The Definitive Guide to Seeds

Last week, I gave you the definitive guide to nuts, focusing on the ten most widely available types. Today I give the same treatment to edible seeds. If you’ve ever wondered whether chia seeds are good to eat, or sesame seeds can be legitimate snacks, or flaxseed actually isn’t as good (or bad) as you may have thought, this is the post for you. If you need to choose sides in a long-standing and bitter blood feud pitting the sunflower seed farmers on your mother’s side of the family against the pepita producers on your father’s, this post will help you decide. If your trustafarian friend’s obsession with the industrial applications of hemp is getting on your nerves, this post will give you the tools to analyze his arguments.

As you’ll see below, seeds are nutrient-dense little guys that can really pack in the minerals. Let’s get to it:


Multi-level marketers hawk it. Food manufacturers add a teaspoon of it to juice drinks and double the price. Bulk bins in health food stores across the world stock it. The prominence of the chia seed as a dietary supplement has supplanted its prominence in the “As Seen on TV” market. Should you be eating it?

In an ounce:

  • 137.8 calories
  • 11.9 g carbs: 9.8 g fiber
  • 8.7 g fat 0.7 g MUFA, 1.7 g LA, 5.1 g ALA (omega-3), 1.1 g SFA
  • 4.7 g protein
  • 11% vitamin B3 (niacin)
  • 23% vitamin B6
  • 167% vitamin K
  • 15% calcium
  • 29% copper
  • 58% iron
  • 26% magnesium
  • 34% manganese
  • 28% selenium
  • 12% zinc


  • Chia seed supplementation may modestly reduce CRP levels, at least compared to an equal amount of wheat bran.
  • I’m not gonna lie. The broad range of nutrients you get from just an ounce of chia seeds is impressive.
  • Chia seed fiber absorbs a lot of water. So much that if you let whole chia seeds sit in liquid, they’ll become gelatinous globules. If you blend the seeds in a liquid, it becomes gelatinous pudding. This is handy for creating dishes with interesting textures, and although no studies show this to be definitively the case, it also indicates prebiotic potential.
  • Great for thickening smoothies.


  • The magical health claims, which are overblown and exaggerated. In overweight women, chia seed supplementation increased plasma levels of ALA and EPA, suggesting the successful conversion of short chain omega-3s to long chain omesga-3s. However, chia seed had no effect on inflammatory markers or risk factors for metabolic diseases, and DHA decreased slightly in another study of postmenopausal women. Chia also seems to have no effect on bodyweight (good or bad) or disease risk factors in overweight adults. Chia seeds aren’t miracles, in other words. They’re probably just a decent source of micronutrients, (hopefully prebiotic) fiber, and vegetarian-friendly omega-3s.
  • The fiber is mostly insoluble, large amounts of which can aggravate IBS and other intestinal conditions.
  • Short chain omega-3s (ALA from chia, flax, and hemp) cannot replace long chain omega-3s (EPA and DHA from seafood). Conversion from ALA into EPA/DHA is just too inefficient in humans.
  • Phytic acid.


Flaxseed gets a bad rap in the ancestral health community. Sure, when it goes bad it smells like paint thinner. Sure, flaxseed oil is actually used as paint thinner. It doesn’t taste particularly good, and the seeds get stuck in your teeth if you’re not careful about thoroughly milling them. The accolades it receives in both conventional and alternative health circles can be cloying, I know. And yeah, the omega-3s aren’t a good replacement for fish fats. But don’t count flaxseed out just yet. As you’ll see, it has some interesting components that may offer unique health benefits — even if you eat plenty of wild salmon.

In an ounce:

  • 151.4 calories
  • 8.2 g carbs: 7.7 g fiber
  • 12 g fat: 2.1 g MUFA, 6.5 g ALA, 1.7 g LA, 1 g SFA
  • 5.2 g protein
  • 39% vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • 38% copper
  • 20% iron
  • 26% magnesium
  • 31% manganese
  • 13% selenium
  • 11% zinc



  • Whole flax is notoriously indigestible. If you want to make the flax components more bioavailable, mill or blend it before consuming.
  • Phytic acid is high. It’s a seed, so there’s really no getting away from phytic acid.


If you’ve spent any time in hazy college dorm rooms with towels blocking the space under the door and “Buffalo Soldier” playing on repeat, you’ll have heard about the universal utility of hemp. It makes better, stronger, and more breathable clothing than cotton. It can replace synthetic building materials. It doesn’t use many pesticides. It’ll save the world, man. And, they say, it can even feed it. Yeah? Well, I wouldn’t go quite that far, but hemp seed is a viable food source, certainly edible and pleasantly nutty. How does it stack up nutritionally?

