The list of edible seeds includes a mix of well-known seeds and nuts, as well as less familiar members, such as hemp seeds. Beans and grains are types of seeds, but since you can't eat them until they're cooked or ground, they're usually not included with other edible seeds. You can count on all types of seeds to provide fiber, minerals and cholesterol-lowering unsaturated fats. But keep an eye on portions. Their calories vary a bit from one seed to the next, but they're all high enough to ruin daily calorie goals if you overindulge.
Sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds all contain magnesium, iron, zinc and copper. These three seeds supply at least 10 percent of the daily value, or DV, of fiber and protein, based on consuming 2,000 calories daily. Pumpkin seeds stand out for having more fiber, significantly less fat and only 126 calories per ounce, compared to about 160 calories in the other two. Most seeds aren’t high in calcium, but you’ll get more than 20 percent of the DV from a 1-ounce serving of sesame seeds. Sunflower and sesame seeds also provide vitamin B-6 and manganese.
Seeds With Omega-3
When you need a boost of omega-3 fatty acids, add some ground flaxseeds or chia seeds to your yogurt, smoothie or oatmeal. You’ll get more than the recommended daily intake for alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, in 1 tablespoon of chia seeds or ground flaxseeds. Your body converts ALA into two other omega-3 fatty acids that fight cardiovascular disease. ALA may also keep your bones healthy, according to a study in the “Nutrition Journal” in January 2007. Flaxseeds are one of the best sources of plant-based substances called lignans, which may help lower cholesterol and prevent colon and breast cancers, according to studies reviewed by NYU Langone Medical Center.
Nuts Are Seeds, Too
Whether you prefer walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews or pistachios, eating 1.5 ounces of nuts every day may lower your risk of heart disease when they're part of a healthy, low-fat diet. They contain a variety of heart-healthy nutrients, such as unsaturated fats that lower cholesterol and vitamin E to help prevent blockages in your arteries. Walnuts are at the top of the list for the amount of healthy fats they contain. They're also the only nut with a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids. The best sources of vitamin E are almonds, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. Expect to find calories ranging from about 157 in a 1-ounce serving of cashews to 204 calories in macadamia nuts.
Unexpected and Unusual Seeds
Quinoa is cooked like a grain, but it’s actually a seed. It’s rich in fiber and contains folate, magnesium and iron. It’s also one of the few plant-based foods that provide all of the essential amino acids, so it’s a complete protein. Hemp seeds are similar to quinoa in taste and texture. They're packed with protein, heart-healthy unsaturated fats and plant-based substances called phytosterols, which may lower your cholesterol. A third seed that is gaining attention comes from inside fruits produced by some species of the breadfruit, or breadnut, tree. The seeds may be eaten with the fruit, but when they're dried and consumed alone, they're still good sources of fiber and vitamins C and K.