From chia to hemp to sesame seeds — they’re packed with goodness. Give these healthy recipes a try!
Seeds may seem small and nondescript, but they’re packed with goodness. Many varieties have become highly popular thanks to their nutritional benefits. Here’s a look at seven of the best, along with some super-simple recipes you can share with your dog.
A new arrival on the “seed scene” is Camelina sativa, whose seeds are similar to flax. In fact, Camelina has been called false flax, but I prefer its other nickname, Gold of Pleasure. It’s an ancient oilseed crop, a member of the Brassicaceae family native to Northern Europe and Central Asia. Its oil has a very long shelf life and is not prone to rancidity, partly because of its naturally high levels of vitamin E. It’s a rich source of Omegas 3 and 6.
Camelina oil is similar to almond oil in texture and flavor, and is a great addition to your dog’s diet for skin health. Camelina seeds are rich in phytosterols, including campesterol, which helps prevent infl ammation-induced damage to cartilage; and stigmasterol, a potent antioxidant that helps reduce cholesterol and blood glucose levels. Its oil has a high smoke point of 475°F, making it great for cooking.
Chia seeds can be found on many of the world’s healthiest food lists. They were cultivated by the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas; in the Mayan language, chia means “strength”. The Aztecs used chia seeds for relieving joint pain and skin conditions.
Chia seeds are a rich source of B vitamins, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, protein and zinc. They’re also an excellent source of antioxidants and alpha linolenic acid, a plant-based form of Omega 3. Chia seeds help boost the immune system and are a great stress-busting food. They even support electrolyte balance, which makes them a great choice for endurance training with dogs.
Hemp seeds are a super food that can help ease joint pain and inflammation, support cardiovascular and skin health, and even act as a digestive aid. They contain Omega 3 in the form of alpha linolenic acid, Omega 6 in the form of linolenic and gamma linoleic acids, and Omega 9 in the form of oleic acid. Hemp oil’s fatty acid profile is closer to fish than any other vegetable oil. Hemp seeds are a valuable source of gluten-free protein, and are packed with vitamins C and E, chlorophyll, and amino acids.
The seeds of this well-known vegetable are also among the world’s healthiest foods. One ounce of seeds contains almost nine grams of protein, along with amino acids, fiber, iron, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, zinc, potassium, folic acid and niacin. Pumpkin seeds are also a valuable source of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, tryptophan, iron, copper, vitamins A, B, E, and K, and zinc, as well as Omegas 3 and 6.
Pumpkin seeds contain the amino acid cucurbitin, which paralyzes and helps eliminate worms from the digestive tract. Studies have shown that adding pumpkin seeds to the daily diet helps reduce inflammatory response due to conditions like arthritis, and helps prevent calcium oxalate stone formation.
Long revered as the “mother grain”, quinoa isn’t really a grain at all. It’s an amino acid-packed protein seed that’s related to beets, chard and spinach. It is considered a complete protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids, including lysine, which is essential to tissue growth and repair. Quinoa is high in fiber and unsaturated fats, and is a valuable source of vitamin B6, niacin, thiamin, potassium, riboflavin, zinc, copper, manganese, magnesium, folic acid and vitamin E.
Sesame seeds have been grown since prehistoric times, and were one of the first crops to be processed for their oil. They were brought to the United States from Africa during the late 17th century.
Sesame seeds are an excellent source of copper and a good source of manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, molybdenum, selenium and dietary fiber. They also contain sesamin and sesamolin, unique substances that belong to a group of fibers called lignans, which have been shown to lower cholesterol, prevent high blood pressure, and increase vitamin E stores. Sesamin has been found to protect the liver from oxidative damage. In a study published by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, sesame seeds were found to have the highest total phytosterol content.
Juliette de Bairacli Levy, author of The Complete Handbook for the Dog and Cat, routinely included sesame seeds in her dogs’ diet, crushing them to make a paste we know as tahini, lightly roasting the seeds and adding them to meat meals – and even making a version of the traditional energy bar, which you can do too. Simply combine 1 cup of honey with 1 cup of toasted sesame seeds and a ½ teaspoon of sea salt.
Another nutrition-packed seed, the sunflower is thought to have originated in Mexico and Peru. Due to their high fat content, sunflower seeds are prone to rancidity, so should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, magnesium, manganese and selenium. They also contain vitamins B1, B3 and B6, copper, folate and phosphorus. It is believed that sunflower seeds help reduce blood levels of cholesterol, and enhance the immune response, because they are such an excellent source of phytosterols. Sunflower seeds also have anti-inflammatory and heart healthy benefits.
Incorporating these seeds or their oils into your dog’s diet – and your own – is easy to do. And you’ll love the flavors and health benefits!
Seed butter crunch
4 cups whole grain flour of your choice; or 3 cups whole grain flour of your choice and 1 cup whole seed flour — for example, hemp, chia, sunflower, pumpkin
1 tablespoon Saigon cinnamon
1 teaspoon coconut palm sugar
1 cup pumpkin seed butter
1½ cups filtered water
Choose organic ingredients whenever possible. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Place whole grain flour in a large mixing bowl. Add seed butter, cinnamon and sugar, and combine well. Slowly add filtered water, until dough pulls away from the side of the mixing bowl.
Turn dough out onto cutting board or counter. Knead with hands and form a ball. Using a rolling pin, roll out dough and cut into desired shapes. Bake for 30 minutes, then turn oven down to 275°F and bake for 45 minutes. Turn oven off and allow cookies to cool completely before storing them in an open bowl, or in a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator or freezer.
Flax seed oil
Purchase really fresh flax seeds from a health food store. Put about ¼ cup of seeds in a Mason jar and cover them with ½ cup filtered water. Put the jar in the fridge. Next day, shake the jar and put it back in the fridge. The day after, you will have flax seed oil. If it becomes too thick, add more water. Discard after one week and make a fresh batch. Give your dog 1 teaspoons of flax seed oil per 25 pounds of body weight, or put it in a spray bottle, add water, and use as a coat conditioner.
Another way to make flax seed oil is to place a spoonful of flax seeds in a small saucepan and add a cup of filtered water. Bring to a boil, and simmer for ten minutes. The oil will accumulate on the surface of the water. Remover the saucepan from the heat and allow to cool, then strain the oil into a bowl using cheesecloth. You can press the oil out by using the back of a large soup spoon or wooden spoon. Store the oil in a dark container in the refrigerator.
Roasted pumpkin seeds
For a tasty snack that you and your dog can both enjoy, simply spread pumpkin seeds on a cookie sheet, and bake in a preheated 160°F to 170°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with Celtic or Antarctic sea salt for an extra flavor boost.
Healing seed milk
½ cup seeds of your choice – e.g. hemp, chia, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower
½ cup warm filtered water
1/8 teaspoon sea salt or kelp
Use organic ingredients when possible. Soak seeds overnight. Drain them and discard water. Mix the drained seeds with warm filtered water and sea salt or kelp. Use as topper for your dog’s food, or strain them and use them in treat-making adventures.
Suzi Beber has been successfully creating special needs diets for companion animals for two decades. She founded the University of Guelph’s Smiling Blue Skies® Cancer Fund and Smiling Blue Skies® Fund for Innovative Research. She is the proud recipient of a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and was honored with the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, for her work in cancer, from the University of Guelph/Ontario Veterinary College. The Smiling Blue Skies Cancer Fund is also the recipient of the “Pets + Us” Community Outreach Champion Award.