Fruits are an unavoidable part of the daily diet, whether you enjoy them freshly cut or as smoothies. Many people are accustomed to peeling fruits and only consuming the fleshy and juicy inside. But have you ever considered eating the seeds, too? In fact, some fruit seeds offer essential nutrients, which are often overlooked as people throw away the seeds.
Seeds are excellent plant-based sources of omega-3s, protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Despite having a nutrient profile similar to nuts, seeds are not as widely recognised. This article will explore the nutritious seeds found in fruits, take a closer look at their nutritional content, and explain how incorporating more seeds into your diet can benefit your health.
Health Benefits of Seeds
Seeds have a unique mix of bioactive compounds that make them essential for human nutrition. Just a spoonful of seeds can offer numerous health benefits, such as:
Help Control Cholesterol
Seeds contain lignans, fibre, and omega-3 fats, which lowers cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. Unlike animal foods, seeds don’t have unhealthy cholesterol levels, but their fatty part has plant sterols or phytosterols. These non-nutritive components play a crucial role in lowering cholesterol by interfering with its absorption in the intestines.
Rich in Fibre
Over 90% of adults do not consume enough fibre despite its potential to lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, Type-2 diabetes, and bowel cancer. It also improves blood pressure and controls cholesterol levels. Adding seeds to your meals is a simple method to increase your fibre intake.
Rich in Protein
Seeds offer plant-based protein, making them a suitable choice for vegetarians and vegans aiming to boost protein intake. The proteins derived from seeds provide essential amino acids and nutraceutical peptides, promoting health and preventing diseases. Therefore, seeds are a readily available and cost-effective dietary supplement for obtaining valuable protein for everyone.
Good for Heart
The healthy fats in seeds, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, support heart health. They do so by ensuring blood vessels are healthy and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. For instance, the magnesium in pumpkin seeds contributes to cardiovascular well-being by regulating blood pressure, while their potassium content helps maintain a healthy heart rhythm.
Boost Immune System
Seeds are rich in vitamins and some minerals essential for normal immune function.
Zinc, found in pumpkin seeds, aids in producing new immune cells, develops ‘natural killer cells’ to combat viruses, and supports communication between immune cells. Men require about 9.5mg of zinc daily, while women need 7mg, and approximately 20g of pumpkin seeds provide about 1.5mg of zinc.
Grape seeds are also an excellent source of antioxidants, including vitamin E and flavonoids. As a result, they help combat oxidative stress and support immune health.
The Top 5 Fruit Seeds to Incorporate in Your Diet
A straightforward way to enhance your diet is by incorporating nutrient-packed fruit seeds. These tiny powerhouses are rich in essential protein, fibre, minerals, and other beneficial plant-based bioactive compounds that contribute to overall well-being. Here are five fruit seeds that can quickly become nutritious additions to your daily diet:
1. Watermelon Seeds
Watermelon seeds, in particular, stand out. When you consume them in the right way, watermelon seeds have a flavour similar to sunflower seeds. Like all nuts and seeds, they are rich in protein, low in carbohydrates, and high in minerals such as magnesium and iron. In comparison to almonds, one ounce (approximately 28 grams) of watermelon seeds has 4 grams more protein and 2 grams fewer carbohydrates.
Here is the nutritional value of 100 g of dried watermelon seeds. Keep in mind the values mentioned are for 100 grams of watermelon seeds. You might only require a handful, approximately 4 grams, which amounts to about 23 calories.
- Calories: 557 Kcal
- Protein: 28.3 g
- Carbohydrates: 15.3 g
- Fat: 47.4 g
- Potassium: 648 mg
- Phosphorous: 755 mg
- Magnesium: 515 mg
- Calcium: 54 mg
- Zinc: 10.2 mg
- Iron: 7.28 mg
- Folate: 58 µg
Watermelon seeds contain various minerals, including magnesium. In a 4-gram serving, you’ll receive 21 mg of magnesium, constituting 5% of the daily value. Additionally, watermelon seeds serve as a good source of both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Furthermore, they are rich in zinc, a crucial nutrient essential for the immune system.
Best Ways to Use Watermelon Seeds for Health Benefits:
- Roasted Snack: Clean and dry the seeds, then lightly roast them with a sprinkle of salt or your favourite spices for a nutritious snack.
