Story of the Super Seeds – part I
Seeds enable a new plant generation, they are rich in nutrients to protect and provide for the embryonic plant inside. Seeds aptly fall under the category of functional foods since they are the powerhouse of nutrition, energy and known to provide numerous health benefits, making them an integral part of our diet. Large categories of seeds are cereals/grains, legumes/beans and nuts. Smaller categories of seeds come from flowers, fruits or vegetables.
The focus of this article will be the smaller categories of seeds like flax, sesame, hemp, chia, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
Research studies indicate a definite association in seed consumption with decrease in risk of diabetes Type 2, some cancers, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Seeds are known for their high fiber, lignan, phytosterol, vitamins and mineral content but the following discusses some other unique benefits.
Flax seeds – Grown worldwide and a good source of plant based essential omega 3 fatty acid, Alpha linolenic acid(ALA). High in lignans, soluble fiber, vitamins, minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin A. Omega 3 fatty acids in flaxseeds contribute to reducing inflammatory mediators. Soluble fiber in flax seeds helps in treating digestive disorders like constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and diverticular disease.
According to a study on 29 Type 2 diabetic patients, supplemented with 10 g of flax seed powder for a period of one month, fasting blood glucose was reduced by 19.7% and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) by 15.6%. A favorable reduction in total cholesterol (14.3%), triglycerides (17.5%), ldl cholesterol (21.8%) was also observed.
Flaxseeds should be eaten ground since whole seeds pass through the intestine undigested. Ground flax seeds are oily and slimy. They are excellent as egg substitutes in baking or for thickening broths, gravy or sauces. They are great to add to flours, oatmeal, shakes, smoothies and milk before bed.
Sesame seeds – Primarily an oil seed crop, they are grown in Asia and east Africa. Part of a wide variety of cultures Asian, Mediterranean, South American, Mexican, because of their amazing health benefits. They are rich in fiber, phytosterols, protein, many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants such as copper, manganese and magnesium. Sesame seeds are one of the most prevalent sources of lignans in the diet, being rich in lignans such as sesamin and sesamol. Sesamol is a phenolic compound in sesame seeds, having anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
As per the ancient science of Ayurveda: sesame is a blood builder, it preserves body heat, and strengthens bones, muscles and even willpower. Consumption of sesame seeds moisturizes skin, hair, strengthens liver and eyes. Due to the health benefits it offers, the effect of sesame seed and its oil have been studied on human health. According to one study conducted on 50 participants with osteoarthritis of the knee, 40 gm daily supplementation of sesame seeds for two months significantly lowered serum total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and malondialdehyde MDA (biomarker of oxidative stress) (P<0.05), while no significant difference in serum values of lipid profile and oxidative stress parameters was seen in the control group (P>0.05).
A review (eight controlled trials, 843 participants) published in Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 2017, concluded that sesame consumption can reduce systolic BP (-7.83 mmHg) and diastolic BP (-5.83 mmHg).
Sesame can be eaten raw, roasted or ground. Roasted golden or black sesame are used to make ladoos, chikki (brittle), mouth fresheners, tahini, zatar seasoning, toppings on sushi, pad thai, etc. Sesame oil is used in Asian cooking to impart distinct aroma and flavor.
Recipe of the month:
- Tahini yogurt dip
- Sesame seeds 3 tbsp
- Yogurt 1 cup
- Mustard - 1 tsp
- Maple syrup - 1 tsp
- Salt to taste
- Lime juice ½ tsp depending on sourness of yogurt
- Garlic - 2 big cloves
Roast golden sesame seeds, cool and grind in a coffee grinder.
In a chopper pulse yogurt, salt, little mustard, garlic, lime juice and maple syrup, until all ingredients are mixed well.
Mix in sesame powder to the yogurt and pulse one or two times.
Enjoy this healthy refreshing dip with wraps, sandwiches, burger, pita bread/chips.
To our health!
To be continued …
Bhavi Nirav is a certified Iyengar yoga teacher, Registered Dietitian/M.S., R.D., L.D., and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org