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1. Flax seeds
These little brown seeds are known for their fibre, which helps with digestive regularity and keeps cholesterol levels in check. Studies have shown that flax seeds can help lower blood pressure and their lignans can help prevent cancer. Some research even suggests that menopausal women might see some relief from hot flashes because of the seeds' special combination of lignans and omegas.
Flax seeds are easy to throw into a smoothie, sprinkle on your morning oatmeal or even mix into baked goods (like these muffins). In one ounce, you'll get five grams of protein, eight grams of fibre, 11 grams of healthy fat—all in 150 calories. Just be sure to choose ground flax seeds. When you ingest them whole, they'll pass right through your system without the benefits.
2. Chia seeds
Chia's claim to fame is that the tiny seeds can absorb more than 10 times their weight in water. Though one ounce of the seeds has 137 calories, when mixed with water, chia achieves a much lower caloric density. After absorbing water, the seeds take on a gelatinous texture that becomes a great base for healthy puddings or a thickener for smoothies. And since that one ounce contains 11 grams of fibre and four grams of protein, it will keep you full for hours. That's why chia seeds have been hailed as an amazing weight-loss food.
Chia seeds also have all kinds of antioxidants and omega-3s. And since, like flax, they're so rich in fibre, chia seeds can help keep blood cholesterol levels healthy and prevent blood sugar spikes. They're also rich in minerals like calcium and magnesium, which are good for your bones.
3. Hemp hearts
Soft and slightly nutty-flavoured, hemp hearts are the raw shelled seeds of the hemp plant. Contrary to common belief, hemp hearts contain no THC. They do, however, contain huge amounts of nutrients. Richer in protein and omega-3s than flax and chia (though lower in fibre), hemp hearts have 160 calories per ounce. Their protein is also complete, meaning it contains all the amino acids your body needs, so it makes a great, all-natural substitute for protein powder.
Hemp hearts are celebrated for their positive effect on heart health, largely due to their omega content, with some evidence showing that they can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. They're also anti-inflammatory and easily added to just about any dish. Try them in smoothies, granola, salads, soups or baked goods.
Looking for more ways to give your nutrition a boost? Eat these top 10 antioxidant-rich foods.