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Pumpkin seeds are also very high in iron as well as calcium and phosphorus, with some magnesium and copper; they also contain vitamin E and essential fatty acids. There is a mix of B vitamins, with niacin being the richest. Pumpkin seeds are usually eaten raw, roasted, or blended into a seed meal and used on other foods. Like pumpkin seeds, most squash seeds are found within the hard vegetable and can be toasted and eaten as well. They have similar nutrient values.

Sesame Seeds. These seeds are probably the most commonly used worldwide, especially in the Middle East, where the sesame foods tahini (sesame mash) and halvah (a sesame candy) originated. These foods and other sesame products are used now in many countries. In the United States, sesame seeds are often used in breads or on bread crusts; as tahini or sesame butter to spread on bread or crackers or used in sauces; as halvah candy; and as a roasted, blended sesame salt called gomasio, which originated in Japan. Sesame seeds can be eaten raw, dried, or roasted or cooked with all kinds of foods. They are also great to add to other foods, such as grains and legumes, because they provide additional amino acids that may be low in those foods. Sesame can also be used with many seasonings, with other nuts or seeds, such as almonds or sunflower seeds, or blended with seasoning seeds such as caraway, poppy, dill, or anise, and used over various food dishes. Black sesame seeds, also very nourishing, can also be used in these seasonings. (Note: Sesame seeds, as do all seeds, and really all foods for that matter, need to be chewed well to help them be digested and assimilated; otherwise, many of these tiny seeds may pass through the intestinal tract unused.)

Sesame seeds come from little seed pods of one of the oldest of cultivated plants. In the Middle East, they are still called the ?seed of immortality.? The seeds are rich in oil, over 55 percent. Sesame oil is a very useful and common oil, especially in Oriental culture, where toasted and even hot-spiced sesame oil is used in cooking. Sesame seeds are also about 20 percent protein and contain some vitamins A and E and most of the B vitamins except B12 and folic acid. Minerals, however, are very abundant in sesame, as in most seeds. Zinc is high, as are calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Sesame seeds are an excellent source of calcium for those avoiding cow?s milk. However, the phosphorus content is much higher, as is true of most seeds, thus making it not quite as good for bone support. Iron is fairly high and sodium is fairly low, unless, of course, they are salted. Sesame seeds may also have a mild antioxidant effect, possibly because of their vitamin E content or some other factors.

Sunflower Seeds. Sunflowers are native to South and North America. These tall, strong flowers that open bright yellow to their sun, are filled tightly with hundreds of seeds to carry on life. Sunflower seeds have been used throughout history to enhance energy, and as a medicine as well. The Indians of the Americas and other herbalists have used sunflower seeds as a diuretic, for constipation, chest pain, or ulcers, to treat worms, and to improve eyesight. More recently, John Douglas, M.D., was quoted in Food and Nutrition (Rodale Press, 1983) as praising the medicinal powers of sunflower seeds. He recommends them to many patients with high blood pressure or cardiovascular problems and occasionally to help reduce allergic reactions, all with good success. He also suggests them as part of a stop-smoking program, having people in the program munch on raw, unshelled, unsalted sunflower seeds, which, in addition to their medicinal properties, gives them something to do with their hands and mouth.

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About The Author
Elson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
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