In an ounce:

  • 149.1 calories
  • 7.8 carbs: 7.8 g fiber (all fiber)
  • 10.1 g fat: 1.1 g MUFA, 2.2 g ALA, 4.8 g LA, 0.8 g SFA
  • 7 g protein
  • 24% vitamin A
  • 63% copper
  • 50% iron
  • 33% magnesium
  • 86% manganese
  • 13% selenium
  • 18% zinc



  • Hemp seed is high in phytic acid, like essentially all seeds. A recent study into Italian and French cultivars found a range of 64.9-74.1 g phytate/kg hemp seed (PDF), or 6.49-7.41 g/100 g.
  • Allergy (though uncommon).


Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are my favorite. Roasted with a light dusting of sea salt and eaten as snacks, scattered across a salad for texture and crunch, lightly toasted and ground up to make a green mole sauce? It’s a versatile little seed. I have fond childhood memories of scooping out the innards of Halloween jack-o-lanterns, separating the seeds, and roasting them in the oven. That pumpkin and squash seeds get lumped into the same category whichever online nutritional database you use, though, has always irked me. But that’s what I have to go on. Don’t blame me if you rely exclusively on delicata squash seeds for your magnesium and they end up having very little.

In an ounce:

  • 162.7 calories
  • 4.2 g carbs: 1.8 g fiber
  • 13.9 g fat: 4.5 g MUFA, 5.6 g linoleic acid (LA), 2.4 g SFA
  • 8.5 g protein
  • 40% copper
  • 29% iron
  • 37% magnesium
  • 55% manganese
  • 20% zinc


Most research has looked at the health effects of pumpkin seed oil rather than the pumpkin seeds themselves. Still, since the seeds contain the oil, any benefits the oil confers should also apply to seed eaters.

Pumpkin seed oil has been shown to:

As for the seeds?


  • Pumpkin seeds are quite high in phytic acid, with one recent study placing the content at 4.2 g phytate/100 g pumpkin seed. If that holds for other pumpkin seeds, you’d be looking at close to a gram of phytate in an ounce. Somewhat reassuring is the fact that adult women who added pumpkin seeds to their diet saw an increase in iron status
  • Rectal bezoars.
  • Pumpkin seed aspiration.
  • Allergy.


We don’t normally think of sesame seeds as a snack item because trying to snack on a baggie of sesame seeds doesn’t really work. They’re too small to chew and they don’t handle like larger seeds. Instead, sesame seeds are garnishes. They’re sprinkled over dishes as finishers and flavorers. If you want to use larger amounts of sesame, you grind it up into tahini paste, like in hummus, or mix the whole seeds with molten sugar to form clusters or brittle. As a result, sesame seeds rarely contribute much caloric bulk to a person’s diet. Is that a mistake?

In an ounce:

  • 178.9 calories
  • 3.3 g carbs: 3.3 g fiber (all fiber)
  • 17.4 g fat: 6.8 MUFA, 0.1 ALA, 7.2 LA, 2.6 g SFA
  • 5.8 g protein
  • 17% vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • 10% vitamin B3 (niacin)
  • 44% copper
  • 23% iron
  • 23% magnesium
  • 18% manganese
  • 18% selenium
  • 17% zinc



  • It’s really hard to eat enough sesame seeds to get into trouble. I guess you could just spoon the things into your gaping maw and chew for a few minutes and hope for the best, but why?
  • Phytic acid.
  • Allergy.


Growing up a young lad in Maine, my summertime roaming radius was a dozen miles across. And if you wanted to find me, you followed the sunflower seed hulls I spat out at a steady clip all day long. Eating sunflower seeds and spitting out the hulls is about as American as apple pie. Actually, seeing as many Native American tribes grew and harvested sunflowers right along with their squash, corn, and beans, sunflower seeds are way more American than apple pie. And even though they exist, let’s ignore those deviant monsters who eat the entire shell along with the seed inside.

