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Newsletter 06

Omega Mix

Incredibly healthy, incredibly versatile.


Omega Mix

BonPom Omega Mix combines pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and flax seeds. These seeds are all rich sources of essential fatty acids (EFAs), protein, fibre, antioxidants, minerals and plant compounds such as phytosterols (1) and phytoestrogens. Phytosterols are plant compounds that have a similar structure to cholesterol and can help to improve blood cholesterol levels. Phytoestrogens are plant chemicals that have a similar structure to oestrogen. Through their weak oestrogenic effect they can help to balance sex hormones in men and women.

Here’s a quick look at the health benefits of the 4 seeds in Omega Mix. Pumpkin Seeds Pumpkins and their seeds were traditionally eaten by the American Indians who valued both their nutritional and medicinal properties. It is thought that Columbus brought pumpkins to Europe when he returned from his travels. Pumpkin seeds provide good amounts of potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, selenium, the essential fats and protein (2). Pumpkin seeds have traditionally been used in folk medicine for the treatment of prostatic hypertrophy (3). Benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH is a common problem in men over the age of 50. BPH refers to enlargement of the prostate gland due to over stimulation by testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Modern research has confirmed that pumpkin seeds do have an inhibitory effect on the development of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) possibly through their effect on the testosterone to oestrogen ratio (4) as well as their rich content of omega 3 fats, carotenoids and zinc. It’s not only men who can benefit from pumpkin seeds. Post menopausal women given 2g of pumpkin seed oil over a 12 week period experienced improvements in their cholesterol levels, reduced blood pressure, less severe hot flushes, fewer headaches and reduced joint pains (5). These benefits are thought to be due to the phytoestrogens in pumpkin seeds.


Sunflower Seeds

Seeds and Essential Fats

Sunflowers are believed to have originated in Mexico and Peru from where Spanish explorers brought them back to Europe. Each of these beautiful flowers is able to provide us with hundreds of nutrient packed sunflower seeds.

The omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) were discovered in 1929 by Burr and Burr but it is really in the past 20 years that scientists have begun to investigate the impact of these fatty acids on human health. They have found that the Essential Fatty Acids:

Sunflower seeds contain approximately 45-53% oil and 15-18% protein, including a balanced range of amino acids (6) making them a good source of plant protein for vegans and vegetarians. They also contain vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, selenium and B vitamins. They are one of the richest commonly eaten sources of phytosterols (1), plant compounds that have beneficial effects on cholesterol levels.

Sesame Seeds Sesame seeds have been grown in tropical regions the world over since ancient times, although it is believed they originated in India. They feature as symbols of immortality in early Hindu legends. The ancient Egyptians depicted them being added to bread dough in their tomb paintings making them one of the first known condiments. The exclamation “Open Sesame” from the “Tales of the Arabian Nights” reflects the fact that sesame seed pods burst open when they ripen. Sesame seeds contain up to 55% oil and 20% protein. Their oil is highly valued as it is exceptionally resistant to rancidity, unlike many seed oils. They are rich in the amino acids tryptophan and methionine, as well as containing the beneficial linoleic and oleic acids along with the antioxidant vitamin E. They also have phytooestrogenic activity meaning they may help to balance the body’s own oestrogen (7). Sesame seeds contain very high levels of lignans including sesamin, sesaminol and sesaminol glucosides, whose beneficial effects include inhibition of cholesterol absorption and reduced cholesterol synthesis, prevention of thrombotic diseases, antioxidant properties and anti-ageing effects. They may also help to lower blood pressure and improve liver function with regard to alcohol metabolism (8,9).

Linseeds/Flax Seeds Flax seeds have been cultivated in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions for thousands of years for both culinary and domestic purposes. They are one of the richest plant sources of omega 3 fatty acids with their multiple beneficial effects on inflammation, hormone balance and cardiovascular health. In addition, their high content of polyphenols puts them in the same league as blueberries in terms of their antioxidant capacity! They are rich in good quality protein, fibre, magnesium and manganese. Research has shown that flax seeds are able to reduce joint swelling, have anti-arthritic properties and may be beneficial in the prevention and management of rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic inflammatory disorders (10). The omega 3 fats in flax seeds also have anti-histamine properties so may be useful for reducing allergic reactions (11). There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the lignans in flax seeds have protective effects against cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome due to their ability to reduce lipid and glucose concentrations, lower blood pressure and to decrease oxidative stress and inflammation. Flax lignans may also reduce the risk of cancer by preventing pre-cancerous cellular changes (12,13). Research in Denmark has found that flax seeds increase satiety with an appetite suppressant effect leading to reduced energy intake in subsequent meals (14) making them a useful food for those wishing to lose weight. One of the major health benefits of seeds is their essential fat content. Let’s examine the role of these fats in health and disease.

