Tiny confession: as a personal trainer I give lots of advice about healthy workouts and meal plans. I assign people sugar free days and ask them to up their fruit and veggie intake and lower saturated fat in their diets. I think I know my way around the food pyramid pretty well but seeds… I tend to think of them as decoration. The throw pillows of food if you will. Caraway seeds sprinkled on good rye bread, poppy seeds lining the inside of the delicious coffee cake my mom makes. I often suggest people add healthy nuts to their diets but despite the fact that they’re billed together as “nuts and seeds,” I don’t think I’ve ever told someone “you simply aren’t eating enough seeds.” Well no more! Let me start now… you simply aren’t eating enough throw pillows, um, seeds.
I was recently speaking to a registered dietician about good alternative foods. Things like nut butters and beans for protein if you’re a vegetarian. Or Fromagerie L’Aucetre, Whole Foods’ answer to the conundrum of lactose free cheese that actually tastes good (side note: I set a personal best 5K time running to get some of that. True story). Or sesame seeds for calcium since 2 tablespoons provides 250 milligrams. Wait, huh?? To put that in perspective, one cup of milk has 300mg, half a cup of cottage cheese has 65mg and a cup of yogurt has between 300-400mg. Since we need about 1000mg of calcium per day, those two tablespoons of sesame seeds are a pretty efficient way to get a quarter of your daily requirement.
But that’s not all these unassuming little dots can do. One ounce provides 9 grams of protein and 3 grams of fibre. And like all nuts and seeds, they are relatively high in fat (about 15g per ounce), but all but 2g of that is unsaturated, the good fats we tend to miss out on in favour of artery clogging animal based saturates. According towww.livestrong.com “unsaturated fat has been shown to have beneficial effects on blood cholesterol, providing protection against heart disease. Some types of unsaturated fats also help to lower blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends that the majority of fat in the diet be unsaturated, and that saturated fat be limited to less than 7 percent of your daily calories”. They’re also a good source of B vitamins and essential minerals copper and iron, shown to help prevent colon cancer and maintain the eyes, skin and nervous system.
And if you’re not a fan of the seeds, try the oil. Sesame oil, known in India as “Queen of the Oils” or “the good oil” is a powerful antioxidant and antibacterial and in some parts of India it is customary to bathe in sesame oil weekly. Sesame oil is often used as a “finishing” oil to flavour foods after cooking since it can burn easily. Try tossing a couple teaspoons on a stir fry or try Dr Weil’s anti-inflammatory sesame salad dressing at www.drweil.com. You can also toss the seeds on top of cereal and salads and into baking and granola. And hey, if you happen to have one of those kids who eyes any new food as inherently suspicious, bring out the big guns. Tell them they’re sesame seeds… from the street… Sesame Street that is. (Pause for groan) Do they want to hurt Elmo’s feelings? Do they??