Seedy Toppings: 4 Seeds for Super Health

Kareen Turner by Kareen Turner | August 2nd, 2012 | 6 Comments
topic: Health & Wellness, Healthy Eating

SeedsLooking to add more kick to your oatmeal, baked goods and salad toppings? Why not give these super seeds a try?

Grain-like seeds such as chia and teff have been gaining popularity in the mainstream over the past few years. And what’s not to enjoy? They are versatile, gluten-free nutrition powerhouses rich in protein and fiber, among other important nutrients.

Chia Seed

This South American seed is known for its omega-3, protein and antioxidant profile. It’s not just a 1980s planting pot gimmick anymore: “ch-ch-ch-chia!”

Because of their high antioxidant content, chia seeds can be stored for a long period of time without turning rancid.

How to eat it: In Mexico and Central America, people add chia seeds to water with a splash of lime or lemon juice and a pinch of sugar in a drink called “chia fresca.” Or try adding chia seeds to baked goods (chia chocolate chip cookies, anyone?) or sprinkling them on cereal, in yogurt or on salads. You can also eat chia seeds raw for a healthy, nutty snack.


Also high in fiber, protein and calcium, this Northeast African grain is the smallest grain in the world! Be careful when using it or you’ll end up with lots of hard-to-find tiny seeds on the floor! While teff is a grain, it can be safely included in a gluten-free diet.

There are four types of teff, ranging from white, or “magna,” to dark red. The dark red has the most nutritional value with the highest content of iron, calcium and protein of all types of teff.

How to eat it: Whole-grain teff should be cooked first, then you can sprinkle it on top of your favorite vegetable dish, eat it as a cereal, or add it to soups and salads.

Hemp Seed

Let’s address the white elephant in the room – you will not test positive for drug use by eating hemp and hemp products. Trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the substance responsible for the “high” in marijuana — can be found in hemp-containing foods, but the amount is so minute that it will not affect your mental activity nor alter any drug test.

That’s a good thing, because hemp is indeed a seed you want to include as part of your diet. Hemp seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, fiber and protein.

How to eat it: Hemp seeds can be eaten raw; added to salads, shakes, yogurt, and warm breakfast cereals; or baked into cookies, muffins or other baked goods.


Flaxseed has its history in ancient Egypt and came to popularity because of its nutritional profile — omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and lignans. Lignans? Yes! Lignans are phytoestrogens with antioxidant properties, and flaxseed has one of the highest concentrations of any plant food.

Flaxseed should be ground to receive the highest nutritional benefit since the seeds, even when chewed thoroughly, usually pass through the digestive system untouched.

Buy flaxseed whole and grind only the amount you will need. A coffee grinder will do the trick. If you buy ground flaxseed, store it in the refrigerator to prevent rancidity.

How to eat it: Blend ground flax seed into your morning smoothie; sprinkle it on top of cereal, yogurt or salads; or add it to our next batch of muffins.

Because of their increasing popularity, these seeds and grains can be found at most local health food stores. For a less expensive option, be sure to check the bulk section of your store. Try them in your smoothies, soups and stews. Grind them to create flours that can be used in pancake or burger patty mixes. Dry-toast them to enhance their naturally nutty flavor and enjoy them on their own as a snack.

However you choose to use them, they’re the perfect addition to your nutrition arsenal.

Kareen Turner is a Registered Dietitian (RD), writer, speaker and nutrition blogger. Her best nutritional life includes enjoying whole, plant-based foods from the abundance of the Earth. As an RD, her passion is to inspire others to live their best nutritional life! She specializes in weight loss, diabetes, cardiac and kidney disease nutritional care.

For more about Kareen, visit, join her Facebook page or follow her on Twitter.


  1. I just started using flaxseeds in my protein balls and smoothies. And my coffee grinder does a wonderful job at making ground flax seed. Great article. Thank you.

    BTW, not familiar with Teff. Will need to check that out! #GlutenFree sweet.

  2. I love these ideas (I’m already a big hemp seed fan). Thanks for sharing!

    bex | August 2nd, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  3. I have just started eating Teff for breakfast and love it. You mention cooking it first and then adding it to salads, soups or veggie dishes. How do you cook it for this purpose. When I cook it for breakfast I use 1/4 c Teff, 1 cup water and boil then simmer for 15 minutes. It comes out like porridge which works for breakfast but I wouldn’t add it to salads like this. Do you toast the grains?

    Paula | September 15th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  4. Hi Paula – Thanks for your question about cooking with teff! For a less porridge-y teff that you can sprinkle on dishes, try this:

    Toast the 1 cup of teff in a hot skillet, stirring quickly for 2 minutes. Add the teff to a saucepan with 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove
    from heat and let sit, covered for another 5 minutes.

    Hope that helps!

    Valerie, Gaiam Content and Social Media Coordinator

    Valerie Gleaton | September 17th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
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