12 Types of Edible Seeds and Their Benefits

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While seeds are not always the tastiest of foods, they offfer a lot of nutritional value.

Similar to nuts, edible seeds provide an excellent dose of fat and essential nutrients.

Most seeds tend to be particularly rich in minerals, and they’re generally quite affordable too.

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

1) Chia Seeds

Heap of Chia Seeds In a Pile.

Chia seeds are little 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 its 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 rate of conversion 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% DV
  • Manganese: 33% DV
  • Magnesium: 26% DV
  • Iron: 26% DV
  • Phosphorus: 20% DV
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 type of sour-tasting, watermelon-like fruit, which is incredibly bitter (and also known as ‘sour apple’) (6).

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

The seeds are often used to make egusi soup, which is a regional West African dish featuring meat and various vegetables (7).

Unfortunately, the nutritional values of egusi seeds are not widely available.

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 serve they are particularly 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 among the most nutrient-dense foods, and they contain 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 they contain little carbohydrate.

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

As previously mentioned, hemp seeds are an excellent source of minerals. Here are some of the most concentrated nutrients one 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 type of fruit in the world (11).

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

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

Unfortunately, major nutrition databases do not supply the full nutrient profile for jackfruit seeds. However, research has demonstrated that the seeds provide the following nutritional values per ounce (28.5-gram) serving (12):

Calories/Nutrient Amount
Calories 53 kcal
Carbohydrate 11.0 g
  Fiber 0.5 g
Fat 0 g

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

In its South-East Asian homeland, people consume the seeds of jackfruit, 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 a lot different from most seed varieties, and they are low in calories, fat, and carbohydrate.

Per ounce serving, here are the basic nutritional values (14):

Calories/Nutrient Amount
Calories 25.2 kcal
Carbohydrate 4.9 g
  Fiber
  Sugars
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 an edible seed, but they have an overpowering flavor.

For this reason, the seeds enjoy widespread use as an ingredient for seasoning various dishes. For instance, they are frequently used in multiple regional Indian curries (15).

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

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

Calories/Nutrient Amount
Calories 96.6 kcal
Carbohydrate 14.6 g
  Fiber 11.1 g
  Sugars
Fat 4.2 g
  Saturated Fat 0.1 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 2.8 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g
    Omega-3
    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, 18).

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 are mainly used as an ingredient, particularly in bakery products.

Poppy seeds are mainly a source of fat, but they are also quite high in dietary fiber. Here are their basic nutritional values per ounce (28.5-gram) (19):

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 (20).

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 (21):

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 (21):

  • 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 little 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 food seasonings.

In particular, numerous Asian dishes use either toasted sesame seeds or sesame oil to impart extra flavor to the recipe. Also, tahini is a popular condiment made from these seeds.

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

Per ounce serving, they offer the following nutritional values (22):

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 (22):

  • 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.

Sunflower seeds are often used for 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 (23):

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 exceptional source of vitamin E.

Here are the five most concentrated nutrients per ounce serving (23):

  • 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 (24):

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 (24):

  • 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.

Final Thoughts

Edible seeds offer a good range of nutritional benefits.

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

This fact is especially true for the seeds which contain hard-to-find nutrients such as magnesium and omega-3.

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