pomegranate

BY EDITOR LL • 3 APRIL 2015

It’s not surprising we are hearing increasingly more about the health benefits of nature’s super foods – seeds. They’re packed to the hilt with anti-oxidants, are tasty and easy to eat,  but exactly which ones should you include in your diet?

Chia For Improved Brain Function and Liver Protection

chia

Chia is becoming a favourite health choice for every day diets and especially vegetarian diets.

Chia seeds deliver a massive amount of nutrients with very few calories  They have been around for centuries, but only recently has the health industry become besotted with their benefits as a super food. Chia seeds were an important food for the Aztecs and Mayans thousands of years ago. They were prized for their ability to provide sustainable energy. Chia is in fact the ancient Mayan word for “strength.”

Chia seeds are high in quality protein, much higher than most plant foods. Protein is the most weight loss friendly macronutrient and can drastically reduce appetite and cravings.

Chia is also one of the richest known sources of dietary fiber. One serving of chia seeds (about 28 g) contains 9 g of dietary fiber. The recommended fiber intake is 28 to 36 g per day, but most people eat much less, about 15 g. Fiber helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, promote healthy digestion, and prevent disease (including heart disease, cancer, and stroke).

The many nutritive qualities of chia seeds listed above have great potential for providing a variety of health benefits to humans if added into the diet. Although human studies are still in their infancy, some of the potential benefits of chia seeds include lowering cholesterol, reducing blood pressure, controlling blood sugar, and more.[2,3,7,8] The consumption of chia seeds  may increase blood levels of the long chain omega-3 EPA by 30% says a new study from the Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina.

Chia seeds are a source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of “short-chain” omega-3 fatty acid, whereas fish is a source of the “long-chain” fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). While growing research has linked consumption of EPA and DHA to heart health, improved brain function and possible other health benefits such as improvement in depression or rheumatoid arthritis, studies are now suggesting that ALA may bring about redistribution associated with heart and liver protection.

The seeds are gluten-free, which also makes them appealing to people with celiac disease or an aversion to gluten.

Pomegranates for Anti-Aging

Pomegranates are the fruit of the gods. A wonder fruit, rich in antioxidants that helps to protect your body’s cells from free radicals, which cause premature aging.

Pomegranate juice pumps the level of oxygen in your blood. The antioxidants fight free radicals and prevents blood clots. This eventually helps the blood to flow freely in your body in turn improving the oxygen levels in your blood.

Pomegranates are especially high in polyphenols, a form of antioxidant purported to help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. In fact, pomegranate juice, which contains health-boosting tannins, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid, has higher antioxidant activity than green tea and red wine.

The pomegranate, with its edible seeds inside juicy sacs, is high in vitamin C and potassium, low in calories (80 per serving, which is just under one-third of a medium fruit), and a good source of fibre. Pomegranates prevent the hardening of the artery walls with excess fat, leaving your arteries fat free and pumping with antioxidants.

A study by the University of Naples School of Medicine in Italy has shown that mice that drank pomegranate juice were able to  signficantly reduce the progression of atherosclerosis by at least 30%

Pomegranate seed health benefits run bone deep; it can can reduce the damage of the cartilage for those hit with arthritis. This fruit has the ability to lessen the inflammation and fights the enzymes that destroy the cartilage.

Here are some good reasons from Dr Furhman on why you must include pomegranates in your diet:

  • Most powerful anti-oxidant of all fruits
  • Potent anti-cancer and immune supporting effects
  • Inhibits abnormal platelet aggregation that could cause heart attacks, strokes and embolic disease
  • Lowers cholesterol and other cardiac risk factors
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Shown to promote reversal of atherosclerotic plaque in human studies
  • May have benefits to relieve or protect against depression and osteoporosis

Many studies show that the pomegranate is one of the most powerful, nutrient dense foods for overall good health. These clinical findings clearly show a correlation between pomegranate compounds and their positive effect on both human and animal cardiovascular, nervous, and skeletal health. This is one fruit that you can’t afford to exclude from your diet!

Flax Seeds Help Modulate Appetite

This seed is easy to add into most dishes and has exceptional health benefits especially for weight management and menopause conditions. Research has shown that flax seeds are able to suppress rises in blood levels of lipids after a meal and modulate appetite. According to research by the University of Copenhagen   flax fiber has been shown to be effective in suppressing appetite and supporting weight loss. Flaxseeds are a good source of dietary fibers, and a large proportion of these are water-soluble viscous fibers.

