Edible Seeds

Nuts are a healthy alternative to chips and crackers when it comes to snacking, but have you tried seeds? I know, I know... Seeds are for birds, but they're also lower in fat when compared to nuts, full of flavor and packed with nutritional goodness! With pumpkin carving season here, be sure to save the seeds, roast them and enjoy!

Pumpkin Seeds

Eat 'em: Pumpkin seeds are high in protein, iron, and zinc, and they're one of the best sources of magnesium, a mineral that helps stabilize blood pressure, build bone strength, and even reduce stress. A French study found that men with the highest levels of magnesium in their blood have a 40 percent lower risk of early death than those with the lowest levels.

Use 'em: Pumpkin seeds are healthy for men for one other reason: They're high in phytosterols, plant-based chemicals that help alleviate symptoms associated with having an enlarged prostate, such as urinary difficulties. Toast your own pumpkin seeds or eat them raw, or grind them into a meal that you can add to breads, pancakes, or other baked goods.

Sunflower Seeds

Eat 'em: Eat sunflower seeds, ward off sun damage. Just half a cup of sunflower seeds provides more than 100 percent of your daily requirement for alpha-tocopherol, the most active form of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from free radicals and UV damage. They're also a great source for the antidepressant phenylalanine, an amino acid the body turns into the brain chemical norepinephrine, which keeps you alert and focused.

Use 'em: You can just eat them raw but also look for sunflower-seed butter at the grocery store, and use that to replace peanut butter on toast and sandwiches and in your baking for a change of pace.

Chia Seeds

Eat 'em: Chia seeds are an incredible fiber resource with nearly half  of the amount you need every day in a single ounce. They also contain 18 percent of your daily calcium requirement—more than triple that of milk—which helps your bones, and they have some of the highest levels of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids of any seed.

Use 'em: Chia seeds have no flavor, so you can add a tablespoon to any food you wish to without altering its flavor. You can even drink them (Try the drink, Mama Chia, available at Whole Foods in an assortment of flavors.) Add a tablespoon of chia seeds to 8 ounces of water or juice, and you'll notice they turn a bit gelatinous. This helps your body digest them better. If you don't like drinking the gel, use it in your baking. Soak 2 tablespoons of seeds in ¼ to ½ cup of water, let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes, and use the gel to replace 25 percent of the fat, oil, or eggs in baked goods. I will also post a recipe for chocolate chia pudding that tastes identical to "regular" pudding, but is full of good Omega 3 and low in sugar.

Sesame Seeds

Eat 'em: More than just a decoration on many foods, sesame seeds are rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.

Use 'em: Since they're so small, sesame seeds aren't great for snacking, but hummus is—and one of the main ingredients is tahini, a paste made from ground sesame seeds. Or buy a jar of tahini and spread it on flatbread or pitas, as you would peanut butter.

Hemp Seeds

Eat 'em: Hemp is one of very few plant proteins that supply you with all the essential amino acids, acids your body can't produce on its own to build muscle and create protein. The fatty acids in hemp seeds also boost your immune system, and the crop itself is highly sustainable, growing as fast as 10 feet in 100 days and naturally requiring very few pesticides. Along with chia and flax seeds, hemp seeds are an omega-3 powerhouse, rich in ALA, a fatty acid shown to ward off heart disease. By giving your body "good" sources of fat, like hemp, the body is more willing to let go of stored fat and use it as an energy source.

Use 'em: Hemp seeds have a slightly nutty flavor and taste good sprinkled into oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, or smoothies.

(adapted from Rodale)