Last week we introduced our first nut-free flavor, Dark Chocolate Sunflower Mint. Why did we choose sunflower seeds as a star ingredient in our new bar? Seeds can be a fantastic alternative to nuts.
In his book On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee writes a lovely tribute to seeds, describing them as,
“rugged lifeboats, designed to carry a plant’s offspring to the shore of an uncertain future…the distillation of the parent plant’s lifework, its gathering of water and nitrogen and minerals from the soil, carbon from the air, and energy from the sun…an invaluable resource for us and the other creatures of the animal kingdom who are unable to live on soil and sunlight and air.”
Indeed, seeds are little nutrient powerhouses, with a self-contained food supply to fuel their own germination and growth. If you happen to be a botanist, you know that technically the term “edible seeds” includes the three categories of nuts (such as almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts), whole grains or cereals (such as wheat, rice, and oats), and legumes (such as beans, lentils, and peas). When most of us think of edible seeds, likely chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds come to mind. Like nuts, seeds are packed with nutrition, including protein, fiber, heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and plant sterols, which can have a cholesterol-lowering effect. The great news for nut-allergy sufferers is, unlike nuts, seeds rarely cause an allergic reaction in people. So seeds are a welcome addition to almost everyone’s diet.
While each seed has its own unique nutritional profile, as a group seeds offer important health benefits:
- Good fat + antioxidants. Seeds contain mostly cholesterol-lowering unsaturated fats, and anti-inflammatory compounds, which can lower your risk for heart disease.
- Sustained energy. Due to their protein and fat content, including seeds in a meal can help keep your blood sugar steady and improve your energy level and mood.
- Increased satiety. Because seeds are energy-dense and satisfying, they can help curb hunger.
Sunflower seeds in particular are a great source of vitamin E and selenium, as well as plant sterols. Here are some great ways to incorporate many types of seeds into your diet:
- Munch on a Dark Chocolate Sunflower Mint Zing bar for a snack.
- For a yummy dessert, dip dried figs in pumpkin seed butter.
- Add tahini (ground sesame seeds) to Carrot Soup for increased creaminess and a boost in calcium content.
- Try this Pumpkin Seed Parsley Garnish topped on a bowl of soup or your favorite cooked grain or lentil dish.
- Substitute ground flax seeds in place of eggs in your favorite banana or pumpkin spice bread recipe. (To replace 2 eggs in a recipe, grind 2 tablespoons of flaxseed, add 6 tablespoons of boiling water, let sit for 15 minutes, and whisk)
We want to know – how do you incorporate seeds into your diet? Have you tried the new Dark Chocolate Sunflower Mint yet, what did you think?
*Don’t forget to use the coupon code NEWFLAVORS2013 for 15% off both new flavors, good until October 31st 2013. Also enter our contest to win free Zing!
Photo credit: Selva Wohlgemuth
Erin Hugus, MS, CN has a Master’s degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University. Erin is an expert in Diabetes care and is passionate about empowering people with realistic strategies for optimal health. She takes great pleasure in her time spent in the kitchen and loves cooking nourishing meals for her family.