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Authors

  1. Karlsen, Micaela C. MSPH
  2. Ellmore, George S. PhD
  3. McKeown, Nicola PhD

Abstract

This review provides an overview of the botany and classification of seeds, summarizes recent research examining the health benefits of seeds, and discusses barriers to incorporating seeds into Western diets. Strategies to help practitioners support their patients in incorporating more seed foods into the diet are suggested. Seed foods, including cereals and pseudocereals (whole grains), legumes, and nuts and oilseeds, are used as staple crops in traditional diets and still comprise nearly 50% of the world's food supply. The health benefits of seeds are supported by both epidemiological evidence and intervention trials. The variety of specific health benefits attributable to at least 1 of the 3 categories of seeds includes lower rates of obesity; improved body composition; improved intermediate cardiometabolic risk factors such as blood triglycerides, postprandial insulin, and HbA1c; reduced inflammation; lower risk of metabolic syndrome; and lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Measurable health benefits can be achieved by incorporating seeds into the diet in modest amounts, either by adding them to an existing diet or using them to replace other foods. Barriers to incorporating seeds into diets include personal taste preferences, lack of knowledge or preparation skills, convenience, environmental defaults, allergies (ie, nuts), and issues of economic access. Practitioners can best support greater consumption of seeds by implementing SMART Goals (specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, time limited) and by providing education or referring patients for skills training.