Planting the Seeds of Change

While legumes and grains are seeds, they have different nutritional profiles than the foods we traditionally think of as edible seeds, such as Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds. Seeds have been an important food source throughout history. About 10,000 years ago, humans harvested seeds, which may have spurred the development of agriculture. Seeds ripened at predictable times, were easy to store during the dormant season, required little preparation, and were high in calories for their weight, so they were an excellent food for traveling.

Seeds are extremely nutrient-dense, but they’re also high in calories, hence their relatively lower ANDI scores. They provide generous amounts of fats, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Seeds are a reliable source of essential minerals like magnesium, zinc, selenium, and copper, which tend to be deficient in processed foods. Phytochemicals in seeds that help fight disease include ellagic acid, flavonoids, phenolic compounds, luteolin, isoflavones, and tocotrienols.

Brazil nuts aren’t nuts. They are seeds contained in a capsule or pod. Brazil nuts mostly come from Bolivia (in Brazil, they are called castanhas, or chestnuts). They grow at the very top of enormously tall trees, in round wooden capsules packed with between 8 and 24 seeds. When the pods fall, they split apart and the seeds are released. For centuries, Brazil nut trees have grown wild in the Amazon forest of South America. Many indigenous tribes, like the Yanomami, used the nuts as food, and the oil and husks for a variety of other purposes. Portuguese and Spanish explorers introduced Brazil nuts to Europe in the 16th century, and used the nuts for expeditionary rations. The Spanish called them “almendras de los Andes” – almonds of the Andes.

Brazil nuts are high in calories (100 grams provide about 656 calories) and contain good quantities of vitamins, anti-oxidants, and minerals. Their high caloric content comes from their fats; however, they are an excellent source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) like palmitoleic acid (16:1) and oleic acid (18:1) that helps to lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increases HDL or “good cholesterol” in the blood. The nuts are also a very good source of vitamin E: they contain about 7.87 mg per 100 g (about 52% of RDA). Brazil nuts are the best natural source of selenium (100 grams of nuts provide about 1917 µg of selenium and 3485% of recommended daily intake). Just 1-2 nuts a day provides enough of this trace element. Brazil nuts are also an excellent source of B vitamins such as thiamine (51% of RDA per 100 g), riboflavin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and folate, which work as co-factors for enzymes during metabolism. They contain very good levels of minerals such as copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc.

Because Brazil nuts have a high concentration of phytic acid, they might interfere with the absorption of some nutrients like iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. While their monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may be beneficial in lowering cholesterol when ingested in small quantities, their high level of saturated fat (25%) could possibly raise cholesterol levels if the nuts are consumed in large quantities. In addition, overdosing on selenium can cause a toxic condition known as selenosis, which causes hair loss, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, sloughing of the fingernails, fatigue, irritability, and nerve damage, and less commonly, cirrhosis of the liver and kidney failure. While a handful per day of most nuts is beneficial in raising antioxidant levels and effective in lowering total and LDL cholesterol levels, make sure that just one or two of the nuts in that handful are Brazil nuts. A whole handful of the nuts could easily raise blood selenium to unhealthy levels.

Grated Brazil nuts have a fluffy texture like Parmesan cheese, and you can use it to garnish everything from eggplant to stuffed mushrooms to salad.

Pumpkin seeds were cultivated by Native American Indians for their nutritional and medicinal properties. Along with other culinary treasures of the New World, European explorers brought pumpkins back to Europe, from which they spread throughout the world. Pumpkin seeds remain popular in traditional Mexican cuisine. Today, the leading commercial producers of pumpkins include the United States, Mexico, India and China.

Pumpkin seeds are high in calories, about 559 calories per 100 grams. They are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The seeds are especially rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) like oleic acid (18:1) that helps lower bad LDL cholesterol and increases good HDL cholesterol in the blood. Pumpkin seeds contain good-quality protein (100 grams of seeds provide 30 grams of protein, or 54% of recommended daily allowance). In addition, the seeds are an excellent source of the amino acids tryptophan and glutamate. Tryptophan is converted into serotonin and niacin. Serotonin is a beneficial neuro-chemical that promotes sleep. Further, tryptophan is a precursor of B-complex vitamin, niacin (60 mg of tryptophan makes 1 mg niacin). Pumpkin seeds contain glutamate, which is required in the synthesis of gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), an anti-stress neurochemical that helps reduce anxiety, irritability, and other conditions. Pumpkin seeds are a very good source of anti-oxidant vitamin E: they contain about 35.10 mg of tocopherol-gamma per 100 grams (about 237% of RDA). Pumpkin kernels are an also excellent source of B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and folate. These vitamins work as co-factors for various enzymes during cellular metabolism. Pumpkin seeds contain very good levels of essential minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. They are very rich in manganese (4543 mg per 100 grams; about 198% of daily-recommended intake). Pumpkin seed have DHEA (Di hydro epi-androstenedione) blocking actions, which cuts the risk of prostate and ovarian cancers. In addition, certain phytochemical compounds in pumpkin seed oil may prevent diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease).

Add pumpkin seeds to sautéed vegetables. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top of mixed green salads. Grind pumpkin seeds with fresh garlic, parsley, and lemon juice for salad dressing. Add chopped pumpkin seeds to your favorite hot or cold cereal. Add pumpkin seeds to your oatmeal raisin cookie or granola recipe. You can also add them to veggie burgers.

Some ANDI scores of seeds:

  1. Cocoa (dry powder, unsweetened) 518
  2. Flax Seeds 103
  3. Coconut Water 83
  4. Chia Seeds 77
  5. Sesame Seeds, unhulled 74
  6. Hemp Seeds 65
  7. Sunflower Seeds 64
  8. Sesame Seeds, hulled 56
  9. Sunflower Seed Butter 55
  10. Pistachios, unsalted 37
  11. Chestnuts; Hazelnuts 34
  12. Dark Chocolate, 54-59% Cocoa solids; Pecans 33
  13. Dark Chocolate, 60-69% Cocoa solids; Filberts; Water Chestnuts 32
  14. Walnuts 30
  15. Almond Butter, no salt added 29
  16. Almonds, unsalted; Pine Nuts 28
  17. Cashews, unsalted; Hemp Milk 27
  18. Brazil Nuts; Cashew Butter, no salt added 26
  19. Macadamia Nuts, unsalted 21
  20. Almond Milk 19
  21. Coconut, dried, unsweetened; Coconut, fresh; Pine Nuts 10

This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

7 thoughts on “Planting the Seeds of Change

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