Seeds of life: chia, flax, hemp and pumpkin
Studies have identified hemp seed as a functional food and important food resource. Technically a nut, hemp seed contains over 30 percent fat and about 25 percent protein, with considerable amounts of dietary fiber and other nutrients. Nutritionally, hemp seed -- or hemp heart -- is best known for its polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). It's an exceptionally rich source of the essential fatty acids linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and a rare source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and stearidonic acid.

The two main proteins in hemp seed are edestin and albumin. Both of these high-quality proteins are easily digested and contain nutritionally-significant amounts of all essential amino acids, arginine in particular.

Some of the known health benefits of hemp include increased energy, improved metabolism and immunity, reduced food cravings, and it can help lower blood pressure. Hemp hearts also contain plant sterols that have been shown to reduce cholesterol.

In the U.S., hemp seeds are used to produce food, nutraceuticals, and body care products. Natural Product stores and supermarkets sell a variety of hemp-based foods, including hemp hearts, hemp bars, hemp protein shakes, hemp milk (non-dairy beverage), and cereal made with hemp.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds have 373 calories per half cup. They are a good source of minerals, including zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese, as well as protein and fiber. Only one ounce provides about 7 grams of protein.

Pumpkin seed oil is rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs). EFAs have many benefits, among them the maintenance of healthy blood vessels and nerves, and all tissues, including the skin.

The oil is also rich in phytosterols, plant-based fatty acids that are similar enough to cholesterol that they can replace it in the human body, contributing to the reduction of blood cholesterol levels.

Pumpkin seeds have long been associated with a healthy prostate. The protective compounds present within the seed of the pumpkin, which include zinc and phytosterols, may help to shrink an enlarged prostate. For prevention, eat a handful (about 1 ounce) of raw pumpkin seeds three times a week.

Eating seeds raw is always preferred as roasting them deteriorates or destroys many of the nutrients. Add whole seeds to hot or cold cereals, baked goods (breads and cookies), salads, steamed vegetables, or grind them up to add to burgers, chili and casseroles.

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Andrea Donsky and Randy Boyer are the co-founders of NaturallySavvy.com, a Website that educates people on the benefits of living a natural, organic and green lifestyle. For more information and to sign up for their newsletter, visit www.NaturallySavvy.com.