Small and Mighty: 8 Tiny Foods That Pack a Healthy Punch

Danielle Omar, MS, RD Calcium and Bone Health Leave a Comment

 

clean eating cauliflower soup

Image by Danielle Omar

From hemp hearts to flax to sunflower seeds, these mini nutrition superstars are loaded with essential nutrients like protein, fiber, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. Both a versatile and functional part of a healthy diet, they pack a powerful punch in a small package.  

1.Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds are tiny black seeds that add color, crunch and distinct flavor to bread, cookies, bagels and other baked goods. Beyond their decorative nature, they also provide nutrients, B vitamins, niacin and folate, but poppy seeds are also a great source of minerals. Just 1 teaspoon provides measurable amounts of iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and magnesium.

Ways to Eat Them: Try sprinkling poppy seeds onto oatmeal, whip into salad dressing and sauces, or stir into pancake batter before cooking. Poppy seeds are a tasty addition to pasta or skillet dishes and pair well with creamy soups such as my clean eating cauliflower soup recipe.

2. Pomegranate Seeds

Pomegranates seeds, or arils, are among the healthiest fruits you can eat. Packed with antioxidants and polyphenols, they are cancer protective, heart healthy, help ease arthritis pain, and decrease joint inflammation. Pomegranate was one of the earliest cultivated fruits and are available for a short time during the year (typically September-December).

Ways to Eat Them: Sprinkle pomegranate arils onto guacamole, toss in your favorite salad, mix into cottage cheese, or blend into a smoothie such as this energy boosting green matcha smoothie. I like to mix 1 ounce of pomegranate juice to flavor my plain Kefir or Greek yogurt.

3. Chia Seeds

mango kiwi chia pudding

Image by Danielle Omar

Chia seeds are one of the few heart healthy plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These tiny seeds are also high in soluble fiber, iron, calcium, and magnesium. The fiber in chia seeds can help to lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, and make you feel fuller, for longer.

Ways to Eat Them: Mix with your favorite nut milk to make chia seed pudding, mix with lemonade or fruit smoothies to create a chia Fresca or stir into Greek yogurt, oatmeal, pancake batter or cottage cheese.

4. Hemp Hearts

These little seeds are not what you think. Hemp hearts are derived from the cannabis family, but do not contain THC, marijuana’s active ingredient. Hemp is a great source of complete protein, as well as fiber, and omega-3 fats. They also contain phytosterols, powerful plant-based compounds that can help to lower cholesterol.

Ways to Eat Them: Sprinkle onto green salads, blend into smoothies, stir into oatmeal or add to this mango kiwi chia seed pudding. Add hemp seeds to sauces, dressings, baked goods or energy bites for extra protein. You can also sprinkle onto avocado toast or blend with olive oil to make a drizzle.

5. Pumpkin Seeds

sauteed fish

Image by Danielle Omar

Known as pepitas to some, these super seeds are a great source of essential fats, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc, and protein. Pumpkin seeds can be roasted or eaten raw, with or without the shell.

Ways to Eat Them: Add pepitas to homemade granola, trail mix or energy bites. Use to garnish salads, soups or as a coating for sautéed fish.

6. Flax Seeds

These nutty-flavored super seeds are a great source of soluble fiber, which helps keep your digestive tract healthy and lowers cholesterol. In order to absorb all of their amazing nutrients, flax seeds should be ground before eating. For vegan baking, flax seeds make a great egg substitute when combined with water.

Ways to Eat them:  Add ground flax seed or meal to smoothies; stir into Greek yogurt and oatmeal. For an extra healthy punch, bake flax seed and a packet of tasteless Cal-EZ calcium and vitamin D powder into my favorite chocolate cherry breakfast muffins, your family’s favorite pancake batter, or sprinkle both onto frozen yogurt (your husband and kids will never know!).

7. Sesame Seeds

These popular seeds pack a powerful mineral punch, containing calcium, iron, manganese, zinc, magnesium, selenium, and copper. Sesame seeds are used to make tahini, a traditional Middle Eastern sauce that can be used to make dressing and dipping sauces.

Ways to Eat Them: Use to make tahini spread or homemade hummus. Sprinkle onto peanut butter or avocado toast. Use as a garnish on soup and sprinkle onto Asian-style salads or stir fry. You can also top muffins and rolls with sesame seeds before baking.

8. Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of B vitamins, fiber, and vitamin E. They also contain a bit of protein and heart-healthy omega 3 fats.  

Ways to Eat Them: Use sunflower seeds to make sunflower butter, a nut-free peanut butter substitute. You can also add to salads, soups and sprinkle onto avocado toast.

Now here’s a challenge for you: Add 1-2 mighty foods along with your Cal-EZ powder to some of your meals and snacks this week.

Which mighty foods will you try this week?