The 6 Healthiest Seeds, Ranked

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Seeds have served as an important food source since ancient times. Seeds, like pumpkin seeds and chia seeds, are packed with nutrients such as fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, and their consumption has been linked to a variety of health benefits. 

Adding seeds to your diet can help you meet your daily nutrient needs and may lower your risk of several health conditions, including heart disease and certain cancers.

Here are six of the healthiest seeds you can eat.

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Pumpkin seeds or pepitas, are edible seeds extracted from pumpkins. Here’s the nutrition breakdown for a one-ounce (1/4 cup) serving of roasted pumpkin seeds:

  • Calories: 163
  • Protein: 8.45 grams (g)
  • Carbs: 4.17 g
  • Fiber: 1.84 g
  • Fat: 13.9 g
  • Copper: 0.36 milligrams (mg) or 40% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Iron: 2.29 mg or 13% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 156 mg or 37% of the DV
  • Zinc: 2.17 mg or 20% of the DV

Pumpkin seeds have a nutty, subtly sweet taste and are commonly enjoyed roasted as a snack and added to dishes like baked goods, salads, and trail mix. They’re an excellent source of plant-based protein and essential minerals, such as magnesium, copper, zinc, and iron. A one-ounce serving of pumpkin seeds covers 37% of your daily needs for magnesium, a mineral that’s involved in the regulation of blood pressure, blood sugar, and stress.

They’re also rich in copper and iron, two minerals needed for red blood cell production, and zinc, a nutrient that plays critical roles in immune function, growth and development, DNA synthesis, and skin health.

Pumpkin seeds are low in carbs yet high in plant-based protein and heart-healthy fats, making them a good choice for those following plant-based or low-carb eating patterns.

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Hemp seeds are the edible fruits of the Cannabis sativa L. plant. Though once considered a byproduct of the hemp fiber industry and used mostly for animal feed, hemp seeds have grown in popularity over the past two decades as more people learn of their impressive nutritional benefits.

Here’s the nutrition breakdown for a one-ounce (1/4 cup) serving of hemp seeds:

  • Calories: 166
  • Protein: 9.48 g
  • Carbs: 2.6 g
  • Fiber: 1.2 g
  • Fat: 14.6 g
  • B6: 0.18 mg or 11% of the DV
  • Copper: 0.48 mg or 53% of the DV
  • Iron: 2.38 mg or 13% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 210 mg or 50% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 495 mg or 40% of the DV
  • Zinc: 2.97 mg or 27% of the DV

Hemp seeds are amongst the most nutritious seeds you can eat, providing protein, healthy fats, fiber, and several essential vitamins and minerals including magnesium, B6, and zinc. Hemp seeds may be especially beneficial for brain health, as they’re rich in nutrients needed for optimal brain function and stress regulation, such as protein, fat, and magnesium. Magnesium plays an important role in the body’s stress response and studies show that people who are frequently stressed tend to have lower blood levels of magnesium compared to people who aren’t typically stressed.

What’s more, some research suggests that people with lower blood levels of magnesium are more likely to experience mental health conditions, such as depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety.

Increasing your intake of magnesium-rich foods, like hemp seeds, could help increase your magnesium levels and support mental health. Just one ounce of hemp seeds covers 50% of your recommended daily intake for this nutrient.

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Chia seeds are the seeds of the Salvia hispanica L. plant.  Though tiny, chia seeds pack a punch when it comes to nutrition.

Here’s the nutrition breakdown for a one-ounce serving of chia seeds:

  • Calories: 138
  • Protein: 4.86 g
  • Carbohydrates: 11.9 g
  • Fiber: 9.75 g
  • Fat: 8.7 g
  • Calcium: 179 mg or 14% of the DV
  • Iron: 2.19 mg or 12% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 95 mg or 23% of the DV
  • Manganese: 0.771 mg or 34% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 244 mg or 20% of the DV
  • Selenium: 15.6 micrograms (mcg) or 28% of the DV
  • Zinc: 1.3 mg or 12% of the DV

Chia seeds are an excellent source of several minerals, such as magnesium, manganese, and selenium. They’re also exceptionally high in fiber, with a one-ounce serving covering around 35% of your daily fiber needs.

High-fiber foods, like chia seeds, support your digestive system and can help you maintain healthy levels of blood lipids, like cholesterol and triglycerides. Chia seeds are rich in soluble fiber, which decreases the absorption of cholesterol in the digestive tract and increases its excretion. A 2021 review of 10 studies found that chia seed consumption was effective for lowering total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. What’s more, the review found that eating chia seeds can boost levels of heart protective HDL cholesterol.

Additionally, studies have shown that adding chia seeds to your diet could help reduce blood pressure levels and blood sugar levels, which can also improve heart health and lower heart disease risk.

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Sesame seeds are derived from Sesamum indicum L., a plant that’s beed cultivated for over 5,000 years. In addition to being used to make sesame oil and sesame products like tahini, sesame seeds can be incorporated into dishes like desserts, breads, crackers, and meat dishes.

