February is Heart Health month. This week my 6-year-old daughter created a pinecone birdseed feeder using seeds and peanut butter and hung it outside to feed the birds during the winter. This got me thinking about seeds and how these tiny, unassuming, plant parts can have a big impact on our heart health. Many seeds contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a polyunsaturated fat, that has proven benefits to cardiovascular health. The recommended intake of ALA is 1.6 grams per day for adult males, and 1.1 grams per day for adult females. i As part of a heart healthy diet, as little as 1 tablespoon of seeds each day may lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and act as an anti-inflammatory. Highlighted below are three seeds and ideas for adding them to your diet.
The chia plant produces tiny black, gray, or white seeds that are an excellent source of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), fiber, minerals (calcium, phosphorous), and antioxidants. One tablespoon of chia seeds, provides 1.3 grams of ALA. Chia seeds absorb liquids and can be added to smoothies, yogurt, or a bowl of oatmeal. I often add them to baked goods like muffins, quick breads, and cookies.
To benefit from the many healthy components of a flaxseed, be sure to grind it. You can purchase flaxseed already ground, or you can use a coffee grinder to grind it yourself at home. Keep ground flaxseed in the freezer as it will go rancid at room temperature. One tablespoon of ground flaxseed provides 2.4 grams of ALA. ii Ground flaxseed can be mixed into chicken or tuna salad, pancake batter or other baked goods. You can also use ground flaxseed as an egg replacement in baking recipes by mixing 3 tablespoons of water with 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed (equal to 1 egg).
Sesame Seeds are one of the richest sources of lignans, a component of some plants that have been found to reduce inflammation and decrease cholesterol. iii The beneficial nutrients in sesame seeds are best absorbed when ground. One easy way to incorporate this into your diet is to eat foods containing tahini (toasted, ground sesame paste), a main ingredient in hummus. Hummus comes in lots of flavor varieties and is great as a dip for cucumbers, other veggies, or whole wheat pita bread. Hummus is a favorite snack of my 6-year-old, and a favorite way our family makes seeds part of our diet.
Make a tiny change this month and find a way to add seeds into your heart-healthy routine. I hope you find one of these ideas a new favorite for you!
i Santora Zimmerman, MS, RDN, Jacqueline. “Health Benefits of Chia – Learn About Its History, Nutrient Composition, and Current Research Regarding Its Health Benefits.” Today’s Dietitian, Vol. 19, No. 1, January 2017, P.44. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0117p44.shtml
ii Webb, Phd, RD, Denise. “Nuts & Seeds.” Today’s Dietitian, Vol. 21, No. 3, March 2019, P. 20. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0319p20.shtml
iii Dickinson, Grace. “Going Nuts – For Nut and Seed Butters, That Is.” Today’s Dietitian, Vol. 15, No. 9, September 2013, P. 64. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/090313p64.shtml