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5 Unusual and Healthy Seeds for Salads

Copyright 2011 - Kris Heeter

Salads are one of the best options available for getting in healthy fruits, vegetables, and grains each day.

But most people get bored with salads over time. It can be easy to fall into the same 'ole boring salad pattern with nothing different or unusual to spice them up.

There are a number of ways to bring new life to salad. Below are five unusual additions that can dress up a salad and provide an incredible amount of diverse nutrients and fiber.

Seeds, in general, are excellent sources of fiber and usually protein. Some have more protein than others.

The vitamin and nutrient content varies depending upon the seed type. Mixing seeds or exploring a wide variety on a regular basis insures a wonderful nutrient intake. There's no need for vitamin and mineral supplements if you make these little guys a regular household staple!

Sunflower seeds are commonly found at salad bars and poppy seeds can easily be found in dressings, but how about these next five types of seeds? They may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of salads but they are a fun addition to try.

Salvia hispanica

Salvia hispanica

1. Chia seeds and sprouts

Chia seeds come from the species, Salvia hispanica, of a member of the flowering mint family.

These black seeds are very tiny and can be sprinkled on the top of any salad or sprouted and used on salads like alpha sprouts.

The seeds are an excellent source of:

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Manganese

The sprouts are excellent sources of:

  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamins A, B, C and E
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Phosophorus
  • Manganese
  • Niacin

And yes, these are the same seeds used for the infamous "Chia Pets". You can grow your chia pet and eat it too!


2. Pumpkin Seeds - Raw or Roasted

Roasted pumpkin seeds are common snacks around Halloween and easy to make.

Lesser known and with a much higher nutrient content are raw pumpkin seeds (also called "pepitas").

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These are one of the most nutritional seeds out there!

Raw pumpkin seeds contains:

  • Vitamin A - all that you need in a day and more (171% of the recommended daily allowance in one cup)
  • Vitamin B6 and B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate
  • Potassium and 7 additional minerals

Shelled hemp seeds

Shelled hemp seeds

3. Hemp Seeds - Raw

Hemp seeds come from the low THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) strains of Cannabis sativa.

Low THC strains of hemp are commonly used to make textiles (clothing), paper, fuel and biodegradable plastics.

Hemp seed has been used in non-Western countries for centuries to treat various medical disorders. In recent years, the Western world has finally come to recognize hemp seed as a superfood.

Raw hemp seeds (shelled) are rich in:

  • Iron
  • Essential Fatty Acids (Omega 3 and Omega 6)
  • Vitamin E
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium

Lotus seed pods

Lotus seed pods

4. Lotus Seeds

Lotus seeds are from plants in the genus Nelumbo, most commonly the species Nelumbo nucifera.

Fresh lotus seeds are typically eaten raw in Eastern Asia. And dried lotus seeds can be purchased commercially (the bitter germ of the seed is typically removed when harvested).

Dried lotus seeds are rich in:

  • Thiamin
  • Vitamin B6
  • Folate
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Manganese


5. Black Sesame Seeds

Commonly sesame seeds are yellow or golden but there are more unusual variants that pack a slightly different nutritional value like the black seed variant.

Black sesame seeds have been traditional used for centuries in Asian medicine as well as for culinary purposes.

Black sesame seeds are rich in:

  • Vitamin B
  • Antioxidants (higher in black sesame seeds than golden seeds)
  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese

Where can unusual seeds be purchased?

Most of the seeds described above can be found in local bulk food or co-op food stores.

There are also a variety of websites from which bulk foods can be purchased or powdered (crushed) seed can be found. For example, hemp seed can be crushed into a powder and used in smoothies and other culinary treats.

To make your own roasted pumpkin seeds, check out this link:

"Pumpkin Seed Recipe..."

And try mixing these unusual seeds with different sprouts or shoots:

7 Unusual Sprouts and Shoots for Salads

Additional Nutrition Resources:

"Euphytica"; Hempseed as a Nutritional Resource: An Overview; J.C. Callaway; 2004

Shahidi et al. Antioxidant activity of white and black sesame seeds and their hull fractions, Food Chemistry, Volume 99. 2006


Sophie on April 27, 2018:


I just ate a salad that has some black seeds that look like papaya seeds in Amsterdam. I regret so much that I did not ask the hawker what was it. Do you have any ideas what they could be?

Elaine Berglund from Edmonton Alberta on January 08, 2013:


Enlydia Listener from trailer in the country on March 07, 2012:

I used sesame seeds in a salad today...but I have never heard of black sesame seeds. Where do you get them?

itakins from Irl on March 02, 2012:

I got here -brilliant .Do you know what connection salba has to chia seeds.I have just heard of these recently...really feel I have been missing out.Great hub and thank you.

