The best-known sources of protein are animal-based and include meat, fish, eggs and dairy products. However, there are plenty of plant-based alternatives that provide significant health benefits, including beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Seeds may not be as rich in protein as animal products, but they can be nutritious contributors to any well-rounded diet plan.
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Some seeds are higher in protein than others, but all have noted benefits for nutrition and health. In 2 tbsp. of flax seeds, you’ll get 110 calories, 8.5 g fat and 3.75 g protein. The same amount of sunflower seeds has 95 calories, 8 g fat and 3 g protein. Two tablespoons of sesame seeds provide 105 calories, 9 g fat and 3.2 g protein, and 2 tbsp. of pumpkin seeds, sometimes called pepitas, have 90 calories, 8 g fat and nearly 5 g protein.
As sources of plant-based protein, seeds do not have the cholesterol and saturated fat amounts that animal-based proteins have. According to ChooseMyPlate.gov, all proteins promote healthy growth, development and repair of blood, skin, muscle and bone tissue. The site also notes that nuts and seeds have the potential to reduce the risk of heart disease.
You can eat seeds out of hand as snacks, but it’s also easy to use them as garnishes or primary ingredients in a wide variety of dishes. Try baking sunflower or sesame seeds into granola, for example, or sprinkling them on top of cold cereal. Ground flax seeds make an excellent, nutritious addition to casseroles and baked goods, and you can even use them as an egg substitute in vegan baking; simply replace each egg with 1 tbsp. ground flax and 3 tbsp. water.
It is important to note that seeds don’t provide as much protein per serving as dairy products, meat or fish, and they are often higher in calories and fat. If you do not eat meat or dairy products and are looking for seed alternatives, however, you can get many of the same benefits that seeds offer by eating nuts and nut butters.
Seeds can be a healthy and nutritious part of a balanced diet, but they’re not intended to fulfill all of your daily protein needs or act as a substitute for other protein sources. According to MayoClinic.com, healthy adults need about 50 g to 175 g of protein daily from a variety of healthy sources. For personalized dietary guidance, speak with your doctor or a registered dietitian.