Edible seeds and nuts are not only nutritious but can add a nice crunch to yogurt, cereal, salads and casseroles. Most have a mild, and slightly nutty flavor. They are rich in polyunsaturated fats, fiber, anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin E and magnesium—but they also add calories. Dieters beware—a few tablespoons here and there of nuts and seeds from the salad bar can add another 200 to 400 calories!
Flax is a source of health protective ALA omega-3 fats. You need to grind the seed or else it will passwhole through your digestive tract.
Chia, like flax, is a source of ALA omega-3 fats. ALA is not as effective as fish and animal sources of omega-3, but any omega-3 is better for your health than nothing. When soaked in water for 10 minutes, chia seeds create a gel that can be used as a thickener for smoothies and as an alternative to eggs and oils in some recipes.
Sunflower seeds have a pleasing taste when added to a salad, muffins, or cereal. Sunflower butter is a popular alternative to peanut butter, and is rich in healht-healthy polyunsaturated fats
Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, have a nutrient profile similar to other seeds.
Hemp contains all the essential amino acids, adding aboost to vegan diets.
Sesame seeds have a gentle flavor. They make a nice coating for sauteed or baked chicken breasts (in place of—or in addition to—bread crumbs).
Here is how their nutritional value compares. Note how the calories can add up quickly. They offer some protein, but for a vegan athlete who may need at least 60 to 90 grams of protein per day, they are not a strong protein source. The same goes for calcium and iron; nuts and seeds are a source of those nutrients, but generally not a strong source -- unless you happen to enjoy lots of sesame seeds (for calcium) and chia (for iron)!
I first met chia in the form of a quick-growing plant “pet.” More recently, I was re-introduced to chia at Boston’s Multi-Sport Expo, where I was speaking and selling my Sports Nutrition Guidebook. The Chia folks were in a nearby booth. They graciously offered me several samples of Chia Chargers (www.chiacharger.com) and I graciously accepted them.
It wasn’t until a few days ago that I was hungry enough to investigate my “emergency food stash” and laid my hands on the Chia Chargers. They are small, unbaked “cookies” made with cha seeds, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, cranberries, oats and agave. What a pleasant surprise—the Chia Chargers actually tasted really good and had a fun “crunch” from the chia seeds. The 120-calorie “cookie” was very satiating.
Chia seeds are being touted as the latest super food. They offer some protein, fiber, and health-protective phytochemicals and ALA omega-3 fats. Chia is an omega-3 alternative to flax, and in my opinion, tastes better than flax. In fact, it has very little taste at all … just a nice crunch (sort of like poppy seeds).
Chia seeds can absorb a lot of water. When you eat chia, the seeds absorb the water in your stomach and form a gel. This slows the rate of digestion and has a stabilizing effect on blood sugar. That makes them satiating (that is, they keep you feeling fed).
Some chia-fans claim chia seeds help athletes remain hydrated during endurance exercise. I looked for research with athletes and chia, but found nothing. So I’m waiting for science rather than anecdotes to validate that claim.
For those of you with dietary restrictions who are looking for a tasty, healthful and portable snack, Chia Chargers are soy-free, dairy-free and vegan. They are sturdy “hiker’s food” – a substantial alternative to traditional sweets. Chia Chargers can yummily tame the 3:00 p.m. cookie monster and leave you feeling content and energized. Try them, you might like ‘em!
Disclaimer: I have no connection with Chia Chargers other than having meet the hard-working staff at the Chia Booth who gave me some samples. (I only wish I had taken more!)