When it comes to meals or snacks, seeds might seem like an afterthought. But they're more than decoration on a bagel: Seeds are a small but mighty source of important nutrients.
Seeds offer protein, healthy fats, fiber and minerals to support heart and digestive tract health without adding many calories. They're also an inexpensive way to add crunch and texture to yogurt or salad.
Mayo Clinic experts recommend eating a variety of seeds. Here are a few nutrient-packed seeds to try:
Flaxseed contains 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 flaxseed 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 for a treat with a gel-like consistency. Top with fruit and nuts.
Pumpkin seeds pack omega-6 fatty acids for heart health and manganese for bone health.
They're big enough to eat alone, but some prefer them with a light sprinkle of salt or grated cheese. You can also grind them to bake into bread or add to a spread like mayonnaise or hummus.
The ballpark favorite delivers omega-6 fatty acids for heart health and vitamin E that supports immune system, skin and eye health.
Buy them shell-free or pop the seed out of the shell and eat. Or add them to salads, yogurt, trail mixes or stir-fries. They also go nicely in granola bars.
If you can, choose unsalted seeds or enjoy salted seeds in moderation.