In an ounce:

  • 165.6 calories
  • 5.7 g carbs: 2.4 g fiber
  • 14.6 g fat: 5.3 g MUFA, 6.5 g LA, 1.3 g SFA
  • 5.9 g protein
  • 35% vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • 15% vitamin B3 (niacin)
  • 22% vitamin B6
  • 16% folate
  • 66% vitamin E
  • 57% copper
  • 19% iron
  • 22% magnesium
  • 24% manganese
  • 27% selenium
  • 13% zinc


  • Sunflower seeds possess considerable levels of antioxidant compounds which may reduce oxidative stress.
  • Rich in phytosterols, which lower cholesterol.


  • Rich in phytosterols, which lower cholesterol. Huh? Isn’t that a benefit? Maybe, but there’s also considerable evidence that elevated plasma levels of phytosterols — which are kinda like the plant version of cholesterol — are associated with atherosclerosis and heart disease. Meanwhile, save for studies in animals (who are largely herbivorous and habitual consumers of a high-phytosterol diet), phytosterol supplementation has never been shown to reduce the incidence of heart disease or inhibit atherosclerosis in people. My inclination is to avoid “phytosterol-enriched” products and inordinate amounts of phytosterol-rich foods like sunflower seeds. Normal amounts of seeds should be fine.
  • Springtime fecal impaction.
  • Allergy.
  • High in phytate.

Seeds are potent, made all the more so by the diminutiveness that masks them. It’s easy to absentmindedly snack all day long and end up eating an entire cup of pumpkin or sunflower seeds. They’re almost uniformly high in phytic acid, which may have its good side but definitely can impair mineral absorption at high levels. Many are high in omega-6 fats, which aren’t really a problem in the context of whole foods but may be if those foods are eaten to excess. And the rich body of evidence supporting regular nut consumption just isn’t there for seeds. I suspect seeds are quite beneficial in the right amounts given their nutrient levels and the limited research that does exist in their favor, particularly if you soak and perhaps even sprout them, but exercise caution just the same. We are neither birds nor rodents, and a seed-based diet probably doesn’t suit us.

That’s it for today, folks. How’s your relationship to edible seeds? Do they agree with you? What are your favorites?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care.

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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94 thoughts on “The Definitive Guide to Seeds”

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    1. I use a variety of nuts and seeds to make a trail mix (and also for the base for a grain-free “porridge”) that I first soak overnight and then dry, either in the oven on low or in a dehydrator, to neutralize the phytic acid. We don’t eat big handfuls of the stuff, but we get a fair amount of them when I get around to going to the trouble of soaking/drying a couple of batches. 🙂

  1. Great post very informative. For sometime now I’ve stopped adding seeds to my diet, mainly because they are a food that I can easily overeat. Think handfuls of sunflower seeds!!! Might reintroduce a few roasted pumpkin seeds into my salads.

    1. I agree, mark. The next definitive guide MUST have quinoa in it, whatever category it is. I have been curious about quinoa since I found your website!

      1. I soak Quinoia for 12 to 24 hour, drain and rinse it really well, then cook it in bone broth. The bone broth helps neutralize any phytates that may be left over and makes the minerals more bioavailable. You can also add a strip of kombu to increase mineral content. I believe Quinoia is not really a grain……but I’m not 100% positive about that.

        1. It’s a chenopod, making it… a chenopod. Think of it like amaranth grain, which is kind of a seed, but also kind of a grain. IMO it’s perfectly Primal, just obviously don’t eat it (or experiment with it) if it gives you problems.

        2. Never cared much for Quinoa, it’s so expensive here in NZ. But soaking and cooking in bone broth has piqued my interest. Will give that a go.

    2. Oh dear God, no. Quinoa is evil. Quinoa makes me feel like I’m going to die. Oats are quinoa’s slightly less evil cousin. They only make me SMELL like I’m going to die.

  2. I just use small amounts, either added to nut mixtures for smacking or mixed in with salads. Too easy to overdo, so use sparingly.

  3. I eat seeds occasionally but not any great amount at one time. My faves are pumpkin seeds sprinkled over a salad for added crunch and protein, tahini (sesame seed paste) mixed with a bit of raw honey and water for a nice creamy salad dressing, and chia seeds/hemp seeds soaked in coconut milk/coconut water overnight for a tasty pudding. I add ground flax to any grain-free breads or muffins I make. I have read that ground flax can help with menopausal symptoms, specifically hot flashes, and relieve constipation. I have no issues with either of those so can’t verify it personally …

  4. With regard to the quinoa question, I believe quinoa is a grain or pseudo-grain and not a seed …

    1. quinoa is not a grain. It is a species of the goosefoot genus (Chenopodium quinoa)

    1. Wouldn’t “Rectal Bezoars” make a great name for a punk band, though?

  5. I love making chia seed pudding with coconut milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a tiny bit of stevia. It’s a special treat I give myself once a week. As a former rice pudding lover, it’s as close as I’m gonna get without eating the real thing (which is reserved for VERY special occasions). It doesn’t seem to bother me but I’ll watch it more closely next time.

