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Sowing the seeds of health

Jean Hailes Magazine 22 Oct 2018
Seeds nutrition magazine health

They may be among nature’s tiniest morsels, but seeds are the big stars of nutrition.

In our 2018 Women's Health Survey, healthy eating was one of the top 5 health topics that women want to know more about.

What many women may not realise is that big nutritional benefits can come in small packages.

Seeds are one of the easiest, cheapest and most versatile ways to add nutrition to a meal. They can be a sneaky addition – scattered into stir-fries, added to smoothies, sprinkled into cereals, yoghurt or salads – or they can be the centre-stage stars of a biscuit, vegie pattie, raw ball or slice.

Seeds are sources of:

  • soluble fibre (for bowel health, try equal quantities of ground linseeds, pepitas and sunflower seeds on your breakfast)
  • protein (when complemented with legumes, except hemp seeds which are a complete protein – more on them shortly)
  • vitamin E
  • healthy oils
  • satiety (that 'full', satisfied feeling after a meal).

"Seeds are little power houses of healthy fats, soluble fibre and various minerals and vitamins, including vitamin E," says Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella. "They vary in the phytochemicals, minerals and vitamins they provide, so mix them up for a range of benefits."

So what do different seeds have to offer?

Linseeds, chia and hemp seeds

Linseeds, chia and hemp seeds are rich in the omega-3 essential fatty acid alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which the body cannot make on its own. The Heart Foundation recommends 2g of plant-based ALA daily to lower the risk of heart disease.


Flaxseeds provide lignans, a type of phytoestrogen that can relieve symptoms of low oestrogen in some women, such as vaginal dryness.

Sesame seeds

Sesame seeds are a source of vitamin E and have the highest concentration of phytosterols, a compound found in plant cells that has been shown to help reduce cholesterol absorption.

Unhulled sesame seeds

Unhulled sesame seeds have 9-10 times the calcium of hulled sesame seeds.

Black sesame seeds

Black sesame seeds are higher in antioxidants than white sesame seeds.

Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds are the richest in vitamin E

Seeds spice and oil 450 253


Pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are the most tolerated seeds for a low-FODMAP diet.

You can use seeds whole, or grind them fresh for better absorption (though make sure you put them in the fridge if you grind them, as their oil goes 'off' if not refrigerated).

Many seeds can also be sprouted, which releases the nutrients such as calcium and zinc from phytates, which bind the minerals in the seed, says Ms Villella. "Sprouting makes the nutrients more available to be absorbed by the body," she says.

Instructions for sprouting are available online, but just soaking them overnight can start the sprouting process.

Hello hemp

Hemp seeds are enjoying a popularity boom, particularly since the Australian Government last year overturned an 80-year ban on its domestic consumption, which was in place due to drug concerns.

However, hemp is different to other varieties of Cannabis sativa – commonly referred to as marijuana – as it contains no, or very low levels of, THC (delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the cannabinoid associated with the 'drug' properties of marijuana.

Hemp seeds are a complete protein and contain all the essential amino acids. They're now found in many health food stores and, thanks to their deliciously nutty flavour, also some surprising kitchens.

Hemp has earned the support of the Tasmanian branch of the Country Women's Association (CWA). It has chosen the plant as its 'primary product of the year' and is encouraging members to use it in cooking and agriculture.

For an agricultural festival near Launceston earlier this year, the CWA women baked hemp seed-coated chocolate truffles and hemp seed-infused shortbread biscuits, offering them for free to patrons in support of Tasmania's fledgling hemp growing and processing industry.

Ms Villella believes seeds are often viewed as the "poorer cousin" to nuts, but that these "little beauties" are an easy asset to add to our daily diet.

"They're great for the nut-free lunchbox and many of the seeds feed the friendly gut bacteria."

Did you know ...?

Sir Joseph Banks sent hemp seeds on the First Fleet, so the fledgling colony could establish a hemp crop to make rope and sails.

Seed recipes in the Jean Hailes Kitchen

  • Raw seed slice: a super-powered variation of the sesame seed and honey bar, combining a variety of seeds to create a sweet and crunchy slice.
  • Seeded crackers: a whole food, gluten-free and grain-free alternative to traditional store-bought crackers.
  • Chickpea & sweet potato patties: these quick and easy vegetarian patties are coated in delicious seeds for crunch and texture.
  • Browse the Jean Hailes Kitchen for more.