Seeds: superstars of nutrition

October 12, 2023 at 10:10 a.m. | Updated October 12, 2023 at 10:10 a.m. Katy G. Wilkens

Nuts and seeds are both packed with nutrition. Nuts are often added to desserts and other recipes. But seeds, not so much. Eating them more often is a good idea because they are little power bundles of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Thanks to our climate along with active squirrel and bird populations, I haven’t had luck growing nuts in my garden. But I can grow seeds. Pumpkin seeds are my favorite because when I cook the pumpkin for pie, Thai pumpkin soup, or curried pumpkin, I also get its wonderful seeds. It’s like getting two meals from one plant.

I roast pumpkin seeds with a little Worcestershire sauce and spices for a great snack. The umami flavor of the Worcestershire means I don’t need to add any salt, which is good for my blood pressure, heart, and kidneys. Likewise, you can try roasting seeds with butter and cinnamon and then adding them to granola.

If you don’t have a pumpkin handy, buy pepitas, as they are called in Spanish. They are the hulled seed inside of the pumpkin kernel. You can find them in the bulk food section of most grocery stores. Pepitas are great added to salads, sprinkled on top of pumpkin soup or mixed into homemade quick or yeast breads.

The other seeds I love to grow are sunflower seeds, though I must battle the squirrels for my fair share. Nothing is more disheartening than seeing a tall sunflower stalk bent halfway over because of a wily squirrel. So, in general I buy my sunflower seeds shelled and unsalted. For a treat, toss them into a salad or use them in this quick bread recipe.

Orange Sunflower Bread

3 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon low-sodium baking powder

1 egg

¼ cup melted butter

¾ cup orange juice

Zest from one orange

¾ cup milk

1 cup sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients. Beat eggs and then add melted butter, milk, orange juice and zest. Add wet ingredients to dry. Stir in sunflower seeds. Grease a 9-inch by 5-inch pan and pour in batter. Bake for about 1 hour. Makes 9 servings.

Nutrition Information:

Calories 418, Protein 9 grams, Carbohydrates: 61 grams, Sodium: 99 milligrams

Roasted Sunflower or Pumpkin Seeds

Mix 2 cups raw pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds, in the shell with 1½ tablespoons of melted butter and ½ teaspoon Worcestershire. Spread seeds on a 10x15-inch baking pan and bake at 250 degrees. Stir occasionally until browned and crisp, about 2 hours. Serve warm or cool. Store the seeds in an airtight container (make sure they are fully cooled) for up to 2 weeks. Sprinkle in salads, add to yogurt or use in a stir-fry.

Nutrition Information (serving size, 2 Tablespoons):

Calories 199, Protein 10 grams, Carbohydrates: 4 grams, Sodium: 6 milligrams

[Contributor Katy G. Wilkens recently retired as registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. The National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition has honored her with its highest awards for excellence in education and for significant contributions in renal nutrition. She has also been awarded the Medal of Excellence in kidney nutrition from the American Association of Kidney Patients.]

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