    1. Hi Susan,
      Could you share your recipe? Chia seed pudding sounds yummy and I’d like to have that in my arsenal for my kids.
      Thank you!

      1. FYI: Elana Amsterdam currently has a chocolate chia seed pudding recipe on her Elanas Pantry website.

      2. You can mix chia seeds with nearly any liquid at a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio for a decent pudding-like texture. Like Susan I like mine with coconut milk, usually with vanilla, cinnamon, and raw honey, topped with some pecans and berries. Now that’s a breakfast that can keep me going late into the afternoon!

    1. Botanically speaking, most flowering plants (ones that aren’t conifers, algae or moss) belong to one of 2 groups based on how many leaves emerge from the germinated seed: monocots (including grasses, lilies, orchids, and palms) and dicots (most other plants, in short!). Okay, it’s not that simple, but that will do.

      ‘Grains’ is a term used for seeds of plants in the grass family. This includes the usual suspects, plus things like rice and corn. Quinoa is the seed of a plant in the chenopod family – a dicot – so is not considered a grain. Same with buckwheat and amaranth.

      Nutritionally, I’m not sure if there are significant differences between grains and non-grain seeds that cause us to draw the line in favour of non-grains. I would expect, evolutionarily, all plants with easy-to-get-at seeds would have anti-predator and germination inhibiting mechanisms. But the grasses are a distinct evolutionary lineage, so could have evolved extra special defenses in terms of phytates etc. Just thinking in txt!

  6. “Still, since the seeds contain the oil, any benefits the oil confers should also apply to seed eaters.”
    I would argue the isolated components of food yields a different reaction than the whole food and this is a false assumption…

    1. Also, why is sesame seed oil included in so many healthy recipes (even here) with such a high LA content and the tendency for those fats to oxidize in processing and cooking?
      Add pumpkin oil to peanut butter=no concern of aflatoxins??

  7. I’ve also seen other places that flax seeds are hard to digest. Besides not absorbing the nutrient, wouldn’t also the ‘effective’ calories be less? I have an idea that this goes for all nuts and seeds.

  8. I have a food sensitivity to whey, so I use 1/2 serving of hemp protein powder (just ground hemp) as well as either a tbsp chia or flax seed in my smoothie. I keep whole flax seed and the chia seed in my freezer so they won’t go rancid (along with the hemp PP). I never buy flax seed already milled, just because once it’s milled, the nutrient value starts to degrade.
    As for sunflower seeds, I soak them for about 8 hours, then dehydrate them. I store them in the freezer, and use on salads or when I make trail mix for my family. I soak and dehydrate all my nuts (and larger seeds) for the most part because of the phytic acid. Once you get in the hang of soaking and dehydrating, it’s very simple, a no brainer (like making bone broth) and then you don’t have to worry about the phytic acid.

    1. How do you grind/mill the flax seeds? I used to have a coffee grinder but now just a blender, too-big cuisinart, and mortar and pestle.

      1. I only use flax seed in my smoothie, so it gets ground in the Nutribullet with everything else. I put the flax seed (or chia seed) in first with whatever liquid I’m using (almond milk, coconut milk, or water) and let it soak while I put everything else in.
        You could possibly use the magic bullet or a coffee grinder……I think that is what I’ve used in the past to grind flax seed. As a matter of fact, before my grain free days, I use to grind my own wheat and I did use a magic bullet to grind flax seed for my bread.

  9. I don’t agree with the sesame seeds. Where I live, you can find snacks that are made of sesame seeds and honey or other sticky sugary substances to held it together. It’s easy to eat a bunch, let me tell you!

    1. I agree! I got a box of those fresh made from the Persian market. It looked healthy because it was 80% sesame seeds. After I tried one I ate half the box and hid the rest like a coke fiend. It was gone in three days. Dangerous stuff!

    2. Also easy to eat a lot when you buy it pre-ground as tahini. I’ve just discovered how amazing tahini is as a vegetable dressing – sauteed kale and onions tossed with tahini and vinegar is delicious.

