Know your seeds! December 11, 2019 – Posted in: Sports Performance
Seeds have been a part of man’s diet since the paleolithic era and a significant part of the very popular ‘paleo-diet’ today. Nuts and seeds form 26% of the plant foods consumed by the hunter-gatherer societies all over the world. Seeds are not only energy dense but have a great nutrition profile as well, thus fitting to be a part of the pre-agricultural food of man.
A seed consists of an outer coat, inner germ and endosperm. The outer layer is protective in function, the germ is what would ultimately germinate to form a new plant, the endosperm is the source of nutrition for the growing plant embryo. The outer layer is rich in fiber, the germ is rich in vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds, the endosperms contains a mixture of protein, complex carbohydrates (mainly starches) and fats that provide nutrition to the embryo.
The nutritional profile of the seeds shows variations across different kinds. The amino acid profile of the seeds is not complete and may be needed to complement with other foods for a complete and significant protein intake. Seeds are also rich in carbohydrates and fiber. However, the most amount of energy in seeds comes from the fat content in them. The fat is mainly of the unsaturated type with varied proportions of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). The saturated fatty acid (SFA) content of seeds is low. The unsaturated fatty acids have a range of health benefits such as decreasing blood cholesterol levels, improving insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of metabolic disorders, etc.
Seeds are generally rich in micronutrients such as potassium, magnesium & calcium. Unprocessed and whole seeds have a relatively lower sodium content. The germ of the seeds contains bioactive phytochemicals that have antioxidant properties. The high-fiber content of whole seeds help in glucose control. The phytosterols and tocopherols present in them help in reducing oxidative stress and reducing inflammation. The vegetable protein arginine (present in most seeds) help in increasing nitric oxide production, which is a vasodilator and may aid in getting hypertension under control.
Discussed above is a snapshot of the general nutrition facts about seeds. However, different kinds of seeds will confer a differing range of health benefits depending the varied nutrition content. One thing to keep in mind is the quantity of seeds consumed. An appropriate amount of seeds should be a part of the daily so that we get a significant amount of nutrition from them over-time, since the quantity of the macro and micronutrients in them is not very high given their size.