Form the framework for cell membranes, particularly the neurons in the brain. Are involved in transforming the energy from food into energy for mental and physical function. Regulate the flow of information between cells. Are precursors to hormone type molecules such as prostaglandins, leukotrienes and thromboxanes which regulate immunity, platelet aggregation and inflammation (15). The correct ratio between the omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids allows the cell membranes to develop exactly the right flexibility and fluidity, to carry messages between neurons as well as having a profound influence on the body’s inflammatory responses (15). The ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats needed for optimum health is still up for debate. Some estimates suggest that human beings evolved consuming a diet that contained equal amounts of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids (16), while others suggest a ratio of 1:4 in favour of the omega 6 fats is optimum (15). Over the past 100-150 years there has been an enormous increase in the consumption of omega 6 fatty acids due to the increased intake of vegetable oils such as corn oil, sunflower seed oil and soybean oil which are in many processed foods. Today, the ratio of omega 3 to 6 in Western diets may typically range from 1:10 up to 1:30. It should be noted that it is the consumption of seed oils rather than the seeds themselves that has led to this imbalance. The increase in omega 6 fatty acids shifts the body into a pro-thrombotic and pro-inflammatory state that is characterised by increased blood viscosity, vasospasm and vasocontriction. In addition to the increase in omega 6 fats the high levels of saturated fats found in processed meats may also cause the cell membranes to lose flexibility thus affecting their function. The omega 3 fatty acids can counteract these effects with their antiinflammatory, anti-thrombotic, anti-arrhythmic, hypolipidemic and vasodilatory properties. These beneficial effects of omega 3 fats have been shown to help prevent coronary heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative arthritis, Crohn’s disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (16), depression and neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (15). Many studies are carried out using EPA and DHA from fish oils but the alpha-linolenic acid found in flax seeds and pumpkin seeds can be converted in the human body into EPA and DHA and, by itself, may have beneficial effects on health and in the control of chronic diseases (16). Here is what modern research has discovered about the potential benefits of including seeds in your diet.

Seeds and Cancer Recent research in Germany found that post menopausal women who include sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds in their diets are at significantly lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to women who don’t eat these seeds (17). This is most likely due to their phytoestrogen content.

Seeds and Brain Development and Function The importance of essential fatty acids in the development of the brain and central nervous system of babies is well-documented. Research into the effects of flax seeds on brain development in rats


found that when the mothers were fed flaxseeds their babies had significant increases in brain weight and levels of DHA in the brain were increased (18). This indicates that the omega 3 fats in the flaxseeds were being converted into DHA, which is vital for brain development and function. Research has also found that rats whose brains are deficient in omega 3 fats will choose to eat an omega 3 rich diet when given the option, indicating that the nutritional need for these fats is hardwired into them and out-weighs taste, odour or texture cues (19).

Seeds and Cardiovascular Health Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. There are various underlying imbalances involved in CVD including heart rhythm disorders or arrhythmias. Evidence of the anti-arrhythmic effects of omega 3 fats originated from epidemiological studies that correlated a low incidence of sudden cardiac death with a high dietary intake of omega 3 fats. Subsequently, multiple clinical trials have confirmed the therapeutic effects of the omega 3 fats in preventing sudden cardiac death and other arrhythmia related disorders (20). As well as reducing arrhythmias the omega 3 fatty acids also influence the production of prostaglandins with the effect of reducing inflammation and improving platelet and endothelial function. One research study found that eating a seed mix containing flax, pumpkin and sesame seeds prepared with a ratio of 5:1 omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids for 30 days had an anti-atherogenic, hepatoprotective (protective to the liver) and antioxidant effect (21,22). This is likely to be due to these seeds being rich in unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants and fibre. Sesame seeds alone have been found to induce beneficial changes in risk factors related to cardiovascular disease. Hyperlipidemic patients who included sesame seeds in their diet for 60 days had lower total cholesterol levels, lower LDL cholesterol, decreased lipid peroxidation with increased antioxidant status (23)

Here are some recipes to get you started: Savoury Seed Balls 225g/8oz Omega Mix 2 tbsp tahini 2 tbsp lemon juice 1-2 tsp miso paste 2 tsp mixed dried herbs Sea salt or rock salt Freshly ground black pepper Toasted sesame seeds Put all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until you have a thick paste, adding more water or lemon juice if needed. Taste and add more salt, pepper, herbs, tamari or lemon juice if necessary. Shape the mixture into small round balls and roll in the toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy as a snack on their own or use the mixture as a spread in sandwiches, pitta breads or nori wraps. Spicy Omega Burgers 2 cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed 2 tbsp tahini 1 carrot, grated 4 tbsp Omega Seed Mix 1 tbsp paprika ¼ tsp cayenne pepper 2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Researchers at the John Hopkins Centre for the Prevention of Heart Disease recommend a diet rich in omega 3 fats for patients with known cardiovascular disease or congestive heart failure (24)

