12 Types of Edible Seeds and Their Benefits

Seeds may not be among the most exciting foods, but they offer a lot of nutritional value.

Like nuts, edible seeds provide an excellent dose of healthy fats and essential nutrients.

Most seeds are a rich source of minerals, and they are generally quite affordable too.

In this article, we look at twelve different types of seeds and summarize their main nutritional benefits.

Unless otherwise stated, the source of all nutritional data is the USDA’s FoodData Central database.

1) Chia Seeds

Heap of Chia Seeds In a Pile.

Chia seeds are tiny black, grey, or white seeds that have been popular in Central America since ancient times, and they were a staple of the Aztec diet (1).

These seeds have become increasingly popular over the past decade, and they are a rich source of omega-3 in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) form.

ALA needs converting to the more bioavailable DHA and EPA (as found in seafood) before the body can use it. On this note, the conversion rate tends to be lower than 15% (2).

While this conversion rate may sound low, chia can still contribute a beneficial amount of omega-3 to the average diet.

The table below shows the basic nutritional values for one ounce (28.5 grams) of chia seeds (3):

Calories/Nutrient Amount
Calories 138 kcal
Carbohydrate 11.9 g
  Fiber 9.75 g
  Sugars 0 g
Fat 8.71 g
  Saturated Fat 0.94 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 0.65 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 6.71 g
    Omega-3 5.05 g
    Omega-6 1.65 g
Protein 4.69 g

Chia seeds have a high concentration of soluble fiber, and they are capable of absorbing significant amounts of water (4).

For this reason, the seeds create a gel-like consistency when added to water/drinks.

In terms of flavor, chia tastes kind of nutty, and the seeds are crunchy when raw and soft after absorbing water.

Regarding their essential nutrient profile, one ounce of chia seeds provides an excellent source of (3):

  • Vitamin K1: 167% of the daily value (DV)
  • Manganese: 33% DV
  • Magnesium: 26% DV
  • Iron: 26% DV
  • Phosphorus: 20% DV

See this full nutritional guide to chia seeds for more information

Key Point: Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3, fiber, and various minerals.

2) Egusi Seeds

Egusi Seeds Without Their Shells.

Egusi seeds are one of the lesser-known seeds in the Western world. The seeds come from a sour-tasting, watermelon-like fruit, which is incredibly bitter (and also known as ‘sour apple’) (6).

Additionally, these seeds tend to be ground into powder and then used as an ingredient in cooking due to their thickening properties and flavorful taste.

One popular recipe is egusi soup, a regional West African dish featuring meat and various vegetables (7).

Unfortunately, the full nutritional values of egusi seeds are not currently available in a reputable nutritional database.

However, research demonstrates that they are a good source of monounsaturated fat, B vitamins, and minerals (8).

Key Point: Egusi seeds are a nutritious cooking ingredient that are especially popular in Western Africa.

3) Flax Seeds

Pile of Brown Flaxseeds

Flax seeds are one of the most popular edible seed varieties, and they come in several different forms:

  • Whole flax seeds
  • Ground flax powder
  • Flax oil

Flax seeds are also sometimes known as linseeds, and they come in two main varieties: brown and yellow.

One ounce (28.5 grams) of flax seeds provides the following nutrition profile (9):

Calories/Nutrient Amount
Calories 151 kcal
Carbohydrate 8.19 g
  Fiber 7.74 g
  Sugars 0.44 g
Fat 11.95 g
  Saturated Fat 1.04 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 2.13 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 8.14 g
    Omega-3 6.47 g
    Omega-6 1.67 g
Protein 5.19 g

Flax seeds offer a reasonable range of essential nutrients, and per ounce serving, they are high in (9):

  • Thiamin (B1): 39% DV
  • Copper: 39% DV
  • Manganese: 30% DV
  • Magnesium: 26% DV
  • Phosphorus: 15% DV

See this full guide to flax seeds for more information.

Key Point: Flax seeds are a good source of minerals and ALA omega-3.

4) Hemp Seeds

Pile of Hemp Seeds.

Hemp seeds are nutrient-rich, containing high levels of numerous vitamins and minerals.

