Chia, sunflower, flax, sesame seeds… These small foods are praised for their great nutritional richness. In greater or lesser quantities depending on each variety, the seeds contain various minerals (magnesium, potassium, zinc, etc.), a good content of fibre, protein and interesting fatty acids.
What are the most beneficial seeds for our health, and how to integrate them into our daily diet? Aurélie Biron-Paumard, dietitian nutritionist for WW, enlightens us.
Are seeds superfoods?
“Always be wary of trendy foods labeled ‘superfoods’ because a ‘superfood’ does not exist. There is no food that rises above another: each food has its place in a balanced and varied diet. The problem, when we talk about ‘superfoods’, is to consume them in too large quantities, which risks unbalancing the diet. We must not fall into the trap of saying ‘this or that seed contains a lot of fibre, so I sprinkle as much as possible on my plate and I can, for example, do without vegetables as sources of fibre'”, explains the nutritionist.
And to continue:The seeds are interesting as a bonus. Because in reality, they are not consumed in large enough quantities to have great nutritional benefits. On the other hand, we must not forget the “pleasure” aspect! In terms of taste, their different tastes and crunchy texture have a real role to play. Moreover, they are not considered as ingredients strictly speaking but rather as spices or seasonings”.
Each seed has its benefits
- Chia seeds, an interesting satiety effect
These tiny black seeds from Mexico are renowned for their natural “appetite suppressant” effect. Where do they get this power from? Their high fiber content (34g per 100g), which swells and forms a gel by mixing with water in the stomach. They thus ensure a prolonged feeling of satiety and keep us away from small untimely nibbling. Another advantage of chia seeds: they are mines of omega-3, these famous “good fats” that we do not consume enough in our modern diet.
How to taste them? Their rather neutral taste allows them to be used in many recipes: sprinkled on a salad, incorporated into a cake, a yogurt or a smoothie, everything is possible! “Be careful, however, not to over-consume them, warns Aurélie Biron-Paumard. Because their high fiber content can also play tricks on fragile intestines and cause constipation or diarrhea”.
The right amount? 15g maximum per day or about a tablespoon.
- Flax seeds, valuable sources of omega-3s
Their main interest lies in their richness in omega-3 fatty acids, the benefits of which are no longer touted for the body: they improve cardiovascular health, help to lower bad cholesterol, protect the eyes, the brain, the nervous system … In short, there is everything to gain by integrating these small seeds into our daily dishes (salads, gazpachos, soups, homemade breads…). Note that they are not lacking in fiber either (27.3g per 100g), or even vegetable protein (20.2g per 100g).
To best assimilate their benefits, they should be consumed in ground or crushed form. But again, moderation is key! “Flax seeds naturally contain cyanide, explains Aurélie Biron-Paumard. You’re safe if you eat a little bit every day, but you can’t make bowls of flaxseed. In very high doses, their consumption can lead to many health problems”.
- Sesame seeds, rich in calcium
Fairly low in fiber (7.9g per 100g) and omega-3 fatty acids, they mainly make the difference thanks to their high calcium content (962 mg per 100g). Unfortunately, other substances present in their composition decrease the absorption of this mineral which contributes in particular to the formation and solidity of bones and teeth.
We can therefore use their slight bitterness to flavor salads or dishes from elsewhere (curry, hummus, etc.) but they should not be counted on to completely replace other calcium-rich foods such as dairy products or certain leafy vegetables. (spinach, lamb’s lettuce, etc.).
“Especially since we must remember that we never consume 100g of seeds, rightly underlines Aurélie Biron-Paumard. We eat about 10g of it, so all the nutritional values should be divided by ten.”
Additional contributions, through a balanced and varied diet, are therefore absolutely necessary.
- Sunflower seeds, a great source of energy
Unlike most other seeds, sunflower seeds contain little fiber (6.4g per 100g), which has the advantage of making them more digestible for capricious intestines.
They are however quite rich in omega-6 fatty acids – already very present in our diet – and much less in omega-3 fatty acids, those that we must seek to consume as a priority. It should therefore not be abused, “especially since like all seeds, they remain rich in fatty acids and are therefore a little caloric (about 600 kcal per 100g, editor’s note)”, adds Aurélie Biron-Paumard.
In terms of recipes, they are perfect for adding a touch of crunch to breakfasts, incorporated into muesli or homemade granola. Of course, it goes without saying that they should not be chosen salted, but natural.
- Pumpkin seeds, rich in protein
Particularly rich in vegetable proteins (36.4g per 100g), pumpkin seeds are useful as part of a vegetarian diet. Like all seeds, it also has an interesting palette of minerals with a good content of magnesium, zinc, copper or even potassium.
Tasty with their nutty taste, they are among the rare seeds to be thick enough to be pecked as they are. The good idea? Toast them to make them even more crunchy and tasty, and serve them as an aperitif, sprinkled with a good dose of paprika.