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If you’re trying to add more plant-based protein to your diet, seeds are a delicious and crunchy way to do it.
Because they must contain the nutrients a new plant needs, seeds are naturally nutrient-rich, and they are easy on the blood sugar level since your body absorbs them slowly.
If you’re trying to boost the plant-based protein content of your diet, here are five seeds that will help you do that.
1. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are packed with nutrients, including protein. In fact, hemp, with 9 grams of plant-based protein per ounce, has more protein than red meat, chicken, or fish.
Plus, these small, crunchy seeds are an excellent source of short-chain omega-3s, a fatty acid that’s beneficial for heart health.
These seeds with a distinctive nutty flavor are also a good source of iron to make healthy red blood cells.
How to add them to your diet?
Toss hemp seeds into steel-cut oats in the morning or add them to your next smoothie or yogurt for extra crunch and nutrients. They’ll add a new punch to your morning porridge.
2. Pumpkin Seeds
Like hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds are a standout source of plant-based protein, with 8.3 grams of protein per ounce. Plus, they’re exceptionally rich in zinc, a mineral your body needs for immunity, wound healing, and fertility.
They are also an exceptional source of magnesium, a mineral involved in over 300 chemical reactions in the human body. They contain a similar iron content to hemp seeds.
Pumpkin seeds alone are a crunchy snack that satisfies an urge for something salty, and they’re easy on the blood sugar because of their high fiber content.
You can add them to baked goods, salads, wraps, and to your morning bowl of hot cereal for more protein and minerals.
When you carve the pumpkin on Halloween, don’t toss the seeds! Roast them in the oven for a healthy snack.
3. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds contain almost 6 grams of protein per ounce, along with a significant quantity of vitamin E, an antioxidant vitamin important for heart health.
In fact, one ounce of sunflower seeds supplies almost half the recommended daily intake of vitamin E. Like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds contain magnesium and zinc.
How can you get the benefits of nutrient-dense sunflower seeds?
Add the seeds to hot porridge in the morning or sprinkle them in salads, wraps, or yogurt for more crunch and nutrients. Some people use them in baked goods too, for extra crunch and nutrition.
4. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are tiny but packed with fiber and modest amounts of plant-based protein, around 4.7 grams per ounce.
Unlike the other seeds on the list, you shouldn’t eat them right out of the package. Instead, soak them in water first. Soaking allows them to expand and form a gel-like texture.
They reduce the blood sugar response you get when you eat them. Chia seeds contain substantial quantities of heart-healthy omega-3s, too.
Once the seeds form a gel, use them to make a tasty breakfast cereal or pudding. The best ratio for soaking them is six parts water to one part chia seeds. Example: 6 tablespoons of water for each tablespoon of chia seeds.
Why would you want to eat chia seeds?
Each ounce (about 2 tablespoons) contains 4 grams of protein. Along with that protein, you get 11 grams of fiber, more than in most seeds and nuts. Plus, chia seeds are an excellent source of calcium for bone health.
5. Flaxseed (3% Protein)
An ounce of flaxseed contains around 5.5 grams of protein, along with modest quantities of calcium.
However, flaxseed has less calcium by weight than chia seeds. Like other seeds on the list, flaxseeds also contain modest quantities of plant-based iron.
But flaxseed also contains lignans, compounds with weak estrogenic properties, meaning they mimic the effects of estrogen on breast tissue when they bind.
However, the estrogenic action is weaker than the estrogen the body produces. Some studies suggest that flaxseed could lower the risk of breast cancer by blocking the action of natural estrogens on the breast, but more research is needed to confirm this.
To get the full benefits of flaxseed, grind the seeds into a fine powder in a dedicated flax seed grinder or a coffee grinder.
If you don’t grind them, the seeds may pass through your digestive tract without being absorbed and you won’t get the full benefits. Like hemp and chia seeds, flaxseed contains short-chain omega-3s for heart health.
To get the benefits of ground flaxseed, add a tablespoon to yogurt, hot cereal, or even sprinkle the ground powder on veggies. Some people also add ground flaxseed to baked goods for extra protein, omega-3s, and fiber.
The Bottom Line
Seeds are a reliable source of plant-based protein, but they also contain healthy fats, fiber, and minerals, particularly iron.
Which should you choose?
Hemp seeds are highest in protein, but pumpkin seeds are richest in zinc and magnesium, while chia seeds are the highest in calcium. Why not include all of them in your diet?
OncologyNutrition.org. “Flaxseeds and Breast Cancer”
MayoClinic.org. “Does ground flaxseed have more health benefits than whole flaxseed?”
My Food Data. “Nutrition Facts Comparison Tool”