Here’s the nutrition breakdown for a two-tablespoon serving of dried sesame seeds:

  • Calories: 103.2
  • Protein: 3.18 g
  • Carbohydrates: 4.22 g
  • Fiber: 2.12 g
  • Fat: 8.94 g
  • Calcium: 175.6 mg or 14% of the DV
  • Copper: 0.734 mg or 82% of the DV
  • Iron: 2.62 mg or 15% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 63.2 mg or 15% of the DV
  • Manganese: 0.442 mg or 19% of the DV
  • Selenium: 6.2 mcg or 11% of the DV
  • Thiamine: 0.142 mg or 12% of the DV
  • Zinc: 1.39 mg or 13% of the DV

Sesame seeds provide an impressive amount of nutrition, even when consumed in small portions. A two-tablespoon serving of sesame seeds covers over 10% of your daily needs for calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, selenium, thiamine, and zinc, making sesame seeds an excellent choice for boosting your nutrient intake.

Sesame seeds are also high in protective plant compounds, such as carotenoids, flavonoids, lignans, and polyphenols, and research shows that eating sesame seeds can help increase blood antioxidant levels and reduce markers of inflammation and oxidative stress.

Additionally, eating sesame seeds and sesame seed products like tahini has been shown to be effective for reducing heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol and may help protect against atherosclerosis, or the the thickening or hardening of the arteries caused by a buildup of plaque.

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Flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) is a flowering plant that produces highly nutritious seeds that may benefit health in several ways.

Here’s the nutrition breakdown for a two-tablespoon serving of whole flaxseeds:

  • Calories: 110
  • Protein: 3.76 g
  • Carbohydrates: 5.96 g
  • Fiber: 5.62 g
  • Fat: 8.7 g
  • Copper: 0.25 mg or 28% of the DV
  • Iron: 1.18 mg or 7% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 80.8 mg or 19% of the DV
  • Manganese: 0.51 mg or 22% of the DV
  • Thiamine: 0.338 mg or 38% of the DV
  • Selenium: 5.24 mcg or 10% of the DV
  • Zinc: 0.894 mg or 8% of the DV

Flaxseeds are high in several vitamins and minerals, including copper, magnesium, and selenium.

These seeds also provide a good source of fiber, which can support digestive health. Flaxseeds have been shown to be an effective natural treatment for constipation and may support an overall healthier gut environment by encouraging the growth of beneficial probiotic bacteria.

In addition to encouraging healthy bowel movements and a balanced microbiome, adding high-fiber flaxseeds to your diet can also improve blood sugar regulation and reduce heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol levels. A 2019 study found that treatment with 10 grams of flaxseed twice per day for 12 weeks was more effective than psyllium husk for reducing constipation, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

A 2022 study that included 19 men with type 2 diabetes also found that consuming 15 grams of flaxseed before breakfast reduced post-meal blood sugar by 17% compared to a control breakfast.

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Sunflower seeds are a popular snack food that are commonly enjoyed right out of their shell. These seeds are rich in essential nutrients such as vitamin E, selenium, and healthy fats.

Here’s the nutrition breakdown for a one-ounce serving of shelled sunflower seed kernels:

  • Calories: 155
  • Protein: 5.47 g
  • Carbs: 4.34 g
  • Fiber: 2.55 g
  • Fat: 14.1 g
  • Vitamin E: 7.4 mg or 49% of the DV
  • B6: 0.228 mg or 13% of the DV
  • Folate: 67.2 mcg or 17% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 329 mg or 26% of the DV
  • Copper: 0.519 mg or 58% of the DV
  • Selenium: 22.5 mcg or 41% of the DV
  • Zinc: 1.5 mg or 14% of the DV

Sunflower seeds are a good source of many vitamins and minerals, but are especially high in vitamin E, copper, and selenium, all of which play critical roles in health. One ounce of sunflower seeds provides nearly 50% of your daily needs for vitamin E, a fat-soluble nutrient that functions as a powerful antioxidant in the body, protecting against cellular damage that may otherwise lead to disease.

Sunflower seeds are also concentrated in selenium, a mineral with antioxidant properties that’s necessary for thyroid function and reproductive health.

In addition to vitamins and minerals, sunflower seeds provide a source of fiber and plant-based protein, both of which can help you feel full after eating and support weight maintenance.

If you’re looking for a way to boost your nutritional intake, consider adding more seeds to your diet. Not only are seeds packed with protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but they’re versatile and can be added to both sweet and savory recipes.

Here are a few ways to add more seeds to your diet:

  • Sprinkle seeds on salads and grain bowls to add a crunchy texture and boost of nutrition.
  • Make your own seed butter by blending the sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, or pumpkin seeds in your food processor until smooth.
  • Add seeds to your favorite breakfast recipes like oatmeal, yogurt, and chia pudding.
  • Use seeds in homemade trail mix, granola, and energy bites.
  • Add seeds to baked goods like breads, muffins, and crackers.
  • Pair a handful of mixed seeds with a piece of fresh fruit for a filling snack.

Seeds can be added to a number of other dishes, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different seeds in your kitchen.

Seeds are a healthy and safe choice for most people, but should be avoided by those who are allergic to seeds.

Additionally, people who aren’t used to eating fiber-rich foods may experience bloating and gas after consuming fibrous foods, like seeds.

If your diet is currently low in fiber, it’s recommended to slowly increase your intake of fiber-rich foods to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal side effects.

Seeds, like chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and hemp seeds, are high in nutrients that are important to overall health such as fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.

Not only can eating seeds help you meet your daily nutrition needs, but studies show that seed-rich diets may lower heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, support digestive health, and improve blood sugar control.

Try incorporating the seeds listed above into your diet for an easy and delicious way to improve your health.

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