- Seed Butter: Blend roasted watermelon seeds until smooth to create a nutrient-rich seed butter, perfect for spreading on chapatis or mixing into smoothies.
- Salad Topping: Add a crunchy texture to your salads by sprinkling roasted watermelon seeds on top.
- Baking Ingredient: Incorporate ground watermelon seeds into your dough for bread, cookies, or muffins to boost the nutritional value.
- Granola Mix: Mix roasted watermelon seeds into your homemade granola for an extra dose of protein and minerals.
2. Papaya Seeds
While papayas are primarily known for their sweet flesh, it’s worth noting that the fruit’s seeds are also edible and offer numerous health benefits. Papaya seeds are particularly rich in polyphenols and flavonoids, acting as antioxidants to promote health. Additionally, they contain a good amount of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, including oleic acid. Its most crucial role lies in the treatment of food poisoning and the elimination of intestinal parasites.
Extract derived from papaya seeds is effective in combating bacterial infections, including E.coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus. Another study shows that children who consumed porridge fortified with papaya seeds experienced a significant reduction in Ascaris lumbricoides, an intestinal parasite commonly known as large roundworm.
Despite their nutritious components and edibility, the USDA does not offer specific nutritional information for papaya seeds. However, multiple studies indicate that papaya seeds contain:
- Fatty acids
- Papaya oil
- Benzyl isothiocyanate
- Benzyl glucosinolate
- Enzyme Myrosin
Best Ways to Use Papaya Seeds for Health Benefits:
- Salad Dressing: Grind fresh papaya seeds to mix into a homemade dressing. Their peppery taste adds a spicy kick to salads.
- Smoothie Booster: Add a teaspoon of papaya seeds to your morning smoothie for an extra health boost.
- Natural Pepper Substitute: Dried and ground papaya seeds can be used as a healthier alternative to black pepper in Indian dishes.
- Meat Tenderiser: The papain enzyme in papaya seeds can tenderise meat, making them an excellent addition to marinades.
- Digestive Aid: Consuming a small quantity of fresh seeds directly can aid digestion.
3. Avocado Seed
Avocado, usually known for its creamy flesh, contains a single large seed that people commonly discard. Although information about the seed’s composition is limited, it includes a diverse range of fatty acids, dietary fibre, carbohydrates, and a modest amount of protein. In Nigeria, people use extracts from avocado seeds to manage high blood pressure. Additionally, based on the local population’s consumption patterns, experts estimate that adults should not exceed a maximum daily intake of 1.4 mg per pound (3 mg per kg) of body weight for avocado seed extract.
Research conducted through in vitro and in vivo studies involving animal models and human cell lines using avocado seed extracts shows their health-promoting properties. These seeds act as potent antioxidants, fight against microbes, have anti-cancer properties, help in weight management, reduce inflammation, and may assist in managing diabetes and neurodegenerative conditions. Lately, researchers have become more interested in using avocado seeds in functional foods and as ingredients in food products.
Best Ways to Use Avocado Seed for Health Benefits
- Smoothie Booster: Grate the avocado seed into a fine powder and add it to smoothies for a fibre-rich addition.
- Tea: Chop the seed into small pieces, boil for 10-15 minutes, and enjoy as a tea, which is said to have antioxidant properties.
- Homemade Face Scrub: Dry and grind the seed into a powder and mix with coconut oil for a natural exfoliating scrub.
- Plant Growth Supplement: Crush the seed and mix it into the soil as a natural fertiliser for plants, leveraging its nutrient content to boost plant health.
4. Pumpkin Seeds
Botanists classify pumpkins as fruits. However, people often mistake them for vegetables. Notably, pumpkin seeds stand out as one of the finest natural sources of magnesium. It helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels and BP range, as well as promoting heart and bone health.
As per USDA, here is the nutritional value of 100 g of pumpkin seeds.