The researchers reported that “Both Flax drink and Flax bread resulted in decreased plasma total and LDL-cholesterol and increased fat excretion, but the food matrix and/or processing may be of importance. Viscous flaxseed dietary fibers may be a useful tool for lowering blood cholesterol and potentially play a role in energy balance.”

The main health benefits of flax seed are due to its rich content of Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA), dietary fiber, and lignans. The essential fatty acid ALA is a powerful anti-inflammatory, decreasing the production of agents that promote inflammation and lowering blood levels of C-Reactive Protein (CRP), a biomarker of inflammation.

flaxseeds

They’ re also attributed with reducing the symptoms of PMS and menopause, and potentially reducing the risk of developing breast and prostate cancer. The fiber in flax seed promotes healthy bowel function. One tablespoon of whole flax seed contains as much fiber as half a cup of cooked oat bran. Flax’s soluble fibers can lower blood cholesterol levels, helping reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Ground flax seed provides more nutritional benefits than does the whole seed. Grind the seeds at home using a coffee grinder or blender, and add them to cereals, baked goods and smoothies.

Sesame Seeds Help Manage high Blood pressure

 

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Sesame seeds may be the oldest condiment known to man. They are a very good source of manganese and copper, but they are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc and dietary fiber. In addition to these important nutrients, sesame seeds contain two unique substances: sesamin and sesamolin. Both of these substances belong to a group of special beneficial fibers called lignans, and have been shown to have a cholesterol-lowering effect in humans, and to prevent high blood pressure and increase vitamin E supplies in animals. Sesamin has also been found to protect the liver from oxidative damage.

The seeds are also very valuable sources of dietary protein with fine quality amino acids that are essential for growth, especially in children. Just 100 g of seeds provide about 18 g of protein (32% of daily-recommended values).

They also contain folic acid. 100 g of sesame contains 97 µg of folic acid, which is about 25% of recommended daily intake. Folic acid is essential for DNA synthesis. When given to expectant mothers during their peri-conception period, it may help prevent neural tube defects in the newborns.

Sesame seeds have some of the highest total phytosterol content of seeds. Phytosterols are compounds found in plants that have a chemical structure very similar to cholesterol, and when present in the diet in sufficient amounts, are believed to reduce blood levels of cholesterol, enhance the immune response and decrease risk of certain cancers.

Sesame seeds are also high in zinc. Zinc is thought to be good for sexual health (it can help testosterone and sperm production in men), so eating sesame seeds could improve your sex life.

This rich seed contains linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that may help control harmful cholesterol. Toasting amplifies flavor and adds a nice crunch to salads.

Sunflower Seeds Help Mitigate the Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, the body’s primary fat-soluble antioxidant. Vitamin E travels throughout the body neutralizing free radicals that would otherwise damage fat-containing structures and molecules, such as cell membranes, brain cells, and cholesterol.

 

sunflower

Sunflower seeds are a great source of magnesium. Numerous studies have demonstrated that magnesium helps reduce the severity of asthma, lower high blood pressure, and prevent migraine headaches, as well as reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

These seeds are also high in energy; 100 g seeds hold about 584 calories.  Most of their calories come from fatty acids. The seeds are especially rich in poly-unsaturated fatty acid linoleic acid, which constitute more 50% fatty acids in them. They are also good in mono-unsaturated oleic acid that helps lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increases HDL or “good-cholesterol” in the blood.

Many research studies suggest that Mediterranean diet which is rich in monounsaturated fats help to prevent coronary artery disease, and stroke by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.

In a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers published the amounts of phytosterols present in nuts and seeds commonly eaten in the United States.

Sesame seeds had the highest total phytosterol content (400-413 mg per 100 grams), and English walnuts and Brazil nuts the lowest (113 mg/100grams and 95 mg/100 grams). (100 grams is equivalent to 3.5 ounces.) Of the nuts and seeds typically consumed as snack foods, sunflower seeds and pistachios were richest in phytosterols (270-289 mg/100 g), followed by pumpkin seeds (265 mg/100 g).

In addition, sunflower seeds contain health benefiting poly-phenol compounds such as chlorogenic acid, quinic acid, and caffeic acids. These compounds are natural anti-oxidants, which help remove harmful oxidant molecules from the body. Further, chlorogenic acid helps reduce blood sugar levels by limiting glycogen breakdown in the liver.

