Some of the most beneficial superfoods aren’t really foods at all. They’re seeds. As the saying goes, though, powerful things come in small packages. Read on for a look at some of the big benefits you’ll reap when you include these tiny powerhouses in your diet:
Hemp seeds, which can be consumed raw, cooked or toasted, are from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa — the same species as marijuana. Unlike its cannabis cousin, though, hemp has only trace amounts of THC, the compound responsible for marijuana’s drug-like effects. Indeed, the brain actually requires cannabinoids to help regulate functions like alertness, emotions, inflammation and cancer-fighting processes. And while it can make its own, the brain performs better when fueled with dietary cannabinoids like those found in hemp. Research has shown that optimal brain health is achieved when linoleic acid (LA) and alpha linoleic acid (ALA) are consumed in a ratio of between 3.5:1 and 4:1. Hemp is the only substance where that ratio occurs naturally, which is why it’s become a dietary darling to those looking for a mental boost.
Chia gets its name from the Mayan word for strength. This low-calorie, high-fiber snack contains all four of the major nutrients needed for optimal brain function: fats, proteins, carbohydrates and antioxidants.
By consuming chia, you provide your brain with the all-important omega-3 alpha linoleic acid (ALA) that it needs to function well. Chia is also a complete protein, which means it has all nine of the essential amino acids. This helps prevent decline in mood and cognitive performance. And the carbohydrates in chia seeds release their energy slowly, providing your brain with a steady supply of glucose, its primary energy source. Finally, chia is high in natural antioxidants, which protect brain cells against damage and impaired function.
Sunflower seeds are not only crunchy and delicious; they’re rich in Vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that helps prevent cell damage and may lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Sunflower seeds also have high levels of tryptophan, a natural amino acid that helps regulate memory and mood. They’re also a good source of thiamine, an important B vitamin that improves cognitive function.
The effect that various foods can have on brain function is an area of research that’s just beginning to be explored. In the meantime, though, incorporating some or all of these superfoods into your diet is a step in the right nutritional direction.