  10. I have a sesame seed allergy, which like the link suggests, does not show up on skin/blood test.

    I have not had reactions to any other seeds, and my allergist says if no reaction, then I should be fine. Recently I have started eating more pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds andhave noticed a psoriasis outbreak, which coincided with a bout of strep throat. I am wondering after reading the allergy link if my skin is potentially reacting to my consumption of other seeds, which could have been triggered maybe when I had strep?

    Anyhow, in Canada, sesame is listed as a top allergen, hopefully soon it will be in the US as well. It was difficult explaining the allergy on my recent visit, and had to be twice as careful when ordering.

    I am going to try and avoid seeds all together to see if my skin improves, as well as walnuts and almonds (which I have also added to my diet).

    1. Hi Jason,
      You may have autoimmune issues which could account for your flare after an infection. My Hashimotos flared after a vicious bout of the flu, and I finally had a diagnosis after 25 years. At the moment I am following the Autoimmune protocol, and avoiding seeds, nuts, nightshades, dairy, caffeine and eggs to heal my gut (which is where most of your immune system lurks) then will be introducing very slowly to see what triggers a flare.
      Not for the faint hearted but if it means energy and being pain free, its worth it in my mind.

  11. I’d like to change subjects for a brief second. I’m new to all this and i have a question about oatmeal. I know wheat is bad, does the same hold true for oatmeal?

    1. While oatmeal is usually gluten-free and therefore “better” than wheat, it is still a high glycemic food, creating an insulin response which causes the storage of fat. Oatmeal can also be highly processed. If you don’t have a reaction to it, however, and depending what you’re after in terms of body composition/overall health, opting for the steel cut form, not adding any processed or other sugars to it, and eating it in moderation should be okay. It’s not Paleo but that doesn’t mean it’s not edible.

      1. Thanks. I buy the plain generic oatmeal, mix it with water and a banana for breakfast everyday. Maybe on weekends add walnuts and milk.

        1. Here is a simple test Drew.

          1. How do you feel after eating it, heavy, light or awesome. And after how much time do you feel hungry again? If it doesn’t satiate for you long…

          2. Check your glucose levels 0h, 1h and 2h after your oatmeal breakkie. If it’s spiking your sugar, do you want to start your day like that? Are you trying to lose fat?

          3. Milk is a whole topic in itself. chances are you drinking pasteurized milk with denatured proteins and fats.

          I think it’s fine for what it is but breakfast can get so much better.

  12. Don’t forget that flax in particular is very high in phytoestrogen. I found out the hard way when daily ingestion caused heavy bleeding. It took me 8 weeks to realize the flax was the culprit, by that time I was severely anemic.

  13. Can someone please come to confirm whether or not hemp seeds contain phytic acid. This post claims they do and a previous post claims they are the only seed that does not. Now I sell hemp seeds and oil and have always understood them to be highly digestible. I’m wondering if the phytic acid content depends on whether the seeds contain the hull or not. I would assume the hulled seeds do not contain the phytic I acid. I live in Canada and it is not legal to sell hemp seeds containing the hull so can I assume that he hulled seeds (hearts) are free of phytic acid?

    1. I thought hulled hemp hearts didn’t have physic acid, likely he’s referring to the unhulled variety. I didn’t know it was illegal to get the whole seeds, I’ve gotten them in bulk in Canada before. They aren’t nearly as enjoyable as the hearts though.

      1. I’ve never tried the whole seeds before. I have access the oil, hearts, and the cake (which is the leftover from oil pressing). The farmer I work with is not allowed to distribute whole seed so that they cannot be grown elsewhere is the assumption. Would be mistaken for marijuana in everyone’s backyards I suppose 🙂

  14. Although Soy is extremely high in Estrogens, Flax is by far the food with the highest amount of Phytoestrogens. I would think there are very few males (who intend to stay a male) who would benefit from those extreme levels.
    I did understand Chia has a positive androgenic effect on males however.

    1. I’ve read about the phytoestrogens in flax also, and was concerned. I’ve also read that flax can hurt and slow down the thyroid because it has high amounts of the poison thiocyanate.

      Not sure if this is true. Can anyone comment?

  15. I don’t think flax should be touted as a health food, ever. It is one of the most dense sources of phytoestrogens known!

  16. My local Costco just started carrying sprouted raw pumpkin seeds with sea salt. They are delicious on salad– I hope they are as good as they taste!

  17. I like sprouting, it amplifies the good stuff while decreasing the bad. Sunflower sprouts are particularly delicious!