Some people enjoy the seeds raw, and hemp flour is a popular ingredient for baking purposes.

Nutritionally, hemp seeds have the following profile per ounce (28.5 gram) serving (10):

Calories/Nutrient Amount
Calories 157 kcal
Carbohydrate 2.46g
  Fiber 1.13 g
  Sugars 0.43 g
Fat 13.82 g
  Saturated Fat 1.30 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 1.53 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 10.80 g
    Omega-3 2.64 g
    Omega-6 7.78 g
Protein 8.95 g

As shown, hemp seeds are surprisingly high in protein and contain little carbohydrate.

The seeds are high in fat, and most of this is polyunsaturated fat—predominantly omega-6.

Here are some of the most concentrated vitamins and minerals an ounce serving offers (10):

  • Manganese: 93% DV
  • Copper: 50% DV
  • Magnesium: 47% DV
  • Phosphorus: 37% DV
  • Thiamin (B1): 30% DV

See this full guide to hemp seeds for more nutritional information

Key Point: Hemp seeds are rich in protein and an excellent source manganese, copper, and magnesium.

5) Jackfruit Seeds

Jackfruit is officially the biggest fruit in the world (11).

Interestingly, the edible seeds of this giant fruit have become popular in recent years.

However, they are pretty different from other seeds in a nutritional sense. For example, jackfruit seeds are primarily a source of carbohydrates rather than fat.

Unfortunately, major nutrition databases do not supply the complete nutrient profile for jackfruit seeds.

That said, four separate studies have looked into the nutritional properties of jackfruit seeds. Based on the mid-point of the range of this nutritional data, here are the nutritional values for jackfruit seeds per ounce (28.5-gram) serving (12):

Calories/Nutrient Amount
Calories 42 kcal
Carbohydrate 9.1 g
Fiber 0.35 g
Fat 0.12 g
Protein 1.93 g

Jackfruit seeds also offer small amounts of riboflavin, thiamin, magnesium, and phosphorus.

In its South-East Asian homeland, people consume jackfruit seeds either raw or roasted (13).

According to some, they taste similar to chestnuts once roasted.

Key Point: Jackfruit seeds are bigger than typical seeds, but they’re not quite as nutritious.

6) Lotus Seeds

White Lotus Seeds.

The lotus flower is famous for its attractive pink appearance, and it produces unique round-shaped white seeds.

Lotus seeds are quite different from most types of seeds, and they are low in calories, fat, and carbohydrate.

Per ounce (28g) serving, here are their basic nutritional values (14):

Calories/Nutrient Amount
Calories 25.2 kcal
Carbohydrate 4.9 g
Fat 0.15 g
  Saturated Fat 0.02 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 0.03 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.09 g
    Omega-3 0.01 g
    Omega-6 0.08 g
Protein 1.17 g

Lotus seeds are not particularly rich in essential nutrients, but per ounce serving, they contain small to moderate levels of (14):

  • Manganese: 8% DV
  • Phosphorus: 4% DV
  • Magnesium: 4% DV
  • Thiamin (B1): 4% DV
  • Potassium: 2% DV
Key Point: Lotus seeds have a unique appearance, but they are not among the most nutrient-dense seed options.

7) Nigella Seeds

Bowl of Black Cumin Seeds.

Nigella seeds are edible seeds with an intense flavor.

However, people don’t eat them raw, and the seeds are typically an ingredient for seasoning various dishes.

For instance, nigella seeds frequently feature in regional Indian curries (15).

Nigella seeds have several different names, and they may also be called kalonji, fennel, and black cumin.

Nutritionally, nigella seeds provide the following profile per ounce (28g) (16):

Calories/Nutrient Amount
Calories 96.6 kcal
Carbohydrate 14.6 g
  Fiber 11.1 g
Fat 4.2 g
  Saturated Fat 0.1 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 2.8 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g
    Omega-6 0.47 g
Protein 4.4 g

However, it is worth noting that the average serving size is much less than this, at around one teaspoon to one tablespoon.

Nigella seeds are a reasonably good source of nutrients, and per ounce, they provide (16):

  • Manganese: 91% DV
  • Calcium: 33% DV
  • Iron: 29% DV
  • Magnesium: 27% DV
  • Copper: 15% DV

Interestingly, research findings from several randomized controlled trials suggest that nigella seeds may have a beneficial effect on lowering blood pressure (17).

