areas of application. A study investigating the effects of black cumin oil on the immune system reported a 55% increase in the activity of T-helper cells and a 30% increase in natural-killer cell function following black cumin seed oil supplementation.

Called “…the secret of Pharoahs” in an overview from  Cancer Therapy, the seeds of black cumin (Nigella sativa) were mentioned in several articles found in the tomb of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen. BEWARE: This is not your mother’s cumin seed (Cuminum cyminum), the popular spice typical in Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Indian foods. That cumin is from the parsley family while black cumin is from the ranunculus family. Natural News recommends taking black cumin oil mixed with a teaspoon of honey before breakfast for immunity and 3t in divided doses as an anti-cancer treatment.