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Seven ways to eat more seeds

Seeds may be tiny, but these nutrition powerhouses tick all the boxes! From sunflower seeds to chia seeds find out how to boost the nutrition of your meals and protect your heart.

Various different types of seeds scattered artistically across a white surface.

Why are seeds so good for you?

Seeds are rich in healthy fats, fibre, protein and a wide range of nutrients that are good for your health and protect your heart.

Although seeds are nutritionally very similar to nuts, they tend to be higher in heart-healthy poly-unsaturated fats (PUFA) and fibre.

How to eat more seeds

Our latest review of the evidence shows that eating around 3-4 handfuls of nuts and seeds each week (around 15g per day) benefits our heart health. Adding seeds into your everyday meals is a simple and tasty way to boost the nutrition of your meals and make them more exciting.

Use the following seven tips to help you get the health benefits from eating a wide range of seeds.

1. Stock your pantry with a variety of seeds so you have them on hand

Many seeds like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds and sesame seeds are cheap to buy. For example, a 100g packet of sunflower seeds will cost around $1.20. 

Keep an eye out for these common seeds:

  • chia seeds
  • hemp seeds
  • flaxseeds/linseeds
  • poppy seeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • sunflower seeds.

Did you know you can freeze seeds if you need to? It will stop them going off and means you can buy them in bulk.

2. Add seeds to your favourite meals

You don’t need to make drastic changes to your diet. The best changes are the ones that you barely notice. Think about the meals you regularly make and how you can add in a sprinkle of seeds.

Here are some ideas:

  • Add black or white sesame seeds as a final touch to a stir-fry or Asian style salad.
  • Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top of a cottage pie or frittata before baking.
  • Coat chicken or fish with a sesame seed, chia seed or flaxseed crumb.
  • Toast sunflower seeds and sprinkle them on top of a salad for extra crunch.
Green healthy salad with avocado, baked chickpeas and seeds in a white bowl.

3. Snack on nut and seed mixes

Dried fruit and nut mixes are popular, but they’re often dominated by dried fruit which is high in sugar and doesn’t provide our bodies with any valuable nutrients (when compared to a whole piece of fruit). Look out for nut and seed mixes instead. If you can’t find a nut and seed mix, have a go at buying nuts and seeds in bulk and making your own combination.

4. Start the day with seeds

Breakfast is an easy meal to pack in seeds. Here are our favourite ways to start the day:

  • Sprinkle pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or hemp seeds onto porridge, muesli or a smoothie bowl.
  • Make an overnight chia seed pudding or bircher muesli.
  • Make your own muesli or granola using flaxseeds, sunflower seeds and chia seeds.
  • Add a handful of flaxseeds, sunflower seeds or hemp seeds to a smoothie.
  • Spread toast with homemade chia seed jam.
Healthy breakfast berry smoothie bowl topped with banana, cashew and chia seeds

5. Give tahini a go

Tahini is a spread made from sesame seeds and has become more popular in recent years. It looks a bit like peanut butter and is a great substitute for people with a nut allergy.

Hulled tahini is lighter and creamier in flavour because the bran is separated from the sesame seed kernels. Unhulled tahini is made from the whole seed, is darker and more bitter but also richer in fibre and calcium.

If you’re not already on board the tahini train – now is the time to try it! Tahini is mild in flavour and can be used to make hummus, salad dressings and as an ingredient in sweet dishes too.

Tahini in a white ceramic bowl sprinkled with sesame seeds next to a pile of sesame seeds.

6. Choose bread and baking recipes that feature seeds

Here are some of our favourites:

Did you know you can usually substitute nuts for various seeds like sunflower seeds? This can make the ingredients cheaper and can also be a good option for people with nut allergies.

Raw vegan healthy dessert, date and nuts bliss balls, with the ingredients set alongside in small white ceramic bowls.

7. Look for products containing seeds

While we want to base our diet around as many whole foods as possible like fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, some packaged foods like bread and breakfast cereals help to form part of a heart-healthy diet too.

Choosing products that contain seeds may be another way to help you include seeds into your diet.

Remember that foods labelled as containing seeds are not automatically healthier. Products like toasted muesli, nut/seed bars and crackers will have varying levels of salt, sugar and saturated fat added to make them taste better.

Use the tips below to help you find the best option to work in with your taste and budget.

  1. Look for seeds as a key ingredient in the products you regularly buy.
  2. Read the ingredients list and choose products that name a seed first or near the beginning of the list. A long list of ingredients full of words you probably can’t pronounce is one sign that a food is highly processed.
  3. Look for products with seeds that you can actually see like pumpkin seeds on top of bread or crackers.
Top view of two baguettes baked bread in paper with different seeds (pumpkin, poppy, flax, sunflower, sesame, millet) decorated with ears of wheat isolated on white background.

Nuts and seeds position statement

Guide to heart-healthy eating

Lily Henderson, NZRD

Lily Henderson, NZRD

National Nutrition Advisor

I am passionate about improving the health of all Kiwis from young through to old. I have enjoyed working in nutrition in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.