Your parents told you about the birds and the bees, but they may have forgotten to mention the seeds. The sex life of plants may not have seemed as necessary or compelling. Actually it’s way more kinky with its self-fertilization, mating with relatives, etc. But whatever the means, the result is an embryo; that is, a tiny plant bundled up with a protective coating and small survival pack, called a seed. This new life capsule represents a mother lode of nutrition, so if you are serious about the impact of foods on your body, you may want to include seeds in your smoothies.
When we want seed power, we think of the super six: chia, flaxseed, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, and hemp. And if we were the ancients or even Americans from the 1980s, we would have to travel the world to get some of them. The native horticulturists of the Americas would develop three: chia, sunflower seed, and pumpkin seed (also known as pepitas). The sesame seeds would arrive from the Middle East and Asia, and hemp seeds could be found all over Europe and Asia . The flaxseed would come from India and the eastern Mediterranean . Even now, not all of these seeds are easily procured, and some of them are quite expensive, but they are nutritional gold, and you don’t have to buy the more rare and the most expensive to get the nourishment, and you can use them by the tablespoon, not the cup.
We have five criteria when selecting among the seeds: availability and cost, caloric load, nutrition, taste, and a catchall category to handle special considerations.
Availability and Cost:
We lump availability and cost together in the chart that follows. Living in Seattle near the University of Washington, we can shoulder our backpacks and walk or trek to all of these places. And if all else fails, we can summon up the Amazon genie and have UPS deliver it to our doorstep.
With cost and availability as factors, flaxseed and sunflower seeds are clearly winners.
|Calories per two tablespoons|
As a point of comparison, two tablespoons of sugar, butter, and cream are 92, 102, and 204 respectively. Seed deliver a calorie hit; they generally contain more calories than the equivalent amount of sugar and cream, but fewer calories than butter. If you are mother nature putting together a survival pack, you don’t stint on the energy ration.
Taste and Texture
With smoothies, the seeds are a not huge taste or texture presence. Nor are they like their brawny cousins, the nuts, richly, almost decadently, flavored. They don’t even give off exotic aromas. As flavors and textures, seeds come in on tiptoe, mainly. If they announce their presence in a distinctive manner, it may be because they have been salted and roasted or gone rancid. Ground fine in smoothies, they lose much of their crunch, and, except for chia, they add a subtle thickening. Chia thickening is not subtle. The seed bulks up, becomes almost gelatinous when placed in water for half an hour before mixing because it can hold nine times its weight in water. Too much chia can make the smoothie a liquid goop, but in moderate amounts it adds a luscious bubbliness. Partnered with plain yogurt, chia has the texture of soft ice cream, and the taste of something in Black Beauty’s feedbag. In short, seeds do not add a huge “yum” factor. Forced to find descriptors, “eau d’ cardboard” or “hint of saddle leather and oak barrel,” or “tincture of tin” might suffice,
So if seeds are high in calories, somewhat less than ambrosial, and a bit pricey to boot, why bother? Three words: nutrition, nutrition, nutrition.
Part 2: Nutrition and special considerations
- Jefferson used hemp paper for drafting the Declaration of Independence, and hemp fibers were part of Columbus’s sails.
- Charlemagne and Gandhi would maintain that it was the basis national health.
- All the Wholefood products, except hemp, were purchased in the bulk buy section. Packaged versions were available, but they were more expensive as were the versions that were roasted and salted.
- If I bought the sesame seeds in a spice bottle at the Q, the cost was 7.59 for 2.5 oz or nearly $49.00 per pound. If I purchased the sunflower seeds roasted and salt, the cost went up over $3.00 to $4.69 a pound.