Chatelaine Kitchen

7 healthy seeds and how to use more of them

They're perfect for healthy snacks, and can be added to salads, baked goods and even smoothies for added protein, nutrition and texture.
By Louisa Clements
super seeds Healthy seeds, from left to right: Hemp, chia, flax and pumpkin seeds. (Photo, Erik Putz.)

There are countless varieties of nutrient-rich seeds available for purchase in stores, and even more ways to use them. They’re a wonderful candidate for healthy snacks, and can be added to salads, baked goods and even smoothies for added protein, nutrition and texture. If you’re not sure where to start, or what to do with them, here’s a quick guide to seven popular seeds you’re seeing in stores now.

Quinoa You may think quinoa is a grain, but it’s actually a seed. Cooked using the same method as rice, quinoa can be used in both cold and hot preparations. Loaded with nutrients, it is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa comes in white (gold), red and black varieties each with a mild and nutty flavour that can be used interchangeably in recipes; just be sure to rinse it before cooking, as this removes any bitterness from the seed.

Did you know? Quinoa can be ground up into flour for a gluten-free alternative for baking. Keep in mind that even when ground, it will retain its mild, nutty flavour.

Sesame seeds The tiny sesame seed is often used as the finishing touch on a dish. With a slightly sweet and milky flavour, sesame seeds are popular in many Asian cuisines as they add a crunchy texture and a nutty note to dishes.

Did you know? Sesame seeds, when ground up into a paste, make tahini, one of the main ingredients found in hummus. Tahini also makes a great alternative to mayonnaise in creamy dressings and sandwich spreads.


Tip: Sesame seeds come in both white and black varieties; while each has slightly different nutritional values and aesthetic, they can be always be used interchangeably in recipes.

Flaxseed Flaxseeds are slightly sweet with a crunchy, slightly gritty texture when ground. Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and fibre, flax is a great addition to oatmeal or baked goods. Typically brown flax is easier to find, but you can also find a golden variety, which has a milder flavour.

Did you know? If you can’t find ground flax seeds at your local store, you can grind whole seeds on your own using your coffee grinder.

Tip: Add flaxseeds to a crumble topping for a healthier dessert option.


Hemp seeds With all nine essential amino acids, hemp seeds, like quinoa, are a complete protein. Plus they are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, giving them serious superfood status. With a similar flavour to pine nuts, and a crunchy and creamy texture, hemp seeds adapt easily to many dishes. Try tossing them in a smoothie or on top of yogurt for a healthy breakfast.

Did you know? Hemp hearts are just shelled hemp seeds; ready to sprinkle on top of any salad, cereal or yogurt.

Tip: All you need is a blender, hemp seeds, water and a few other ingredients to make your own homemade hemp milk.


Chia seeds Chia seeds are a popular option for adding to smoothies and sprinkling overtop of oatmeal or salads. Coming from a plant in the mint family, these tiny black and grey seeds become gelatinous when mixed with liquid, developing a texture similar to tapioca pearls.

Did you know? These tiny seeds can absorb up to 12 times their weight in liquid when soaked. That’s why we love adding chia to overnight oatmeal.

Tip:  Store chia seeds in a cool, dark place and they will keep for several years.

Pepitas These slightly sweet and chewy seeds are also known as pumpkin seeds. Available year-round, they are at their peak during the fall months, and are great when added to salads or baked goods (raw or roasted). These flat, dark green seeds are encased in a yellow or white shell, but for cooking, look for shelled varieties.

Did you know? Pepita is a Spanish culinary term for pumpkin seeds.


Tip:  Use pepitas to dress up pumpkin treats like our pumpkin-ale sweet bread.

Sunflower seeds Sunflower seeds are the fruit of a sunflower and though they are small, they pack a nutritional punch and are loaded with vitamin E. Great for snacking or adding to salads, sunflower seeds can be eaten raw or roasted and can be found with or without their shells. Opt for shelled sunflower seeds for cooking and baking.

Did you know? When combined with baking soda, sunflower seeds cause a chemical reaction that causes seeds to have a blue-green tinge.

Tip: To enhance the flavour, toast sunflower seeds in a hot pan before adding them to a dish. Try adding them to a roasted nut and seeds mix.


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