    1. +1 sunflower sprouts are my favorite green but hard to find.

  18. I wonder what the nutritional profile of strawberry seeds are? They are so small so I have to eat a lb of strawberries a day just to get enough. Should I be worried about phytic acid? (sarcasm)

  19. It sounds like seeds are OK as a supplement for fiber and minerals, etc. One ounce or so added to a smoothie or a salad is good. Perhaps seeds should not be used a main course or a compulsive salty snack food fully consumed in one sitting. I think a table spoon of chia is a great way to add the fiber back to liquid diets, ie. juicing. I agree with Mark. Pepitas are great topping to salads they are great to add crunch to any Mexican cuisine. For example, pepitas sprinkled over tacos with bib lettuce leaves instead of corn tortillas. Sesame seeds are a welcome garnish to many Asian dishes. I like bamboo smoked sesame seeds. My favorite use for chia is mock caviar. Simply dilute fish sauce(1-3+) with water, mix with dried chia and chill. Use diluted ume plum vinegar(very salty) instead of fish sauce to make a mock vegan caviar. If you get the mock caviar consistency and salinity right, serve it in vessel intended for the most expensive stuff, it may stump true caviar snobs into wondering what species of fish roe is so delicious.

  20. I’ve always wondered what the nutritional profile would be after sprouting. For everything, not just phytic acid.

  21. Wow, I haven’t heard the word trustafarian, since I worked in Telluride Colorado.
    BTW, I think one can still get a latte made with hemp seed milk at one of the coffee shops on Main street there.
    I love seeds, planting growing sprouting and eating.

  22. Eating raw pumpkin seeds gave me some of the most unpleasant stomach sensations I can remember having. Maybe it’s my own fault for eating them raw, though.

    In general, I stay away from seeds, following the logic that they don’t want to be eaten and that evolution have shaped them to be bad things to eat. Like grains. The exception is spices.

  23. I love the Qia breakfast mix which is very expensive in stores. I made my own with on sale chia seeds, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds. It’s an occasional alternative to eggs or meat and veggies for breakfast

  24. I covered hemp over a year ago. Here’s the post. It’s a fairly short, quick read that I still stand by, but I’d like to add something which I failed to mention last time. Hempseeds contain no phytic acid

    Read more:


    Hemp seed is high in phytic acid, like essentially all seeds. A recent study into Italian and French cultivars found a range of 64.9-74.1 g phytate/kg hemp seed (PDF), or 6.49-7.41 g/100 g.
    Allergy (though uncommon).

    Read more:

    Which is it????

  25. Laughed right out loud when I got to the Hemp seeds!
    Mark, sometimes your descriptions are the best part of the post!

  26. Poppy seeds deserve a mention. Like flax seeds, they are notoriously indigestible when eaten whole – and because of their size, you can’t really chew them. So they must be ground/milled before ingestion. But they are a great source of manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, fiber and many amino acids.

    Central European cuisines make extensive use of ground/milled poppy seeds. They even allow you to make dough without flour. Just do not add sugar!

    The possible downsides? They are high in Omega-6s and oxalates.

  27. Might have been worth mentioning that some of these seeds exist in GMO form, and might be worth avoiding unless specifically non-GMO (and it’s not clear to me that a claim of “organic” assures that in all locales).

  28. the study about putting hemodialysis patients on milled seed supplements is confusing to me. My mother is on dialysis and was told only to eat nuts or seeds if she’s feeling suicidal. Why would they supplement with seeds if they’re not generally recommended for people with kidney failure?

  29. They are all seeds. Grains are the seeds of grasses; wheat, rye, barley, oats, rice, corn, sorghum, etc. are grains. The others are leafy herbaceous plants. Chia is related to sage; amaranth is related to spinach, chard and beets. I think quinoa is also. The young leaves of most varieties can be eaten as greens. They are often included in spring mixes and mesclun. As the leaves become more mature they can be eaten as cooked greens although by the time they bloom and start to produce seeds they become exceedingly bitter. Hemp of course is a cannabinoid. I hope this clears up the “are they seeds or grains” question.

    1. Double checked; quinoa is also related as I thought. Also note that quinoas seed coating contains saponins (as in soap!) that must be rinsed off before cooking. Generally I put it into a fine sieve give it a good rinse and then soak it for about 30 minutes, back into the strainer and another good rinse while agitating the seeds in the strainer. when it is cooked each seed has a little white “tail” sticking out of it. I thought I had cooked a pot of wormy quinoa the first time I saw it. I have never eaten it raw.