Sunflower seeds are also a good source of selenium, a trace mineral that is of fundamental importance to human health. Accumulated evidence from prospective studies, intervention trials and studies on animal models of cancer has suggested a strong inverse correlation between selenium intake and cancer incidence. Selenium has been shown to induce DNA repair and synthesis in damaged cells, to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells, and to induce their apoptosis, the self-destruct sequence the body uses to eliminate worn out or abnormal cells.

The seeds are rich sources of many essential minerals. Calcium, iron, manganese, zinc, magnesium, selenium, and copper are especially concentrated in sunflower seeds. Many of these minerals play a vital role in bone mineralization, red blood cell production, enzyme secretion, hormone production, as well as in the regulation of cardiac and skeletal muscle activities.

Cumin Seeds are Rich in Iron and Help with Digestive Disorders

This traditional herb is known for its health benefits and medicinal uses for hundreds of years and is specifically useful in treating digestive disorders and even as an antiseptic. The seeds themselves are rich in iron and help boost the power of the liver.

 

Cumin_seeds

Cumin juice makes for a great tonic for the body even if you don’t have a specific ailment. It is said to increase the heat in the body thus making metabolism more efficient.

Although research is still ongoing, early studies report that cumin, among a number of other spices, can have a powerful effect in preventing diabetes by reducing the chances of hypoglycemia. The animals that were tested showed a sharp decline in hypoglycemia when fed cumin seeds in their diet, and they also showed a decrease in glucosuria, which is a condition where the urine contains too much glucose, also resulting in hypoglycemia and diabetes. Human testing is ongoing, but early reports show that cumin can be a very powerful tool in the battle against diabetes!

Cumin is a stimulant as well as a relaxant at the same time.  However, studies show that the proper intake of vitamins (particularly B-complex) and good digestion help to induce a sound sleep. Cumin helps in both of these factors. Some of the components of cumin essential oil are hypnotic in nature and have tranquilizing effects, which also help to relieve stress and anxiety that commonly causes insomnia.

Cumin also helps relieve symptoms of common cold.  The presence of caffeine (the stimulating agent), and the richly aromatic essential oils (the disinfectants) make cumin an ideal anticongestive combination for those suffering from respiratory disorders such as asthma and bronchitis. It acts as an expectorant, meaning that it loosens up the accumulated phlegm and mucus in the respiratory tracts and makes it easier to eliminate them from the system via sneezing or coughing up and spitting. By eliminating as much of the mucus and phlegm as possible, it can inhibit the formation of additional material and help to heal the initial condition that led to its formation in the first place. If you have a sore throat, try adding some dry ginger to cumin water, to help soothe it.

Cumin is also carminative, which means that it relieves from you from gas troubles and thereby improves digestion and appetite. Due to its essential oils, magnesium and sodium content, cumin promotes digestion and also gives relief for stomach-aches when taken with hot water.

It is also considered to be a powerful kidney and liver herb which can help boost the immune system.

Pumpkin Seeds are a Healthy Source of Energy

This light and nutty seed is high in iron, a mineral that helps maintain high energy levels. Pumpkin seeds are alkaline forming which is very important in today’s world of  highly acidic diets.

pumpkin-seeds

Add pumpkin seeds to your list of foods rich in protein. 100 grams of seeds on a daily basis provide 54 percent of the daily requirement in terms of protein.

According to Dr.Mercola pumpkin seeds are a rich source of zinc (one ounce contains more than 2 mg of this beneficial mineral). Zinc is important to your body in many ways, including immunity, cell growth and division, sleep, mood, your senses of taste and smell, eye and skin health, insulin regulation, and male sexual function.

Many are deficient in zinc due to mineral-depleted soils, drug effects, plant-based diets, and other diets high in grain. This deficiency is associated with increased colds and flu, chronic fatigue, depression, acne, low birth weight babies, learning problems and poor school performance in children, among others.

He also says pumpkin seeds have long been valued as an important natural food for men’s health. “This is in part because of their high zinc content, which is important for prostate health (where it is found in the highest concentrations in the body), and also because pumpkin seed extracts and oils may play a role in treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, or enlarged prostate). Research suggests that both pumpkin seed oil and pumpkin seeds2may be particularly beneficial in supporting prostate health”

Pumpkin seeds are a good source for vitamin B like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 and folates. They are helpful in supporting treatments for depression. The chemical component L-tryptophan is the secret ingredient to boost your mood.

Not only are seeds super healthy for you, they are also great to eat. However, remember there’s only one way to derive the best nutrition from seeds and that is to eat them raw and also as part of a healthy balanced diet!

Compiled by Mila Black, health writer,  for Longevity magazine.