In order to be healthy, we are supposed to be eating seeds and nuts nowadays, just as our ancestors did about 3.3 million years ago, not only because they are extremely nutritious and also because they are great sources of fiber. Besides that, they contain healthy monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats as well as many important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. If they are consumed regularly, they can all help to reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. Some people are following the Stone Age Diet, often called the Paleolithic Diet or the Paleo diet, and they eat only what they think was available during the Paleolithic Era. That was the era in which our ancestors first developed stone tools, aka the Stone Age. To follow such a diet nowadays may seem a bit radical, but on the other hand, to ignore the natural benefits of including more seeds in our diets definitely seems unintelligent. Seeds are plant-based, and we know that such foods are associated with improving many health conditions, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Here is an outline of the healthy benefits seeds have.
Caraway seeds are those seeds usually found in rye bread, and they are added to this kind of bread specifically to counter the bloating that the high fiber content of rye often causes. Caraway is often confused with cumin, and they are similar. But ground cumin is hotter to taste, and the seeds are larger. Rye is a grain in the wheat family and also used in many kinds of beer. But to get back to caraway seeds, besides taking care of our bloating problems, they generally aid our digestive systems and have anti-flatulent properties. But that’s not all; they have several flavonoid antioxidants that remove harmful radicals from our bodies and therefore protect us from cancer, ageing and degenerative neurological diseases like Parkinson’s.
Caraway seeds have calcium, potassium, copper, zinc and iron, among other things. Copper and iron are necessary for the production of red blood cells and they help to regulate the growth and development of sperm. Potassium helps in controlling our heart rate and blood pressure. Zinc, which is actually a metal, is particularly good for growth in childhood and healing. Caraway seeds also contain vitamins A, E and C as well as a number of B-complex vitamins. Vitamin A has many health benefits, but is in particular important for vision. Vitamin E, just to jog your memory, is especially good for skin, immunity and eyes. And you probably already know that Vitamin C is necessary for the growth, development and repair of all body tissues. B-complex vitamins are those important vitamins that are water-soluble, which means that your body does not store them, so you need to supply your body with them every day through your diet. Generally speaking, they convert nutrients into energy, but they run the metabolism part of your body also, and help with neurotransmitter and red blood cell production, among other things. Caraway seeds, they are also a rich source of fiber, which is vital for digestive health. They work by speeding up the process of moving food through your system while at the same time they play an anti-carcinogenic role by binding to toxins in food, protecting the colon from cancer. And last but not least, caraway seeds lower the levels of the bad LDL cholesterol.
Chia Seeds have all the good things that other seeds do, but they have a special plus in that they contain something that increases ALA in blood. ALA is an omega-3 fatty acid that can help to reduce inflammation. Studies show that Chia seeds help to reduce blood sugar and blood pressure and they even reduce appetites. Vegans mix them with water to replace eggs when they cook. You can buy chia seeds in two colors; black or white, but if you see them in a brown color, that means they are unripe. Nutritionally, white and black are the same. You can eat them raw, but they should be added to another food or soaked before eating. The Aztecs were eating chia seeds way back in 3500 BCE, and as a matter of fact, it was one of the main foods in their diet. But they also considered chia seeds sacred and used them as a sacrifice in their religious ceremonies. Later, between 1500 and 900 BC, chia was cultivated in Mexico by the Teotihuacan and Toltec people. They used it as a medicine, and ground into flour, which they mixed into drinks, or pressed for oil. They have more omega-3s, calcium, phosphorus and fiber than flaxseeds, which is where we are going next. Most people do not consume enough of these essential nutrients.
Linseeds are usually eaten ground, and come from a crop that is called flax and is planted in cooler regions of the world. You are probably familiar with the use of them to make the textile linen, which is traditionally used for bed sheets, underclothes and table linen, sometimes in the form of damasks and lace. The oil extracted from them is known as linseed oil, which is used in varnish for wood finishing, or as a pigment binder in oil paints and even in the manufacturing of linoleum. As far as we know, wild linseed was first used in what is the Republic of Georgia today, and spun, dyed and knotted wild fibers were found in caves dated 30,000 years ago. There is proof that it was domesticated in Syria 9,000 years ago. Linseed is grown for its flax seeds, which are a popular nutritional supplement nowadays. Many people have trouble digesting this kind of seeds, and that is why it is better to eat them after they’ve been ground. After they are ground, they are called flax. You can put the flax in your juice, or even eat them on top of your potatoes. They are good for all kinds of things, but just to mention a few, they can help reduce cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure. They also reduce the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer due to something called lignans that are similar to the female sex hormone estrogen. Flax is a great laxative, but can cause constipation if not taken with enough water.
Hemp seeds are from the cannabis Sativa plant, which was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber 10,000 years ago. Don’t expect hemp seeds to alter your mood. Vegetarians eat them because they are so high in protein. As a matter of fact, they are one of the few seeds that are complete protein sources. They do everything the other seeds do, but in particular they produce nitric oxide in your body, which is a gas molecule that makes your blood vessels dilate and relax, leading to lowered blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart attacks. Hemp seeds also act as anti-inflammatories and they improve eczema. They are excellent to regulate the immune system and have neuroprotective effects and so they help some people with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. You can’t go wrong.