  30. It seems to me that the phytic acid is overrated and deemed to be more scary here. I understand the concern with it, but isn’t excess a problem with almost everything? I doubt if anyone in their right senses would have a plateful of seeds for a meal for the phytic acid to be really a concern.
    But well, I guess there might be some!

  31. Squash seeds are way better than pumpkin seeds. Smaller, and much more tender. Recurrences of rectal bezoar panic episodes have decreased by nearly 100% since switching to squash seeds.

  32. “Springtime fecal impaction”

    Nope nope nope nope nope nope…

  33. I would have liked to have seen things like millet mentioned as well, though I understand the theme of this post doesn’t lend itself to that.


  34. In “Born to Run” it talks a bit about how the super long distance running Tarahumara Indians used chia seeds to supplement their runs.

    1. They used to supplement their runs also by growing up doing hours long runs in the hot dessert sun that would kill an average “white man”. The purpose of their runs not being for sport, but to get somewhere.

      Not unlike the Aborigines her in Australia – “full blood” ones don’t “sweat” the hot baking sun, and can sit around shirtless at night in the freezing cold of the outback, and not be worried.

  35. Thanks for the information. I use about an ounce total daily of all the above listed seeds combined (raw and unsalted) along with a mixture of nuts and unsweetened, flaked dried coconut and 1/4 cup mixed fresh berries as a breakfast melange. Sometimes I will add 1/4 cup oatmeal and almond milk. Sometimes I will use 1/4 cup gluten free cereal and a Tbsp of plain yogurt from grass fed cows. (Yes, I know, these additions aren’t paleo but I am not strictly paleo). It is relatively low carb, high in protein, fiber and healthy fats, provides excellent nutrition to start the day, is low glycemic and very filling. It also keeps my blood glucose levels (I am type 1 diabetic) under really good control. I am satisfied until dinner, no food cravings, no hunger, no desire to snack. I may start soaking the seeds prior to improve their phytic acid levels.

  36. i know its not a pea or a nut, but down south we like boiled pnuts with lots of salt and cajun spice….yeah i eat the shell 🙂

  37. Seeds allergenic? Oh yeah, anaphylaxis to sunflower seeds is no fun. I’m also significantly allergic to caraway seeds and have lesser allergies to most nuts. Most seeds don’t make me want to eat them in any quantity. Sesame is the one I probably use the most, primarily in Japanese cooking.

  38. Thank you for the lowdown on seeds! With a tree nut allergy, I am looking for alternatives.

  39. Hx ulcerative colitis. Chia, pumpkin, sesame seeds (tahini included)…painful experiments not to be repeated.

  40. I am curious that regarding flaxseeds, it was not mentioned that flax oil is extremely sensitive to light and heat. That is why the oil is typically sold in opaque bottles and is refrigerated. My understanding is that any heating of the seeds or oil damages it quickly. Therefore they should never be eaten in baked goods, cereals, etc. Please correct me if this is not true. I love ground flax seeds (which I store in the freezer) in a smoothie with lots of other high nutrient ingredients.

  41. Sesame seeds for the win! Toasted with shredded coconut and sprinkled on Asian-style salad is a favourite. Or some sesame oil drizzled on wilted spinach with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.

  42. one thing to consider in seeds is the calcium phosphorus ratio. it is extremely low in all seeds, meaning the phosphorus levels are quite high. as the blood has at least a 2:1 ration of Ca:Phos, it may even be 2.5:1, the calcium has to come from somewhere else to balance this ratio if high phosphorous diets are consumed. one could think this calcium would come from the bones; it could also come from other foods you are concurrently eating–greens being the biggest source, IF the calcium is adequately absorbed from the food–ie your Vit D3 levels are great. [if your vit K2 levels are great, perhaps the calcium could come out of your arteries –:P only a wild aside.]

    in someone who eats and exercises well, it doesn’t seem like a big deal to eat some seeds every day.
    still, it is something to consider if you eat a lot of seeds.

  43. I am struggling so much I have pcos to look at me you wouldn’t know that but I have so many crap issues with ood it’s unreal. I used to cope so well until my wisdom teeth forced me to have to take extra strong anti biotics over a year ago which totally tipped my body over the edge. This is turning into a nightmare for me!. I have kept a food diary for the past year and a half and have recently realised nuts and seeds make my hair drop out literally!. My options seem so limited.

