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Reap the benefits: Five seeds to keep your heart healthy
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Reap the benefits: Five seeds to keep your heart healthy

Experts recommend incorporating nutrient-rich seeds into your diet, which can positively impact your heart health by reducing oxidative stress and lowering bad cholesterol levels
Incorporating nutrient-rich seeds into your diet can prove beneficial for your heart
Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K/Happiest Health

Enriching your diet with nutrient-dense seeds will help improve your overall health, especially by providing an additional shield of protection for your heart. According to experts, certain varieties of seeds can promote the production of good cholesterol while aiding in the removal of bad cholesterol from the bloodstream. These seeds, which can simply be used as a garnish in your food or enjoyed as a snack, are also beneficial for diabetes management; they’re fiber-rich and have a low glycemic index, which prevents spikes in blood sugar levels.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, consultant, interventional cardiology, Manipal Hospital, Old Airport Road, Bangalore, says people should include seeds in their diet as they contain antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties, both of which are beneficial for heart health.

In addition, Delhi-based dietitian Ishi Khosla vouches for the cardiovascular as well as overall health benefits of these seeds. According to her, topping your soups, salads, baked breads, etc., with them is a good idea since they’re rich sources of healthy fats. They contain MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids) and PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) that help lower bad cholesterol levels in the blood. “Besides having a profound impact on our cholesterol levels, they also help prevent infections and other diseases by boosting our immunity,” she adds.

Seeds for a healthy heart

According to experts, seeds that can improve your heart health include:

♦ Flax seeds

Flax seeds contain healthy fats that reduce oxidative stress and improve heart health

Also known as linseed or alsi, these golden-brown seeds are a powerhouse of omega-3 fatty acids (healthy fats). Dr Rao adds that they are also rich in potassium, calcium and fiber. “Flax seeds contain alpha-linolenic acid [ALA], an omega-3 fatty acid that acts as an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties. This helps reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood, improving heart health.”

While informing about the richness of flaxseeds in vitamins (mainly vitamin B complex and E) as well as soluble and insoluble fiber, Khosla explains, “The soluble fiber reduces the risk of blood pressure and heart conditions by lowering high cholesterol levels, while the insoluble fiber helps prevent constipation.”

According to an article published in the American Journal of Physiology, the cardiovascular benefits of dietary flaxseed include antihypertensive action (preventing high blood pressure), antiatherogenic effects (preventing plaque buildup in the arteries), lowering of cholesterol and inhibition of arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat).

♦ Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds can improve heart health by lowering triglyceride levels in the blood

Sunflower seeds, apart from the oil, can be an integral part of your healthy diet. Dr Rao says these seeds are rich in omega-6 fatty acids and MUFAs, which help reduce inflammation and lower high cholesterol levels. The presence of vitamins B3 and B5 also adds to their effectiveness, which helps reduce bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) and triglyceride levels in the blood.

“These seeds are rich in minerals like manganese, magnesium and potassium, which are associated with a lower incidence of arrhythmias,” adds Dr Rao. Further, sunflower seeds also play a role in boosting immunity, treating anemia, managing diabetes, aiding weight loss and enhancing memory.

♦ Sesame seeds

Sesame seeds, which serve as attractive toppings or flavoring agents for bread, rolls, salads and stir-fries, come with several health benefits. Khosla says these nutty-flavored seeds are good sources of protein, B vitamins (like niacin, riboflavin and thiamin), vitamin E, calcium and iron. “Sesame seeds contain 50 percent oil by weight and are predominantly composed of unsaturated fats,” she explains. Vitamin E helps reduce lipid peroxidation (oxidative degradation of lipids, which causes cell death), reducing the risk of cardiovascular complications.

Dr Rao points out that these seeds are also rich in lignans (bioactive compounds mainly found in seeds, whole grains and vegetables) that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, reducing oxidative stress. “Interestingly, the gut bacteria convert sesame seeds into enterolactone [a lignan that can act as natural estrogen], lowering the incidence of heart conditions and breast cancer,” he adds.

♦ Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are not only a good source of protein and fiber but are also rich in vitamin E and B complex.

Dr Rao says these seeds are rich in magnesium, which enhances the synthesis of nitric oxide; this helps reduce the risk of heart conditions by lowering high blood pressure. “Nitric oxide helps expand the blood vessels, improving blood flow and reducing the risk of plaque buildup in your arteries,” he explains. In addition, the mineral also helps lower high blood sugar levels and form healthy bones.

Adding to the health benefits of pumpkin seeds, Khosla says they boost immunity, lower high cholesterol levels, prevent arthritis and reduce food cravings by providing satiety.

♦ Chia seeds

These oval-shaped, nutty-flavored seeds are jampacked with healthy fats (omega-3 fatty acids) like those found in fish and flax seeds, says Khosla. “The concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in chia seeds is much higher than that in flax seeds,” she shares.

Dr Rao explains that chia seeds contain ALA, which helps reduce inflammation around the arteries. Moreover, they also contain two other omega-3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that are found in fish like tuna and salmon. “These fatty acids reduce triglyceride levels in the blood and are known to prevent blood from clotting,” he adds. As a result, the pain and swelling (resulting from the inflammation) also subside.

Further, these seeds also contain antioxidants like chlorogenic acid, which helps reduce high blood pressure and caffeic acid, known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

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