Seeds might remind you of glitter. You use them once and find them in the strangest places for months. But if you manage to keep them on your bagel, seeds add important nutrients to your diet. Some claim they do even more for your reproductive and hormonal health.
Life begins with seeds, so they are a concentrated source of nutrients that support healthy growth and development. Seeds also are low in calories while adding plenty of:
- Protein. Protein is important for muscle strength and recovery.
- Healthy fats. The monounsaturated fatty acids found in seeds might support hormones and help ovulation.
- Fiber. Fiber is a kind of carbohydrate that the body can’t fully digest. But this is a good thing. Fiber helps manage blood-sugar levels and supports digestive health.
- Vitamins and minerals. Seeds contain micronutrients like calcium, folate and vitamin C that help bones and overall health.
Can seeds impact hormones?
An internet trend getting attention is seed cycling, which involves eating certain seeds at different points in your menstrual cycle. Here’s how it works:
- Eat flax and pumpkin seeds during the follicular phase, which starts when you start bleeding then goes for two weeks.
- Switch to sunflower and sesame seeds during the luteal phase, which begins with ovulation.
The idea is that seeds’ micronutrients can balance out the natural rise and fall of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. In turn, this support might help reduce period symptoms like mood swings. But there is little research to support these claims.
One small study had 18 women eat their usual diet but add 10 grams of a flaxseed supplement each day. The researchers found that all of the women had ovulatory cycles, which is when an egg is released. Most women have some anovulatory cycles, when an egg is not released, in their menstruating years. The association is that for these women, they were able to all release an egg during the monitored cycles.
If you have fertility or hormonal concerns, Mayo Clinic experts recommend seeing your healthcare team who assess, then possibly find and treat any underlying causes. For healthy adults, adding seeds to your diet or trying seed cycling is probably harmless but should not be counted on to be effective.
Seeds to try
Seeds are a healthy and inexpensive way to add crunch and texture to yogurt or salads. Here are a few nutrient-packed seeds to try:
Flaxseeds contain omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidant phytochemicals called lignans that support cardiovascular health. They also deliver manganese for bone health.
To get the most nutrients out of flaxseeds, grind them before sprinkling on cereal or yogurt or baking into cookies, muffins or breads. If you prefer savory foods, mix ground flaxseeds with mayonnaise or mustard to spread on a sandwich.
Chia is rich in lignans and omega-3 fatty acids for cardiovascular health. These seeds also contain magnesium, an important mineral for brain, digestive tract and heart health.
Add chia to cereal, yogurt, salads and smoothies, or use it make puddings for a nutrient-dense snack.
Bonus tip: Combine 1/4 cup of chia with 1 cup of liquid (like almond milk or fruit juice) and let sit for 15 minutes or overnight for a gel-like treat. Top with fruit and nuts.
Pumpkin seeds pack healthy fats and manganese for bone health.
You can roast them with a light sprinkle of salt or grated cheese. They’re big enough to eat alone, but you also can grind them to bake into bread or add to a spread like mayonnaise or hummus.
The ballpark favorite delivers healthy fats and vitamin E that supports immune, skin and eye health. Sometimes packaged sunflower seeds are heavily salted or contain artificial flavors. Choose unsalted seeds or enjoy salted seeds in moderation.
Buy sunflower seeds shell-free or pop the seed out of the shell and eat. You can add them to salads, yogurt, trail mix or stir-fry. You also can use sunflower seeds on a pretzel instead of salt.
How to use seeds throughout the day
Seeds can add texture to food without changing the taste. And they’re versatile: You can bake with them, stir them into your favorite dishes or eat them plain. Here are some ideas for sprinkling mini but mighty seeds into meals throughout the day.
- Add a tablespoon of chia to your hot or cold cereal.
- Level up yogurt with a spoonful of ground flaxseed.
- Grind pumpkin seeds for a healthy addition to breads.
- Stir a teaspoon of ground flaxseed into mayonnaise or mustard for your sandwich.
- Mix chia seeds into your fruit smoothie.
- Toast pumpkin seeds and eat with a dash of salt.
- Toss a few shelled, unsalted sunflower seeds into your salad or stir-fry.
- Make a zesty pesto with pumpkin seeds, garlic, red peppers, parmesan and basil.
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