Key Point: Nigella seeds are a popular seed used as a flavoring spice.

8) Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds are another edible seed with a nutty flavor.

Although it is possible to eat them raw, these seeds often feature as an ingredient in bakery products.

Poppy seeds are mainly a source of fat, but they are also relatively high in dietary fiber. Here are their basic nutritional values per ounce (28.5-gram) (18):

Calories/Nutrient Amount
Calories 149 kcal
Carbohydrate 7.97 g
  Fiber 5.53 g
  Sugars 0.85 g
Fat 11.78 g
  Saturated Fat 1.28 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 1.70 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 8.10 g
    Omega-3 0.08 g
    Omega-6 8.02 g
Protein 5.10 g

An ounce of poppy seeds also provides high amounts of the following vitamins and minerals (19):

  • Manganese: 83% DV
  • Copper: 51% DV
  • Calcium: 31% DV
  • Magnesium: 23% DV
  • Phosphorus: 20% DV

It is also worth noting that these seeds come from the opium plant. Although it appears to be unlikely, research suggests that contamination during the harvesting of poppy seeds could potentially cause false-positive drug tests for opiates (19).

See this complete guide to poppy seeds for more information.

Key Point: Poppy seeds are reasonably nutritious and they enjoy popular use as a baking ingredient.

9) Pumpkin Seeds

A Pile of Pumpkin Seeds.

These dark green seeds have a mild and nutty flavor, and they’re surprisingly high in protein.

Pumpkin seeds are also one of the best dietary sources of magnesium. Here are their basic nutritional values per ounce (28.5 gram) serving (20):

Calories/Nutrient Amount
Calories 158 kcal
Carbohydrate 3.04 g
  Fiber 1.70 g
  Sugars 0.40 g
Fat 13.91 g
  Saturated Fat 2.45 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 4.60 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 5.95 g
    Omega-3 0.03 g
    Omega-6 5.86 g
Protein 8.57 g

Pumpkin seeds are especially rich in the following essential minerals (20):

  • Manganese: 56% DV
  • Magnesium: 40% DV
  • Phosphorus: 28% DV
  • Copper: 42% DV
  • Zinc: 20% DV

It is possible to eat pumpkin seeds raw, or roasting them is another popular way to eat them. Basting the seeds in a bit of butter, garlic powder, and salt works well.

Key Point: Pumpkin seeds offer high amounts of dietary protein and essential minerals.

10) Sesame Seeds

Pile of Sesame Seeds.

Sesame seeds have flavor in abundance, and they’re one of the world’s most popular ways to season food.

In particular, numerous Asian dishes use either toasted sesame seeds or sesame oil as a spice to impart extra flavor to the recipe. Also, the seeds are a vital ingredient in tahini, which is a famous condiment/dip.

Sesame seeds have a mild but flavorful nutty taste, and they also have a slight hint of sweetness.

Per ounce serving, they offer the following nutritional values (21):

Calories/Nutrient Amount
Calories 162 kcal
Carbohydrate 6.65 g
  Fiber 3.35 g
  Sugars 0.09 g
Fat 14.08 g
  Saturated Fat 1.97 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 5.32 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 6.17 g
    Omega-3 0.11 g
    Omega-6 6.03 g
Protein 5.03 g

In terms of vitamins and minerals, the most concentrated nutrients per ounce are (21):

  • Copper: 129% DV
  • Calcium: 21% DV
  • Manganese: 30% DV
  • Magnesium: 24% DV
  • Iron: 23% DV
Key Point: Sesame seeds are probably the most flavorful edible seed, and they’re an excellent source of copper.

11) Sunflower Seeds

Heaped Pile of Sunflower Seeds.

A lot of sunflower seed production goes to making sunflower oil, which is a common ingredient in processed food.

However, they are also available in their whole form.

Sunflower seeds are not particularly tasty in their raw state, but they have a crunchy texture and a nutty flavor when roasted.

