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Healthy Seeds

Rohini Diniz

Sunflower seeds: Delicious, nutty and crunchy sunflower seeds are widely considered as a health food.The seeds are rich in the PUFA linoleic acid and also contain good amounts of the MUFA oleic acid that helps lower LDL cholesterol and increases HDL cholesterol in the blood. Like other seeds and nuts, sunflower seeds are also an excellent source of protein, vitamin E, B-complex vitamins, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, selenium and copper. They also contain antioxidant polyphenol compounds such as chlorogenic acid, quinic acid and caffeic acids. Eating sunflower seeds may help lower cholesterol levels, provide anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefits and prevent cancer. Sunflower seeds can be roasted and salted and enjoyed as a snack. They can also be used to garnish salads, vegetable dishes or can be sprinkled over porridge or breakfast cereals.

Sesame seeds (til): With their pleasant nutty taste and small size, sesame seeds are widely used in Indian cuisine in the preparation of a variety of dishes. Sesame seeds are rich in the MUFA oleic acid, protein, B-complex vitamins, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, zinc, selenium and copper. Sesame seeds are rich in lignans and phenolic compounds sesamol and sesamin which have antioxidant properties and help lower blood pressure. Sesame seeds are versatile and can be used in a number of culinary preparations. Toasted seeds can be sprinkled over sandwiches, biscuits, bread, cakes, salads and stir fries. They can be combined with jaggery or sugar syrup and other nuts and made into chikki or ladoos. They are the main ingredient in the preparation of tahini or sesame seeds butter. When combined with spices, they make a delicious dry chutney powder which is eaten as a delicious accompaniment to a meal. Sesame seed oil is traditionally used in Indian cuisine and also in ayurvedic medicines.

Muskmelon seeds (magaz): Considered as the poor man’s almonds, dried muskmelon seeds are used extensively in Indian cuisine. The seeds are rich in protein and fat and contain calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin E and folic acid. Muskmelon seeds boost the immune and cardiovascular systems, help regulate levels of blood fats and promote wound healing and bone health. They can be roasted and eaten as snack either alone or in combination with other seeds such as sunflower or flaxseeds. They can also be used as a substitute for almonds in the preparation of a variety of dishes.

Fenugreek or methi seeds: Fenugreek or methi is widely known for its culinary properties and as a traditional remedy to treat many conditions and ailments particularly diabetes. Fenugreek seeds contain both soluble and insoluble fibres. It also contains saponins and an alkaloid known as trigonelline that helps lower the levels of blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides. Since ancient times, fenugreek seeds have been used in the preparation of galactagogue foods for lactating mothers to increase the production of breast milk. Studies have shown that the saponins and mucilage in methi seeds may help prevent certain cancers. They also aid digestion and have a mild laxative effect helping to expel toxins from the body. A decoction or herbal tea of fenugreek seeds, lemon and honey is traditionally used as remedy for fevers. In foods, methi seeds can be used whole like mustard seeds as a seasoning or can be sprouted and added to salads or cooked into a tasty subzi.

Niger seeds: Also known as Ram til or Karlyaor Gurelu, niger seeds are like sunflower seeds, but smaller in size and black in colour. They are rich in protein, B complex vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium and zinc. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids and the PUFA linoleic acid. The omega-3 fatty acids possess anti-inflammatory properties and also help lower low blood cholesterol levels. Niger seeds can be incorporated in the diet in various ways. They can be roasted and sprinkled over oatmeal porridge, smoothies, in cakes and breads. One of the well known uses of niger seeds is in the preparation of a dry chutney powder which is eaten along with meals. Niger seeds can also be used to prepare chikki and ladoos.

(Writer is a consultant nutritionist with 19 years of experience, practising at Panaji and can be contacted on rohinidiniz@gmail.com)

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