Poppy seeds are believed to have originated in the Mediterranean and in ancient Egypt; doctors used to prescribe poppy seeds to patients as pain relievers. The earliest reports of the poppy plant dates back to 3,000 years ago. Poppy seeds come in three different colors, black, blue and white, and are the source of opium, which is not included in most everyday diets. But if you just eat them on top of bread or a pastry instead of making opium, you will be nourishing your bones with phosphorus and iron, and also your brain and its neurotransmitters with the calcium and magnesium they contain. As these seeds contain an abundance of copper and iron, they also improve red blood cell formation, which prevents anemia and other blood-related conditions. Since poppy seeds relax you, they can help with the symptoms of insomnia. They are also good for constipation and other digestive problems, and actually enhance brain function because of their calcium, iron and magnesium content.
Pumpkin seeds are probably the most commonly consumed types of seeds worldwide. Pumpkins are thought to have originated in Mexico, and seeds have been found there that date back to between 7,000 – 5500 BCE. The ones that we buy to eat as snacks usually don’t have a shell, but if you roast the seeds from a pumpkin that you just ate or carved up, you’ll keep the hard shell. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of phytosterols, which are plant compounds that help lower blood cholesterol. There have been many studies that concluded that pumpkin seeds significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer and of gall bladder stones because they reduce the amount of calcium in urine. In general, pumpkin seeds are good for all the basics that the other seeds are as they contain iron, zinc, copper, protein and etc. but their special benefit is that pumpkin seeds are useful for reducing symptoms of all urinary disorders. For example, studies show that people with overactive bladders improve their urinary functions greatly when they ate 10 grams of pumpkin seed daily. And, as a bonus, because pumpkin seeds are so rich in zinc, they improve sperm quality, which in turn reduces the risk of infertility in men.
Sesame seeds are probably the oldest condiment known to man and our species has been planting them for over 3,500 years. They are native to India and Africa and today, Tanzania, Myanmar, India and Sudan are the largest producers. Sesame seeds contain lignans, the same as flaxseeds, except that sesame seeds are considered a better source of lignans. Sesame seeds help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, and that in turn reduces diseases like arthritis and knee osteoarthritis, and they increase aerobic capacity! They help to prevent cancer and heart disease, for the same reasons that the other seeds do, but with an added plus. Sesame seeds also contain phytate, a rare cancer-preventing compound. Sesame seeds also have zinc, which helps to produce male sex hormones. Studies show that infertile men, who were given sesame seeds for three months, showed a significant improvement in their sperm count and motility. But on top of that, they reduce dental plaque and help to avoid depression and reduce stress. If you are going to have a fast food meal, at least make sure the roll has sesame seeds on top.
Sunflower seeds are very good to reduce inflammation and cholesterol levels. Sunflowers have been cultivated since 2600 BCE in Mesoamerica and are one of the world’s fastest growing plants. They are especially good for middle-aged or older people because they reduce triglycerides in the blood, bad cholesterol and C-reactive protein (CRP), a key chemical involved in inflammation. But that’s not all; they contain the minerals magnesium, phosphorus and copper, which ensure good mineralization, which means good “density” to support the weight our bones must support. Sunflower seeds also promote healthy detoxification, and the magnesium they contain has a beneficial effect on our moods by helping to improve brain levels of serotonin. This also helps to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which in high amounts inhibits the neurotransmitters responsible for good moods. And as a bonus, sunflower seeds help to promote weight loss in some people because their fiber adds bulk to the stomach, which slows down absorption and keeps you feeling full for longer, while at the same time the B vitamins help to ensure that macronutrients are broken down in a more efficient way.
Practice mindful eating this New Year. Choose food that is both satisfying and nourishing for your body. Keep an open mind and try some of the seeds above, and be aware of how your body reacts to them. Put some seeds in your salads, bread, yogurt, granola, peanut butter, Nutella, chicken or just snack on them. Mix flax into your juice. Try eating 30 grams (2 tablespoons) of seeds per day for 3 weeks and see if you feel a positive change in your body.
All of the seeds mentioned in the post are good for your heart, your blood production and your cholesterol level. But some of them are helpful for special conditions. Here is a short memory test about common ailments that certain seeds can help with. If you don’t get all of them right, you probably need to include more seeds in your diet, as almost all seeds are good for your memory.
1. Which seeds help with insomnia?
2. Which seeds improve sperm quality?
3. Which seeds help to reduce your farts?
4. Which seeds helpful when you have an overactive bladder?
5. Which seeds help to reduce dental plaque?
6. Which seeds can reduce your appetite?
7. Which seeds can control constipation?
8. Which seeds can help with your bone density?
9. Which seeds can reduce the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer?
10. Which seeds can improve your serotonin level?
The word cliffhanger comes from cliffs. Duh. Cliffs are vertical, or nearly vertical, rocks that have been formed by erosion and weathering. There are lots of famous cliffs, but the first ones that come to my mind are the White Cliffs of Dover, probably because there was a popular World War II song about them that was part of my childhood, and also because they are on the historical English coastline.
When one thinks of cliffhangers, England and its gothic novels always come to mind. Cliffhangers are the kind of story, book or movie that uses suspense either at the end of an episode or a scene. A good example was the way the final episode of Game of Thrones, season 5, was done. Jon Snow was dead. Or was he? Those of us who sweated it out until season 6 was aired were never really sure. The writers used old-fashioned melodrama, suspense and uncertainty, and the audience was left as if hanging from a cliff in a state of tension and apprehension. And that’s a true cliffhanger.
This part of the blog will not be able to offer any nail-biting cliffhangers, but it will have classes in series, and I hope they will be interesting enough that you will want to come back and read what happens next, even if you don’t lose sleep anticipating the next chapter. Enjoy.