Granola, salad, muffins, spreads on toast: a lot of food is made yummier and more nutritious by adding nuts and nut-based products. But so many people have nut allergies with serious consequences if they ingest or come in contact with nuts. So what are we to do in this world filled with nut-free zones? The answer, my allergic friends, is seeds! Seeds are often less expensive than nuts and are just as nutritious, which makes them an ideal alternative to nuts. Here, we list some popular seeds that make great additions to many recipes.
Chia Seeds: yep, we are talking about the seeds that make awesome tchotchkes for your home decor (ch-ch-ch-chia!) but they are also really great to eat because they are made up of 34% omega-3 oils. Talk about healthy fats! They are devoid of taste, so they function to add nutrition and structure to many dishes. They are neat little seeds, as they absorb liquid and become gel-like, which makes them an ideal egg-substitute & base for vegan pudding. A word to the wise: these seeds are tiny and are very skilled at becoming stuck in one’s teeth, so check your smile in the mirror after eating.
Sesame Seeds: Common in Asian cooking, sesame seeds are packed with flavour. For you lactose intolerant folks, these tiny seeds are a dairy-free source of calcium (bonus: they’ve also got antioxidant properties), so perhaps try using sesame oil in place of other cooking oils. You can find these in two colour varieties: black and off-white, and it is thought that the black seeds have greater antioxidant amounts.
Pumpkin Seeds: Pumpkin seeds are very easy to find at the grocery store and make for a yummy & healthy snack. Also known as pepitas, these seeds have high levels of unsaturated fat & contain iron, magnesium, zinc, & vitamin K. They’re terrific roasted on their own, but they also make great additions to granola, baked goods, and as a topping on yogurt.
Hemp Seeds: These are sometimes referred to, lovingly, as hemp hearts, and they are packed with amino acids, iron, calcium, & magnesium. If you’re dealing with high cholesterol, these seeds are a good addition to your diet as they contain phytosterols, plant-base compounds that help to lower cholesterol levels. And have no worries, while hemp is a member of the cannabis family, it does not contain the active ingredient found in marijuana, so the only effects you’ll get from hemp seeds are the healthy benefits!
Flax Seeds: Fibre, fibre, fibre! Flax seeds are fantastic for their soluble fibre, which helps you feel fuller for longer. You can squeeze in ground flax to just about anything: smoothies, baking, sauces, granola, etc. Ground flax is a good way to get the omega-3 fatty acids found in the seeds, since when eaten whole they can often pass through your system undigested. Grind it yourself in a blender or food processor, or buy it pre-ground, and be sure to store it in the fridge or freezer to maintain its freshness.
Quinoa: A very popular addition to dinner plates of late, quinoa is commonly misunderstood as a grain when, in fact, it is a seed. But it is often used in place of ingredients like rice, pasta, or barley, which is why we tend to think of it as a grain. Quinoa is rightfully popular because it is one of few plant-based sources of all nine essential amino acids (meaning we must eat them to get them). You can get colourful with your quinoa recipes as it can be found in red, white, and black varieties. Quinoa is a fantastic gluten-free substitution for meals that rely on gluten, like pastas. Just be sure to rinse quinoa before cooking, as not doing so can result in an unpleasant, bitter taste.