Seeds provide plenty of health benefits

Your budgie might have been on to something - seeds, though not necessarily the kind in an avian diet, are great for your health.

The little kernels are chock-full of nutrients, making them an easy snack or simple way to boost the goodness levels in your breakfast or lunch.

While not as popular as their partner in crime the nut, seeds have been a part of human diets for thousands of years, particularly in South American countries.

Though their benefits haven't been widely appreciated in the past few decades, as people look for ways to improve their eating habits without too much fuss, seeds have enjoyed a resurgence.

Different types of seeds are being added to breads, smoothies and muesli.

Accredited practising dietitian Dr Elizabeth Neale from Landmark Nutrition says seeds, part of the meat alternatives food group, have a wide range of health benefits.

Research suggests that as well as being rich sources of essential fatty acids, fibre and nutrients such as zinc, magnesium and iron, seeds can also help lower cholesterol, act as an anti-inflammatory and even help stop the spread of cancer cells in the body.

"They're not a magic bullet, they need to be part of a whole healthy diet, so they're not going to be effective if you're eating unhealthily and you add a spoonful of seeds, but they can complement a healthy diet," Dr Neale says.

Chia seeds have recently gained publicity as a super food and have been embraced by bakers, who have taken to adding the little white or black specks to their breads.

You might have already come into contact with the seed when watering your chia pet in the early '90s.

From the chia plant, a type of mint, the seeds were a huge part of Mayan and Aztec diets.

"It's a rich source of an essential fatty acid called alpha linolenic acid, which is also known as short chain omega 3, and that's been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease," Dr Neale says.

"Chia's also actually higher in protein and fibre than grains like wheat, corn and rye, so it's actually quite nutrient-rich."

Flax seeds, or linseeds, are great sources of antioxidants, magnesium and calcium and some research suggests they can help reduce total cholesterol levels.

Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, and sunflower seeds are packed full of iron and zinc.

Dietitian Dr Elizabeth Neale. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Dietitian Dr Elizabeth Neale. Picture: GREG TOTMAN


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