The Seed Breakdown: Demystifying the Overwhelming Seed Aisle

Unite Fitness nutrition director Juliet Burgh helps us identify when we should be reaching for what when it comes to the seed aisle.

It’s hard to open your Instagram feed without smoothies bowls smothered in hemp seeds and chia seeds and pumpkin seeds and … SO. MANY. SEEDS popping up. But, um, what are all these seeds even doing for us, again? To break it down, we rounded up the seeds we’ve seen everywhere and talked with Unite Fitness nutrition director Juliet Burgh to get the skinny on when and why we should be dumping them on everything from salads to smoothies.

As it turns out, these tiny guys have some major benefits, many of them overlapping — and they’re so easy to add into your salad or just to snack on. But to help break down what to reach for at any particular moment, below, with the help of Burgh, we’ve called out what seeds to reach for in just about every situation, so you’ll never be overwhelmed by the seed aisle again. Phew!

For a pre-workout snack…

Pumpkin Seeds
Before working out, Burgh says grabbing a handful of pumpkin seeds will give you a “boost of healthy fat and calories that will energize you.” Burgh also says pumpkins seeds are a great snack for vegetarians and vegans because they’re chock-full of protein. As we’ve noted before, they’re also loaded with zinc, which boosts your immune system and keeps your skin in top-top shape.

For a post-workout protein fix…

Chia Seeds
Burgh recommends chia seeds to help your body recover after a sweat session thanks to their hefty protein and fiber content. A bonus: Chia seeds give you a particularly large dose of Omega-3 fatty acids. What does that even mean, you ask? Well, Burgh breaks it down, saying, “When you have Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, it helps to decrease inflammation in your body, which in turn allows your body to function properly and decreases your chance of disease.”

For when your hunger seems insatiable… 

Flax Seeds
Flax seeds, like chia seeds, are also loaded with fiber and protein. As Burgh notes, fiber keeps you full, so they’re a great to add to a snack to hold you over until your next meal, or to add to a salad to give it a little more sustenance. (Just make sure they’re ground; otherwise, your body has a hard time absorbing all their goodness.)

For when you need to de-stress…

Sesame Seeds
Not only are these guys flavorful, but they also contain calcium and magnesium. So … who cares? Well, Burgh says, “Magnesium is amazing for lowering blood pressure and relieving stress.” We will take it!

For when your skin is thirsting for moisture…

Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds have been skirting around your smoothie bowls for years. But what exactly are they good for? Well, for one, they contain something called GLA, gamma-linoleic acid, an Omega-6 fatty acid. In layman’s terms, Burgh informs us that GLA controls inflammation and boosts hormonal health. Like pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds will also do wonders for your skin — its high protein content helps keep skin from drying out.

For when you need some help regulating your digestion…

Wait, quinoa’s a seed? Contrary to popular belief, this grain-like food is indeed a seed. Like a lot of the other seeds on our list, quinoa is protein- and fiber-packed. Burgh tells us, “It has pretty much twice as much fiber as all other grains.” Fiber is key when it comes to, ahem, keeping your digestion in tip-top shape.

For when you’re on the hunt for an antioxidant boost…

Pomegranate Seeds
Pomegranate seeds are rich in antioxidants, vitamin K, and vitamin C. But what does all that do for you? Well, Burgh puts it into simpler terms for us. Antioxidants help fight free radicals in the body and boost your immune system.

For when you’ve overdone it on the office candy bowl…

Sunflower Seeds
As Burgh says, sunflower seeds are packed with protein. They also contain healthy dietary fat. Don’t be scared by the fat content. Burgh assures us, “At the end of the day, they are a healthy source of fat, which helps your body slow down your blood sugar. So, if you’ve recently over-indulged on some sweets, maybe grab for sunflower seeds instead of another candy bar in order to regulate your blood sugar.”

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