- Calories: 559 Kcal
- Protein: 30.2 g
- Carbohydrates: 10.7 g
- Dietary fibre: 6 g
- Fat: 49 g
- Potassium: 809 mg
- Phosphorous: 1230 mg
- Magnesium: 592 mg
- Calcium: 46 mg
- Zinc: 7.81 mg
- Iron: 8.82 mg
- Vitamin C: 1.9 mg
- Folate: 58 µg
Pumpkin seeds are full of antioxidants, including flavonoids and phenolic acids. Antioxidants are the primary factor in reducing inflammation. Additionally, they contain small amounts of vitamin E and carotenoids. Whole pumpkin seeds are also a good fibre source. Diets incorporating high fibre have various benefits, including a lowered risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
In males, low zinc levels cause poor sperm quality and an increased risk of infertility. Pumpkin seeds, being rich in zinc, may enhance sperm quality. Additionally, these seeds have high levels of antioxidants, potentially contributing to healthy testosterone levels and overall well-being. Collectively, these factors may positively influence fertility levels and reproductive function, particularly in males.
Best Ways to Use Watermelon Seeds for Health Benefits
- Chikki or Bars: Incorporate roasted watermelon seeds into homemade chikki or energy bars for a crunchy, nutritious treat.
- Protein-Packed Tadka: Use roasted watermelon seeds as part of the tadka for dals or curries, adding a pleasant texture and protein boost.
- In Rice Dishes: Mix roasted seeds into biryanis or pulao for a surprising bite and nutritional enhancement.
- As a Flour: Grind watermelon seeds into a fine powder and use as a gluten-free flour alternative in baking or to thicken sauces.
5. Citrus Fruit Seeds
Citrus fruit seeds are tiny powerhouses of nutrition and health benefits. Whether it’s lemon, orange, or grapefruit seeds, these tiny seeds can be a nutritious addition to your diet. For instance, lemon seeds contain trace amounts of salicylic acid. It is the active component in aspirin, which may offer natural pain and inflammation relief. Meanwhile, orange seeds can also provide an unexpected energy boost.
Nutritional Content and Benefits
- Salicylic Acid in Lemon Seeds: Offers natural anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.
- Energy Boost from Orange Seeds: Helps elevate your body’s energy levels naturally.
- Antioxidant Properties: Citrus seeds are rich in antioxidants that protect against oxidative stress and support immune health.
While citrus seeds offer unique health benefits, moderation is key, as with any supplement to your diet. Start with small quantities to ensure your body responds well, and enjoy the subtle yet significant health boosts they can provide.
Best Ways to Use Citrus Seeds for Health Benefits
- Juicing: Incorporate whole citrus fruits, including their seeds, into your juices. The seeds get crushed during the juicing process, releasing their nutrients into the juice.
- Garnish: Finely chop orange or grapefruit seeds and sprinkle them over salads or desserts for a subtle flavour and nutritional boost.
- Smoothie Add-ins: Add a few lemon or orange seeds to your smoothies. Their nutritional content blends nicely into the mixture without altering the taste.
- Homemade Citrus Seed Extract: Dry and grind citrus seeds to make a homemade extract that you can add to water, teas, or dressings.
The specific serving size can vary depending on the type of seed you choose. Given the high nutritional density of seeds, you don’t require a large quantity to enjoy their benefits. A recommended general guideline is to aim for approximately two tablespoons daily.
Fruit Seeds: What to Avoid
Consuming certain fruit seeds can be beneficial, but it’s crucial to be aware of which ones are safe for consumption and why. While some seeds may offer health benefits, others can be harmful, and you must avoid them. Fruits with “stone pits,” like cherries, apples, plums, and peaches, contain a compound that converts to hydrogen cyanide when your digestive system processes them, making it a highly poisonous substance.
The seeds of cherries, plums, apricots, and peaches are encased in a hard shell for a reason. The shell indicates that they are not suitable for consumption. These seeds are rich in amygdalin, which is a toxic compound.
Some seeds contain phytic acid, an anti-nutrient that binds to minerals and reduces their absorption. Often consumed for their magnesium content, pumpkin seeds also contain phytic acid, which can bind to minerals. Hence, consume them in moderation. However, soaking or sprouting seeds before consumption can help reduce phytic acid levels.
Wondering how to incorporate seeds into your daily diet? Here is a recipe for seed and date bars, which can be enjoyed as a healthy snack. Take 1 cup of mixed seeds with 1 tsp olive oil and mix together thoroughly. Toast it until slightly brown. Combine the seeds with 1 cup of pitted dates and 1 tablespoon of water in a food processor and puree until the mixture starts to stick together. Add a little more water if necessary to help the mixture come together. Flatten the mixture on a sheet of parchment paper to form one even rectangle shape using the edge of a knife to make the edges straight. Slice into 8 equal squares. For best results store in the fridge, although bars can be kept at room temperature for 1 week.
