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healthy living

Fit to Eat

They may be tiny, but seeds pack a powerful nutritional punch. TEXT BY Jessica Cumberbatch photographs by yunhee kim

sunflower seeds Among seeds, these boast some of the best levels of unsaturated fat, the type that lowers bad cholesterol.


earliest incarnations of plants, not to mention those nutritional all-stars, fruits and vegetables. No wonder seeds are good for us. “I advocate nutrient-dense foods,” says Angela Kurtz, a nutritionist at the New York University Langone Medical Center. She calls seeds, which have naturally high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and other healthful compounds, a perfect example of such beneficial foods. Their small size belies their ample offerings, including protein, iron, zinc,

They are the

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pumpkin seeds One ounce contains about 25 percent of the RDA of iron for women age 50 and under—and more than half the RDA for those over 50.

and antioxidants. Seeds are a respectable source of the same good fat found in nuts that has been shown to help lower bad cholesterol, ward off diabetes, and combat the effects of aging associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Although those findings might be news to many, the idea that seeds have salutary rewards is centuries old. One of the earliest written references to sesame seeds tells of the tiny ovules being used for health purposes by the ancient Egyptians. Aztec warriors ate chia seeds to boost energy levels while


sesame seeds Unhulled sesame seeds offer more nutrients than hulled: The shells are a good source of fiber and bone-fortifying calcium.

on the march. In today’s fast-food culture, seeds can serve as easy-to-grab replacements for less healthful options. A fine snack on their own, they also make nutritious additions to soups and salads, particularly if they’re used in place of croutons or crackers. To control overall calorie consumption while introducing more seeds into your diet, Kurtz recommends cutting one nutritiously void item from meals, three times a week, and replacing it with one to two ounces of seeds— a small loss for a wholesome gain.

healthy living

Sesame Seared Tuna with Ginger-Carrot Dipping Sauce Serves 4

For the dipping sauce

2 tablespoons mirin 2 teaspoons white miso (see the Guide) 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger ⅓ cup carrot juice 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar ⅛ teaspoon red-pepper flakes ¼ teaspoon sesame oil 1 scallion, green part only, thinly sliced For the tuna

3 tablespoons unhulled white sesame seeds (see the Guide) 1 tablespoon unhulled black sesame seeds (see the Guide) 1 pound sushi-grade yellowfin tuna, cut into 4-ounce rectangular pieces 1 tablespoon safflower oil

1. Make

the dipping sauce: Combine mirin, miso, ginger, carrot juice, orange juice, soy sauce, vinegar, redpepper flakes, and sesame oil in a small bowl, whisking until miso dissolves. Sprinkle with sliced scallion. 2. Make the tuna: Combine sesame seeds in a shallow dish. Press tuna pieces into seeds, turning to coat each side. Heat oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add tuna, and cook each side until white seeds are golden, about 20 seconds per side. Transfer tuna to a paper-towel-lined plate for 1 minute, then cut each piece into ©-inch-thick slices. Serve with dipping sauce.

Per Serving

243 calories, 1 g saturated fat 4 g unsaturated fat, 51 mg cholesterol 7 g carbohydrate, 212 mg sodium 29 g protein, 1 g fiber

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an open-sesame to flavor The sesame oil used in the dipping sauce complements the coating on the tuna and contributes to the dish’s Asian accent.



textural richness A mixture of unhulled white and black sesame seeds adds crunchy contrast to pieces of tuna.

healthy living

Chicken with Pumpkin-seed Mole Serves 6

1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3), each halved 1 small serrano chile 1 small poblano chile 1 small white onion, cut into ¼-inch dice 2 garlic cloves 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus sprigs for garnish ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons pepitas (roasted unsalted pumpkin seeds) ½ teaspoon ground cumin ¾ teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican 2 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock 1 tablespoon safflower oil ½ teaspoon coarse salt 2 tablespoons lime juice Steamed rice, for serving (optional)

1. Place

chicken in a 4-quart pot, and add water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat, and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate, and cover. 2. Place serrano and poblano chiles directly over the flame of a gas-stove burner on high heat. Roast, turning with tongs, until blackened all over. (Alternatively, broil chiles on a baking sheet, turning often, until skin has charred.) Transfer chiles to a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand for 15 minutes. Peel chiles, and remove stems, seeds, and ribs. 3. Process roasted chiles, onion, garlic, cilantro leaves, ˙ cup pepitas, cumin, oregano, and ˙ cup stock in a blender until a coarse paste forms.

not only for sprinkling A rich pumpkin-seed purée made with green herbs can take the place of cheeseor cream-based sauces.

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4. Heat oil in a 4-quart pot over medi-

um heat. Add paste, and cook, stirring constantly, until very thick, about 9 minutes. (Reduce heat if mixture begins to scorch.) Whisk remaining 1˙ cups of stock into paste until incorporated. Let mixture cool slightly, then transfer to blender. Add salt and lime juice. Process until sauce is smooth. 5. Place chicken in a clean 4-quart pot, and cover with sauce. Cook over medium-low heat until just heated through, about 10 minutes. (Do not simmer.) 6. Transfer chicken to a cutting board, and cut into ˙-inch-thick slices. Distribute evenly among plates, spoon sauce on top, and garnish with cilantro sprigs and remaining 2 tablespoons pepitas. Serve with rice if desired.

Per Serving

(without rice) 287 calories, 2 g saturated fat 11 g unsaturated fat, 66 mg cholesterol 7 g carbohydrate, 250 mg sodium 35 g protein, 2 g fiber

healthy living

1. Preheat

oven to 400°. Toss brussels sprouts, onions, salt, and 2 teaspoons oil in a medium bowl. Season with pepper. Arrange vegetables in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown and tender, 30 to 35 minutes. 2. Transfer roasted vegetables to a serving dish, and toss with herbs, vinegar, warm chicken stock, sunflower seeds, and remaining 1 teaspoon oil. Serve immediately.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sunflower Seeds Serves 4

1 pound medium brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise ½ pound white pearl onions, peeled ½ teaspoon coarse salt 1 tablespoon safflower oil Freshly ground pepper

C r e at e d b y J e f f r e y K u r t z , C h r i s t i n a L a n e , a n d H e at h e r M e l d r o m

½ teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves ½ cup lightly packed fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

Per Serving

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

177 calories, 1 g saturated fat 3 g unsaturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol 21 g carbohydrate, 305 mg sodium 7 g protein, 5 g fiber

¼ cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock, warmed ¼ cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds, roughly chopped

additional sources Safflower oil, made from safflower seeds, is high in heart-healthy unsaturated fat, much like olive oil.

* *

proper storage Keeping sunflower and other seeds in the refrigerator will prevent rancidity and preserve flavor.

ONLINE: more recipes and snack suggestions at

MSL Fit To Eat Column, October 2008  

Fit to Eat Seeds

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