Seeds are the perfect snack. They may be small, but they are packed full of health benefits. They are also versatile and can be eaten as is, added to sauces, used as a topping, or blended into foods.
When consumed as part of a regular diet, seeds provide essential nutrients that boost and protect your health. There are many seeds out there to choose from, but two important ones to add to your diet are sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
Pumpkin seeds, like other seeds, contain powerful antioxidant compounds. Antioxidants protect your body from oxidative damage that can increase the risk of disease. The particularly high level of antioxidants in pumpkin seeds is believed to be the reason for the protective health benefits they provide.
The eyes are exposed to the most oxidative stress due to their high metabolic rate. The main result of this is high levels of free radical molecules. These free radicals cause damage to the eye, specifically the retina. This increases your risk for glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
Pumpkins are rich in lutein, zeaxanthin, and antioxidants, and the seeds protect your eyes from damage by scavenging free radicals. In addition to protecting your vision, pumpkin seed antioxidants are known to improve your overall health.
♦ Prostate and bladder health: Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a common condition affecting men, causing an enlarged prostate. This can cause difficulty urinating along with other uncomfortable symptoms. Eating pumpkin seeds has been linked to reduced symptoms of BPH. Pumpkin seeds are also linked to improved urinary function.
♦ Heart health: The antioxidant compounds in pumpkin seeds protect the heart from damaging free radicals. The natural oil in pumpkin seeds also improves heart health in additional ways. These oils lower both cholesterol and blood pressure, two major risk factors of heart disease. Pumpkin seeds are also one of the best natural sources for magnesium, a mineral many western diets are deficient in. Magnesium supports heart health by naturally controlling blood pressure.
♦ Diabetes management: Pumpkin seeds have been proven to reduce blood sugar levels, which can help control diabetes. The high magnesium content also regulates blood sugar. In addition to this, they are full of fiber that helps to slow digestion. In doing so, the absorption rate of blood glucose is more gradual and prevents dangerous spikes.
♦ Fight cancer: Diets that contain high amounts of pumpkin seeds have been linked to a reduced risk of breast, prostate, lung, and stomach cancers. Studies show that the lignans in pumpkin seeds can help treat breast cancer and can slow the growth of prostate cancer cells.
♦ Sleep better: Not getting enough sleep increases stress hormones and triggers inflammation. The plant compounds in pumpkin seeds can naturally fight inflammation, but why fight it when you can prevent it by getting the sleep you need? Pumpkin seeds are a natural source of tryptophan which promotes sleep. The zinc in these seeds is also involved in a process that creates melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.
Lecithin is a substance made from fatty acids of the sunflower. It has many health benefits but specifically supports the vision. Lecithin is a compound found in many eye medications. Sunflower seeds are also high in vitamin E, an essential antioxidant that protects the eyes. By reducing oxidative stress, sunflower seeds protect you from the development of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Another benefit of sunflower seeds is their anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is linked to some of the most serious and chronic diseases. Increased levels of C-reactive protein, which is a pro-inflammatory compound, increases the risk of both heart disease and diabetes. In reducing the levels of this compound, sunflower seeds strengthen your immunity and health.
In addition to inflammation increasing the risk of heart disease, there are additional factors at play. High blood pressure also presents as a leading cause of heart disease. Sunflower seeds help promote healthier blood pressure levels in several ways.
♦ Compounds in sunflower seeds block enzyme activity that causes the constriction of blood vessels.
♦ Magnesium in the seeds reduces blood pressure by preventing blood vessel constriction.
♦ The unsaturated fatty acids in sunflower seeds are used to produce a compound that relaxes blood vessels and lowers pressure.
The healthy fatty acids in sunflower seeds also reduce LDL cholesterol levels. This is the bad cholesterol that can lead to clogged arteries and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
With regard to diabetes, sunflower seeds have shown promising results for managing blood glucose levels. The plant compound, chlorogenic acid, in these seeds has a natural blood-sugar-lowering effect. The fiber in sunflower seeds also slows digestion. Combining sunflower seeds with carbohydrates can prevent sudden and dangerous blood sugar spikes.
The nutrients from your diet are essential to your overall health. Without these, you become malnourished and at risk of disease. Sunflower seeds are full of fiber to support a regular and healthy digestive tract. Unhealthy diets are associated with digestive issues that interfere with health. Adding sunflower seeds to a balanced diet ensures you will get what you need from your diet to stay strong and healthy.
Bone strength is one thing that naturally decreases with age. Calcium is the go-to resource for building stronger bones, but this is not the only beneficial nutrient. Magnesium also strengthens bones and can minimize fractures and the risk of bone density loss. The copper found in sunflower seeds works with the magnesium to enhance bone and joint flexibility.
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 1/2 cups raw pumpkin seeds
4 cups filtered water, for soaking the seeds
1/3 cup olive oil
1 medium garlic clove
4 sprigs of thyme or oregano
4 sprigs fresh dill
2 tablespoons miso
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 - 2/3 cups nut milk or water
fine grain salt to taste
1. Cover the seeds with 4 cups of water and soak for 4 to 6 hours, or, preferably, overnight. Strain the seeds and rinse well under running water. Drain well and place in a blender along with the olive oil, garlic, herbs, miso, lemon juice, 1/3 cup of the nut milk. Blend until smooth, thinning with more nut milk or water as needed.
2. Taste and add a few pinches of salt and more lemon juice if desired.
Some fat is good for you, and seeds are one of the best natural sources of healthy fats. They also provide essential nutrients and protective properties to help you maintain great health. The antioxidants in seeds are also the best protection for your vision. The nutrients in many seeds are also proven to reduce the risk of certain diseases.
Try the recipe above, sprinkle seeds in your yogurt or smoothie, or just snack on a handful. Adding nutrients to your diet has never been easier.