By Barb Thomas, RHN, Rouxbe Instructor
Here are three questions I get asked all the time: Why do my pumpkin seeds taste fishy? What the heck is chia? And, can I legally eat hemp? These three little questions relate to each other because they all have to do with seeds—one of my favorite foods that adds a huge punch of nutrition to your day! Your kids can take them to nut-free schools, your belly will gladly welcome the extra fiber and your brain will love their amazing neuron nurturing properties. So, let’s answer the three common questions and set the record straight.
First of all, here’s why your pumpkin seeds may taste like bad fish: seeds contain very fragile oils that can go rancid quite quickly. It is always best to store your seedy ingredients in the fridge and away from heat and light. With some seeds, the flavor changes considerably when they are rotten. Pumpkin seeds, for instance, will certainly tell you if they have gone bad; they will basically taste like rotten fish! When they are fresh, however, pumpkin seeds have a clean, light taste. These seeds should be green in color and bought from a market that refrigerates them. Pumpkin seeds are full of wound healing, infection fighting zinc, which can be hard to get enough of. Toss your pumpkin seeds on salads, on porridges, in a trail mix or just eat them as a snack straight from the fridge. About a quarter of a cup should give you enough zinc for the day, as well as provide other great nutrients, such as protein for your muscles, manganese for your joints and iron for your blood.
Next question: What the heck is chia? Is it a novelty toy from the ‘70s? Something that sprouts green grassy hair? Sure, it was both of these things back in the day, but now, companies have clued into the fact that this little seed packs an enormous punch of energy and is a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids. The chia seed has an outer coating that, when soaked, becomes a mucilage. This means that the seed gets soft, and kind of gelatinous when exposed to liquid. This makes it great for pre-preparing a soaked porridge that you can take on the go. Just pour about a half cup of chia into a container, add your favorite milk product (I like coconut or almond), a bit of raw honey or real maple syrup and some of your favorite raw nuts, such as cashews and almonds.
Seal the container, shake and wait. After about twenty minutes, you will have a great, raw porridge that can go with you on your busy day. It is full of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals and those amazing, anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fats that will sustain you for hours. Chia seeds are also very high in antioxidants, so their fragile oils are protected and won’t spoil as easily as in other seeds, such as flaxseeds. The Incas used to reserve chia for their warriors; that goes to show how much energy you can get from these little seeds. Choose either the white or the black variety, as there is minimal nutritional difference.
And finally, yes, you can legally eat hemp seeds. They are delicious, mildly nutty in flavor and contain about 11 grams of muscle building protein in a quarter cup! They also contain a wonderful balance of the very important essential fatty acids that we can never seem to get enough of in our diet. These fatty acids help reduce inflammation, protect our brains and are a primary component of a healthy immune system. Hemp seeds are full of fiber, too, so eat ‘em up and make your whole body happy. Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons on Greek yogurt or oatmeal, add them to your morning smoothie or throw them on top of salads. They add a lovely crunch, texture and earthiness to food.
So, the next time you are at a reputable grocer’s that properly takes care of foods containing fragile oils, grab some seeds from the cooler and give them a try. Just make sure to check your teeth for strays before you smile!