The following table shows the nutritional profile of the seeds per ounce (28.5-gram) serving (22):

Calories/Nutrient Amount
Calories 165 kcal
Carbohydrate 5.67 g
  Fiber 2.44 g
  Sugars 0.74 g
Fat 14.59 g
  Saturated Fat 1.26 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 5.25 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 6.56 g
    Omega-3 0.02 g
    Omega-6 6.53 g
Protein 5.89 g

Regarding their essential nutrient content, sunflower seeds provide an excellent source of vitamin E.

Here are the five most concentrated nutrients per ounce serving (22):

  • Vitamin E: 66% DV
  • Copper: 57% DV
  • Thiamin (B1): 35% DV
  • Manganese: 24% DV
  • Magnesium: 22% DV
Key Point: Sunflower seeds offer high amounts of copper and vitamin E.

12) Watermelon Seeds

Pile of Watermelon Seeds.

While they are not one of the most popular edible seeds, it is becoming easier to see watermelon seeds for sale.

These seeds are somewhat similar to sunflower seeds in that they do not taste particularly good in their raw state.

However, they do taste good when lightly salted and roasted.

Per ounce (28.5-gram) serving, watermelon seeds have the following basic nutrition profile (23):

Calories/Nutrient Amount
Calories 158 kcal
Carbohydrate 4.34 g
  Fiber 1.60 g
  Sugars 1.18 g
Fat 13.43 g
  Saturated Fat 2.77 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 2.10 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 7.96 g
    Omega-3 0 g
    Omega-6 7.96 g
Protein 8.03 g

Watermelon seeds are relatively rich in these vitamins and minerals (23):

  • Magnesium: 35% DV
  • Manganese: 20% DV
  • Phosphorus: 17% DV
  • Zinc: 26% DV
  • Iron: 11% DV
Key Point: Watermelon seeds are one of the best sources of dietary magnesium.

Nutritional Comparison Table For All Types of Seeds

To make an easy at-a-glance comparison, here are the nutritional values for every seed featured in this guide, in one table.

The values are all based on a one-ounce (28.35g) serving.

Seed NameCaloriesCarbohydratesFiberFatProtein
Chia seeds138 kcal11.9g9.75g8.71g4.69g
Flax seeds151 kcal8.19g7.74g11.95g5.19g
Hemp seeds157 kcal2.46g1.13g13.82g8.95g
Jackfruit seeds42 kcal9.1g0.35g0.12g1.93g
Lotus seeds25 kcal4.9g0.15g1.17g
Nigella seeds97 kcal14.6g11.1g4.2g4.4g
Poppy seeds149 kcal7.97g5.53g11.78g5.11g
Pumpkin seeds158 kcal3.04g1.70g13.91g8.57g
Sesame seeds162 kcal6.65g3.35g14.08g5.03g
Sunflower seeds6.65 kcal5.67g2.44g14.59g5.89g
Watermelon seeds158 kcal4.34g1.60g13.43g8.03g
Nutritional comparison of common types of edible seeds per ounce (28.35g) serving

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about seeds.

Which seeds contain the most protein?

Hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and watermelon seeds provide more protein than other seeds. Among these three, hemp seeds are the most protein-rich seed.

What are some good ways to eat seeds?

There are many different ways to consume seeds. They can be eaten alone, added to cereals, salads, and yogurts, and stirred into cooked dishes. Sesame seeds are particularly good for use in stir-fries due to the flavor they impart.

Which seeds are highest in fiber?

Gram for gram, nigella seeds contain more fiber than any other seed, with 11.1g fiber per ounce (28.35g). However, nigella seeds are typically used in smaller quantities than this as an ingredient in cooked dishes. Chia seeds are also very high in fiber, providing 7.74g per ounce serving.

Final Thoughts

Edible seeds offer a good range of nutritional benefits.

While different seeds have pros and cons, they can all contribute a wide range of essential nutrients to the average diet.

This fact is especially valid for seeds that are high in harder-to-find nutrients such as magnesium and omega-3.

Photo of author

Michael Joseph, MSc

Michael works as a nutrition educator in a community setting and holds a Master's Degree in Clinical Nutrition. He believes in providing reliable and objective nutritional information to allow informed decisions.