    I’m not supposed to eat grains and dairy I react to spinach with joint pain and eating eggs for breakfast makes me feel like rubbish.

    I try so hard to stick to being gluten free but when i start feeling a bit woozy I can’t snack on nuts or seeds for energy and end up reaching for the ciabatta everytime!. I am totally adicted to gluten!.

    Apart from eggs what do you all eat for breakfast I just cannot stand eggs or meat at breakfast.

    Is full fat, organic yoghurt acceptable or not?. I read one rule from the pcos people one rule from the HS book I’ve just bought, one rule for a low oxolate diet and another for paleo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Hi Gemma,
      You sound like your back is against the wall. PCOS is so disheartening. After living on a lettuce and a caraway seed (figuratively) for a week to try and loose weight I nearly punched a GP that blithely told me to loose weight. That was years ago, and I have continued along the journey learning so much. Take home for me is that healing begins with the gut, and healing the gut begins with being gluten free, sorry but thats it. There are other foods that also irritate the gut lining and rev up the immune system (auto immune issues seem to be associated with PCOS, I have Hashimotos). You may also be suffering from gut dysbiosis after the heavy duty antibiotics. Can I suggest that you keep reading this site, and also download “The Paleo Approach” by Sarah Ballintyne, which explains this really well, and gives you some options to heal, along with all the lifestyle issues, such as sleep, sun and stress. There are some great articles on Marks site about the lifestyle issues that are just as important as your diet. Hang in there, but view breakfast as a nutritious start to the day, maybe not in the traditional sense.

  44. We make Gomashio which is a really delicious condiment. Toast sesame seeds in a dry cast iron pan and then grind them into a powder together with some with pink Himalayan salt. This is really good sprinkled on salads, veggies, and well, just about everything. We don’t make too much at a time so that it is an occasional treat!

  45. I found that sunflower seeds aid in digestion…..any other healthier suggestions?

  46. My youngest used to get GI distress/diarrhea becuz I wasnt soaking the seeds and nuts first. She ate them once a day daily, ground up in her lunch plain fullfat yogurt. It was months for me to correlate the two. It was not nice for those months while I was figuring it out.
    Poor thing!
    (shes survived these last 8 yrs now, in spite of her mother being a DUH for far too long!)

  47. Bezoars!!! I’d never heard of them before and now I wish I still had never heard of them!!!
    Otherwise, interesting post!

  48. Mark, we read all over your blog and on the Primal Blueprint that cholesterol is not a problem. That it is better to have high cholesterol than lower cholesterol if you keep oxidation and inflammation low. Higher cholesterol means better hormone balance, more energy, more focused brain and much better immunity.

    So why “lowering cholesterol” is listed as a benefit of Sunflower? I get that lowering inflammation and oxidation is very good, but lowering cholesterol sounds bad to me.

    Thank you

  49. Hi Mark,
    I’m working to reduce the phytic acid in my diet, which is a struggle for me as I used to love a good bowl of sprouted buckwheat topped with sprouted almond butter mixed with cacao (aka a phytic acid BOMB). I’m now looking for alternative nuts/seeds that are lower in phytic acid that I can still sprinkle on salads. In this article you say that hemp is high in phytic acid, but in this article:
    you say they have no phytic acid. Can you clarify? Is it hulled hempseeds that contain no phytic acid? Or do both hulled and unhulled contain phytic acid?

  50. You didn’t mention sprouted seeds, which is the way I eat most of them. Go Raw brand has sprouted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and due to the increase in nutritional value, just a few at a time are enough. As another person mentioned, with other nuts and seeds, I soak them overnight in salted water to remove phytic acid. And I only buy organic to avoid pesticides.

  51. Does anyone know if phytic acid is also present in the seed oils? I thought I read somewhere that unlike grains, phytic acid is distributed equally throughout the whole seed/nut instead of just the fibrous parts. Can anyone verify this claim?

  52. After looking at my nutrition in my diet over the course of many weeks, I realized Vitamin E was something I wasn’t get a ton of – about 4.87mg on average, which is 32% of the “recommended intake”. The rest of the vitamin categories seem really easy to get – I’m killing it with Vitamin A (108%), B6 (129%), B12 (181%), C (112%), and D (131%). So, Sunflower Seeds like a reasonable thing to include in my diet to make up the shortage. Seems like eating salmon just isn’t enough, but most of the Vitamin E foods are not in the Primal/Keto list.