Food of the Week: Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower Seeds

A little History…

The sunflower seed is native to North America and was cultivated by native tribes in Arizona and New Mexico around 5,000 years ago. One way native tribes used the seed was by turning them into flour for cakes and breads. Although they have their origins in North America, the commercialization of sunflower seeds took place in Russia where it was widely used to produce sunflower oil. The sunflower is part of the asteraceae family, which also includes marigolds, chrysanthemums, and dandelions.

Nutritional Value

Sunflower seeds are packed with vitamin E, B1, B6, and minerals manganese, copper, selenium, and phosphorus. Vitamin E protects cell membranes and brain cells by neutralizing free radicals. Vitamin E also plays an important role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease by preventing free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol. The magnesium in sunflower seeds is important to maintain healthy bones, muscles, and energy production.  Magnesium also helps keep our nerves relaxed and helps to strengthen our digestive system.

How to Enjoy

Like other seeds, sunflower seeds make a great addition to smoothies, salads, and cereal. They are also a great snack to eat on their own. You can also enjoy them in the form of sunflower seed butter.

Food of the Week: Hemp Seeds

Hemp Seeds

A little background…

It is thought that the hemp seed originated in the Himalayas. When the Aryans invaded India, they brought the hemp seed with them and that is how it spread through Europe and the Middle East. Besides the use of the hemp seed for nutritional purposes, hemp fiber was widely used in a variety of textiles. The hemp textile industry dates back to 10,000 years ago.

Nutritional Benefits

Hemp seeds are high in protein, and are an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Just one and a half tablespoons of hemp seeds have 5 grams of protein. Aside from being an amazing source of plant protein, it is also easy for the body to digest.  Additionally, hemp protein contains all 21 amino acids including the 9 essential amino acids our bodies cannot produce. They are also rich in essential fatty acid and have more essential fatty acid than flax seeds. Essential fatty acids are necessary fats that humans cannot make on their own, and must be obtained through diet. There are two families of essential fatty acids, Omega-3 and Omega-6. Hemp seeds contain both. They are also a great source of disease-protective phytonutrients, which support your immune system, bloodstream, tissues, and cells.

How to Incorporate Hemp Seeds into your Diet

Hemp seeds have a light nutty flavor and a soft texture. Hemp seeds can be eaten by themselves or sprinkled into just about anything like cereal, smoothies, salads, and granola. You can also enjoy hemp seed butter as a nutritious spread.

Pineapple Kale Smoothie

Pineapple

This nutritious and delicious smoothie is a perfect way to start of the day or provide a midday energy boost. Pineapple is rich in bromelain, which is made of protein digesting enzymes that aid digestion and can reduce inflammation and swelling. Kale is packed with carotenes, vitamins C and B6, manganese, calcium, and phosphorus.

What you will need:

-1 cup packed chopped kale

-1/2 cup chopped pineapple

-1/4 ripe banana

– 2 tablespoons chia seeds

-Water or coconut water-enough to submerge the ingredients

Keep in mind that this recipe may need to be changed or adjusted based on the individual and their health needs and concerns. Additionally, if you have an allergy or intolerance to any of the above suggested foods, omit them from your smoothie.

Blend together and enjoy!

Food of the Week: Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin Seeds

A little background…

Pumpkins originated in North America and were a staple in the diet of Native Americans. They are part of the gourd family which also includes cucumbers, zucchini, water melon, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon. This healthful plant presents flowers, seeds, and flesh that are edible and full of vitamins. Pumpkin seeds are planted between the end of May and middle of June and the pumpkins are harvested in October when they have a rich orange color.

Health Benefits

Pumpkin seeds are rich in many vitamins and minerals including zinc, manganese, magnesium, iron, copper, phosphorus, and vitamin E. To take full advantage of the amount of zinc in pumpkin seeds it is recommended that you consume the unshelled form. There is a thin film-like portion of the seed called the endosperm that contains the most amount of zinc; this layer is usually close to the shell of the seed and lost in the shelled form.  Zinc plays an important role on the cellular level by helping build and repair cells and can also support your immune system and help your body fight off colds.

How to incorporate Pumpkin Seeds into your diet

Pumpkin seeds make a great addition to smoothies, baked goods, salads, and granola. They are also great to enjoy by themselves as a power boosting snack. To prepare your own pumpkin seeds first remove them from the pumpkin cavity and wash away any extra pumpkin pulp. Next spread them out on some parchment paper and leave them over night to dry. Then spread a single layer out on a baking sheet and roast them for 15-20 minutes at 165ºF. Let them cool and enjoy!