JR Krishna from India on February 18, 2012:

Very informative hub! Healthy and innovative additions for salads.

Thanks for SHARING:)

Eiddwen from Wales on January 21, 2012:

So very iteresting and useful.

I now look forward to reading many more by you.

Take care and enjoy your day.


Kris Heeter (author) from Indiana on December 30, 2011:

@LLWoodard - you are welcome! :)

L.L. Woodard from Oklahoma City on December 29, 2011:

Kris, thanks for your prompt and complete response. I hadn't given any thought to the co-activators or even food irradiation.

Kris Heeter (author) from Indiana on December 29, 2011:

@LL Woodard - Vitamin A can be destroyed to some extent by heat, but D E and K are not affected that much. Vitamin C and the B complex are also destroyed by heat.

Vitamin K for example can be destroyed by radiation (including X-rays), strong acids, and in the presence of aspirin. So foods preserved by gamma-irradiation have Vitamin K inactivated.

The other thing to consider, and that hasn't been studied all that well, are the chemical compounds or co-activators that may assist or act in concert in the absorption and bio-activity of the vitamins. There is often a synergistic affect of bio-available compounds in foods that is poorly understood and some of those compounds may be destroyed in the heating process.

Great question and thanks for contributing!!

L.L. Woodard from Oklahoma City on December 29, 2011:

Kris, I recently read that the fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E and K) are not usually destroyed when a food is cooked as are the water soluble vitamins. Are pumpkin seeds an exception to this rule -- or did was I misinformed?

Nancy Owens from USA on December 19, 2011:

Hi Kris. Thank you for the encouragement on my first Hub. I really liked this article because I do get tired of the same old stuff on my salads. I didn't know that roasting pumpkin seeds rob them of their vitamin content. Good to know.

Jimmie Quick from Memphis, TN USA on December 10, 2011:

I love to mix sesame seeds (any kind) and raw sunflower seeds together, toast lightly, and add atop salads.

Kris Heeter (author) from Indiana on December 01, 2011:

Hi SanneL! I'm anxious to try the black sesame seeds myself. I'm glad to hear you like them.

SanneL from Sweden on December 01, 2011:

I consume a lot of salads and always try to come up with new and creative ways, so this hub is a great help! I use black sesame seeds quite often. It gives a great flavor to the salad. I have never tried lotus seeds. Sounds interesting.

Thanks for sharing!

Kris Heeter (author) from Indiana on November 30, 2011:

Hi Emma! How did the ice cream with hemp seeds taste?

I've had them mixed in with granola but have not seen or even thought to try it with ice cream - sounds intriguing!

Emma Kisby from Berkshire, UK on November 30, 2011:

I am always looking for new ways to make salads more interesting. I tend to add things which are high in calories though :( These seeds look like an appealing alternative that is healthy as well. I have had hemp seeds on icecream, but will give it a go on lettuce instead!

RTalloni on November 29, 2011:

I'm not familiar with black sesame seeds--thanks!

Kris Heeter (author) from Indiana on November 29, 2011:

An update on the chia seeds (Karen asked what they tasted like). I had some plain last night and the closest thing I can liken them to is a VERY mild sesame seed. The taste was barely there but it had a hint of sesame flavor:)

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 28, 2011:

Thanks for the useful information. I've tried all the seeds that you mention except lotus seeds. I'm interested in trying these!

Kris Heeter (author) from Indiana on November 27, 2011:

Yes, sunflower seeds are a great addition to any salad as are poppy seeds. Those are pretty common so I didn't count them as "unusual" seeds. There are a lot of poppy seed dressings out there!

rutley from South Jersey on November 27, 2011:

Don't forget good old easy to find sunflower seeds!

Kris Heeter (author) from Indiana on November 26, 2011:

@randomcreative - you are very welcome. I'm personally not one to run around town trying to find a particular food item, so if I can find it online and buy if it's reasonable, I often do that. There are lots of buying options out there - the Amazon ones I listed are just a small reflection to get you all started. You all might be able to find some good deals elsewhere!

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on November 26, 2011:

Great suggestions! I love salads and am always looking for new options. Thanks for the online buying resources.

Kris Heeter (author) from Indiana on November 26, 2011:

Hi Karen - they have a pretty subtle flavor, it's kind of hard to describe and really pretty hidden once you've added dressing. I'll have to try some just on their own and let you know!

Karen Parrott on November 26, 2011:

What do chia seeds taste like?

Shelly McRae from Phoenix, Arizona on November 26, 2011:

Very informative hub. Next time I do salads, I'll follow some of your suggestions. Thanks for sharing.

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