The Final Word
The often-overlooked seeds of fruits are a nutritional powerhouse, offering plant-based sources of omega-3s, protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Incorporating seeds into your diet can bring about various health benefits, such as cholesterol control, improved heart health, enhanced immune function, and fertility support. Seeds from papaya, watermelons, papayas, avocados, and pumpkins provide unique nutritional profiles, each contributing to overall well-being in their own way.
These seeds are easily added to your meals, whether in smoothies, salads, yoghurt, or energy bites. However, caution is necessary, as certain fruit seeds, especially those with “stone pits” like cherries and apples, may contain toxic compounds and are best avoided.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is just to disperse knowledge and raise awareness. It does not intend to replace medical advice from professionals. For further information, please contact our certified nutritionists Here.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What are seeds of foods, and why are they considered nutritious?
A: Seeds are plant parts found in fruits, veggies, legumes, and grains. Seeds, like chia, flax, and sunflower, are good sources of protein and have healthy fats. They’re also high in fibre and good for digestion. Eating different seeds adds nutrients to your diet for a healthy and balanced eating plan.
Q: Do seeds contribute to a healthy diet, and how can they be incorporated into meals?
A: Yes, seeds contribute to a healthy diet due to their nutritional benefits. They are rich in protein, healthy fats, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Mix seeds into your morning cereal, yoghurt, oatmeal, porridge, or smoothie. Or toss some seeds into stir-fries or sautés
Q: Are there specific health benefits associated with different types of seeds?
A: Yes, different types of seeds offer various health benefits due to their unique nutritional profiles. For example, papaya seeds have anti-cancer properties, aid digestion, and can get the body rid of parasites. Also, pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium, zinc, and iron. It helps boost immune function and bone health and provides anti-inflammatory effects.
Q: Can seeds aid in weight loss or weight management, and how should they be consumed for this purpose?
A: Seeds contain healthy fats and fibre, which can provide a sense of satisfaction and help control appetite. This feeling of fullness can help prevent mindless snacking between meals. While seeds are nutritious, they are calorie-dense. Therefore, do not overconsume and pay attention to portion sizes to avoid excessive calorie intake.
Q: What is the recommended daily intake of seeds, and can it vary based on individual factors?
A: Yes, it can vary based on factors such as age, sex, overall health, activity level, and specific dietary goals. In general, the serving size of seeds is around one to two tablespoons per day. Consult a registered dietitian to determine the most appropriate and personalised recommendation for seed intake.
Q: Do seeds have any potential side effects or risks, and how can these be minimised?
A: Some seeds contain phytic acid, an anti-nutrient that binds to minerals and reduces their absorption. Soaking or sprouting seeds before consumption can help reduce phytic acid levels. The high fibre content in some seeds may cause digestive discomfort. Seeds are also calorie-dense. Therefore, as with any food, moderation is key.
Q: Are there certain seeds that are more nutrient-dense than others?
A: Yes, some seeds provide a higher concentration of essential nutrients per serving. Each seed type has its unique nutritional profile. Therefore, incorporating a variety of seeds into your diet can contribute to overall nutritional balance.
Q: How can seeds be used as a plant-based source of protein, and are they suitable for vegetarians and vegans?
A: Blend seeds into your smoothies for added protein and texture. You can also use seed as a spread on toast, in sandwiches, or added to sauces and dressings. Another tip is to make a protein-packed snack by mixing different seeds with nuts and dried fruits.
Q: Can seeds be beneficial for specific health conditions, such as heart health or diabetes?
A: The combination of protein, fibre, and healthy fats in seeds is good for heat and diabetes. Seeds contain various antioxidants, including vitamin E, which can reduce oxidative stress. Omega-3s in them may have a positive impact on insulin sensitivity and inflammation. While certain seeds may offer benefits for heart disease and diabetes management, they should be part of an overall care plan rather than a standalone treatment.
Q: What is the shelf life of seeds, and how should they be stored to maintain freshness and nutritional value?
A: The shelf life of seeds depends on the seed type, oil content, and storage conditions. Purchase seeds in smaller quantities and opt for opaque packaging to shield them from light, and refrigerate or freeze seeds with higher oil content for extended storage.