2 tbsp tamari soy sauce

Seeds and Obesity

Olive oil

Obesity is a major problem worldwide. Its prevalence is increasing, bringing with it the burden of diet-related chronic diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and some cancers (25). Obese individuals are 2 to 3 times more likely to die prematurely than their lean counterparts, primarily due to the association between obesity with type 2 diabetes and heart disease (25). Despite the belief that nuts and seeds are high in calories and therefore not ideal for those trying to lose weight the evidence that the unsaturated fatty acids found in seeds can help to counteract the negative effects of obesity is substantial. This is likely to be due to their protective effect on cell function, energy production and metabolism.

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and process until the mixture holds together but is not completely smooth – it’s nice to have a bit of texture to your burgers.

Seeds and Bone Health Bone loss in post menopausal women is a major problem around the world with osteoporosis being considered a silent killer due to fact that the problem may not be identified until fractures develop. Bone loss is mediated by inflammatory cytokines. Dietary supplementation with flaxseeds in animals and humans significantly reduces cytokine production while at the same time increasing calcium absorption, bone calcium and bone density. The researchers suggest that foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids could be used therapeutically to slow bone loss in post-menopausal women (26).

How to Include Omega Mix in your Diet Omega mix is incredibly versatile. Try Omega Mix sprinkled onto salads, cooked vegetables, porridge, muesli or other breakfast cereals. For extra crunch add them to homemade bread and other baked goods. You can, of course, eat them just as they are!

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Juice of ½ a lime

Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Shape the mixture into burger shapes and place them on the lined tray. Brush with olive oil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes on gas mark 6/190C.

References MacArtain P, Gill Cl, Brooks M, Campbell R, Rowland R. Nutritional value of edible seaweeds. Nutr Rev. 2007 Dec;65(12 Pt 1):535-43. Kim SK, Bhatnagar I.Physical, chemical, and biological properties of wonder kelp-laminaria. Adv Food Nutr Res. 2011;64:8596 Rajapakse N, Kim SK. Nutritional and digestive health benefits of seaweed. Adv Food Nutr Res. 2011;64:17-28. Skrovankova S. Seaweed vitamins as nutraceuticals. Adv Food Nutr Res. 2011;64:357-69 Verhaeghe EF, Fraysse A, Guerquin-Kern JL et al. Microchemical imaging of iodine distribution in the brown alga Laminaria digitata suggests a new mechanism for its accumulation. Biol Inorg Chem. 2008 Feb;13(2):257-69. Mansourian AR. A review on the metabolic disorders of iodine deficiency.Pak J Biol Sci. 2011 Apr 1;14(7):412-24. Zimmerman MB. The role of iodine in human growth and development. Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2011 Aug;22(6):645-52. Leung AM. Pearce EN, Braverman LE. Iodine nutrition in pregnancy and lactation. Endocrinol Metab. Clin North Am. 2011 Dec;40(4):765-77. Zimmerman M, Delange F. Iodine supplementation of pregnant women in Europe: a review and recommendations. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2004 Jul;58(7):979-84. Joshi A, Pokhrel T, Bastola SP, Banjara MR, Joshi AB. Iodine supplementation in pregnancy and its effects on perinatal outcome. Nepal Med Coll J. 2011 Jun;13(2):128-30. Miyata M, Koyama T, Kamitani T, Toda T, Yazawa K. Anti-obesity effect on rodents of the traditional Japanese food, tororokombu, shaved Laminaria. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2009 Oct;73(10):2326-8. Maruyama H, Yamamoto I. Suppression of 125I-uptake in mouse thyroid by seaweed feeding: possible preventative effect of dietary seaweed on internal radiation injury of the thyroid by radioactive iodine. Kitasato Arch Exp Med. 1992 Dec;65(4):20916. Sakakibara H, Nakagawa S, Wakameda H, Nakagiri Y, Kamata K, Das SK, Tsujui T, Kanazawa K. Effects of Japanese kelp (kombu) on life span of benzo[a]pyrene-fed mice. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2005 Oct;51(5):369-73. Skibola CF, Curry JD, VandeVoort C, Conley A, Smith MT. Brown kelp modulates endocrine hormones in female sprague-dawley rats and in human luteinized granulosa cells. J Nutr 2005 Feb;135(2):296-300.

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BonPom Newsletter 6 - Omega Mix