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Image by Annie Spratt


Food Fabulous

Notes from midlife

The seeds every woman needs in her diet

Good things, small packages. Every woman should be eating these nutritional powerhouses...

1 FLAX SEEDS Flaxseeds (aka linseeds) are one of nature’s superfoods. They’re higher in omega 3 (‘good’) fats than any other food – even oily fish like salmon and sardines. These healthy fats fight inflammation, lower cholesterol and are excellent for balancing female hormones. Aim for at least 2 tbsp flax a day, added to a smoothie or sprinkled on yoghurt or cereal. Or buy flax oil and whip up a simple salad dressing with 2tbsp flax oil, juice of a large lemon (about 4tbsp), 1tsp Dijon mustard, 2tsp chopped tarragon, salt and pepper to taste.

2 CHIA These tiny little balls are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. They’re packed with protein, fibre, omega 3 fats and a variety of different vitamins and minerals but, to get the goods, you need to soak them, smash them in a pestle and mortar or blitz them in a NutriBullet [or blender]. For a fruity breakfast treat, chuck 3tbsp into a blender with 150g mixed berries (frozen is fine), half a banana and 125ml coconut milk [from the chiller, not the tinned sort] and 1tsp raw honey. Whizz, then leave overnight in the fridge.

3 HEMP It may be part of the same family, but don’t confuse hemp with its evil cousin. There’s no ‘high’ to be had, just bags of fibre, heart-healthy fats, and lots of protein. In fact, hemp is a complete protein, containing all 9 amino acids (which is rare in anything other than meat). The seeds have a slightly nutty flavour and are best when lightly smashed with a pestle and mortar and added to your favourite bread recipe, or sprinkled into soups or casseroles.

4 SESAME Sesame seeds might well be the oldest known condiment known to man. The base ingredient for tahini, they are a brilliant source of copper and manganese as well as calcium and magnesium. Sesame adds a delicate, nutty flavour to food and, used whole, a lovely crunch to any Asian-inspired dishes. Perk up steamed veg like broccoli with a squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of soy sauce and a sprinkle of seeds.

5 SUNFLOWER Along with pumpkin seeds, these little chaps are the perfect snacking food. They have a milder flavour than other seeds and are both firm yet tender when you bite into them. They are super-high in disease-fighting and anti-ageing antioxidants vitamin E and selenium. Enjoy them by the handful, use them as a garnish to a simple green salad or try adding with a little chopped green olive, preserved lemon, parsley and mint to cooked quinoa for a Moroccan-inspired side dish.

6 PUMPKIN Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc and vitamin B, making them good cold and flu busters as well as energy boosters. They’re amazingly versatile –stir into muesli or home-made granola for a power breakfast. For an impressive dinner party gift, melt a bar of dark chocolate in a bowl over boiling water, pour into a tin lined with baking paper, then scatter over a handful of chopped cashews, pumpkin seeds, unsweetened cranberries and a pinch of salt. Leave to cool, then break into chunks.

7 AVOCADO Supersized, yes, but it is a seed. And, if you’re not using the stone, you’re throwing away one of the most nutritious parts of the avocado. It’s packed with antioxidants and has more fibre than a bowl of oats. You’ll want to use a cleaver to cut the stone into quarters before popping in the blender to powder it before adding to a smoothie. Half a powdered stone is enough for one smoothie. The flavour is quite strong so be sure to match it with pronounced flavours like berries, pineapple or spinach.

8 ALFALFA This is a seed you need soak and sprout (best done in a sprouter) before the seed becomes an actual plant. It has some big-time nutrition benefits, upscaling some of the vital nutrients (like calcium, vitamins C and K) and activating the digestive enzymes they contain. These little gems are also one of nature’s best sources of phytoestrogens; plant sources of oestrogen that help manage the symptoms of menopause and reduce the risk of heart disease. With a mild flavour but big crunch, alfalfa is best eaten in salads, sandwiches or wraps.


There’s nothing that comes close to these jewel-like seeds for antioxidants. Even green tea and red wine can’t top them. Specifically, it’s the anthocyanins (found in red and purple fruit and veg) and ellagic acid, plus oodles of vitamin C and potassium. Research shows they’re useful for fertility, lowering cholesterol and reducing inflammation. Pomegranate seeds add in an intriguing, sweet crunch to fruit salads, but try this for size: peel and chop a butternut squash and roast at 180˚C for 30 mins. Leave to cool, then sprinkle over a little feta, the pomegranate seeds [the whole pomegranate-worth], a scattering of pumpkin seeds and a generous handful of rocket.



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