Now that March Madness has officially begun, I'm excited to share three of the best superfood seeds in my bracket. Spoiler alert: All of them advance to the final four! While nuts seem to get lots of love (much deserved), seeds also deserve their time to shine in the spotlight. After all, they are packed with nutrition, taste delicious and are incredibly versatile — in other words, they're a slam dunk.
I refer to chia seeds as “nutrition sprinkles” because they help boost the health quotient of just about any meal or snack. Since they swell to about nine times their size, they can help you feel fuller for longer, and they manage to change the consistency of a drinkable smoothie into a gelled yummy pudding — pretty cool, huh?!
One more important health perk: They contain soluble fiber, which acts like a “cholesterol-magnet,” latching onto circulating plaque particles and helping to escort them out of the body. Here's a tasty way to enjoy these small, yet mighty seeds: Make my no-sugar added cherry-chia jam. It requires only three simple ingredients and is the perfect topper for whole-grain toast. It’s also great mixed into plain yogurt, and makes the perfect partner for peanut butter in PB&J sandwiches.
I also like to add the jam to these mini cheesecakes to make mini cherry cheesecakes; each one contains five grams of protein for less than 150 calories! If you're having folks over to watch the games, try piping the chia jam on top to look like little basketballs (so cute!).
Pumpkin seeds are truly a super seed and they benefit the body in so many ways. They provide protein, healthy fat, fiber, plus a satisfying and flavorful crunch. They're one of the best sources of zinc, a mineral crucial for immunity, wound-healing and overall skin health. And there's no wrong way to enjoy 'em: I like to add them (shell on or shell off) into a homemade trail mix, or sprinkle them on yogurt, oatmeal, salad or hummus.
Try my two sweet and savory roasted pumpkin seed recipes: cinnamon-sugar roasted pepitas and savory roasted pepitas. They make a perfect game-day snack — eat them straight from the bowl or sprinkle them on ... everything! *And the crowd goes wild!*
Sunflower seeds may be thought of as a baseball fan’s favorite snack food, but you can enjoy them during basketball season, too. The little seed is loaded with heart-healthy fats, fiber and folate, one of the B vitamins needed to produce DNA and convert carbohydrates into energy.
When they’re purchased in the shell, they’re an ideal snack for waist watchers, since the act of removing the shell can slow down your munching: A half cup of sunflower seeds in the shell (or 1/4 cup out of the shell — I love them both ways) is the perfect portion. They’re great sprinkled into salads and yogurt. Or you can enjoy them in creamy sunflower butter for a terrific nut butter alternative (which is especially helpful for people with nut allergies). You'll flip for these no-bake chocolate sunflower butter cups! Each one is just 70 calories and pro tip: Try stashing them in the freezer for future portion-controlled chocolate treats. They’ll last for months — although they never do in my house!