Here are the seeds I keep on hand in the house:
- Hemp Seeds: I think they are erroneously illegal in some places which makes no sense at they are not going to get you high. Hemp seeds are plentiful up here in Canada and I have some every day. I generally put a heaping tablespoon in my oatmeal and on non-dairy yogurts. For all the buzz about vegan diets being low on zinc, B6 and iron this food goes a long way to counter-punching that issue. Part of the reason some vegans are deficient in some nutrients is because they simply don't eat enough or have enough variety in their diets. This should be an every day food for you. Also, while I don't think it's necessary to have all foods with "complete proteins" as your body will combine others to make what it needs, hemp seeds (along with quinoa) are a complete protein. Hemp seeds can be sort of expensive to buy. I watch for large bulk packs on sale.
- Quinoa: A grain crop that is grown for it's edible seeds, quinoa is pretty much a staple for most plant based diets. I'm not actually a huge fan as I find it boring, but I always have some around and my favourite way to eat it is to use the leftovers in wraps. We also add it to our chilli dishes. My wife likes it to put stir fried vegetables on a bed of quinoa. I prefer to eat quinoa at lunch instead of dinner as I find it really filling and don't like to go to bed on a full stomach. High in iron, B6, Magnesium and a complete protein it's a can't miss pantry item.
- Pumpkin Seeds: I pretty much eat a handful of these daily. That habit started out of fear around iron shortages in my diet and pumpkin seeds are a great source. They always go on my oatmeal and occasionally on my non-dairy yogurt or in homemade trail mix. I buy the unsalted raw kind, but occasionally shake it up with roasted pumpkin seeds. You get 65% of your daily magnesium from 100 grams and 18g of fibre. Amazing food and super affordable to buy.
- Flaxseed: With flaxseed you need to eat it ground up or you're not getting what you need from it. We keep an old coffee grinder in the house for this and it takes just a couple seconds. I add flaxseed to all my smoothies. It's also a fantastic egg replacement, just mix it with a little water and whip it up. This food is a super source of Omega 3 fatty acid, magnesium, iron, B6, Calcium and potassium. You also get 18g of protein from 100 grams of it. That's all pretty amazing. Oh yeah and 108% of your daily fibre. Since most people seem to be fibre deficient instead of protein deficient in todays world maybe these seeds needs to be in all our fridges. I also like flaxseed breads.
- Sunflower Seeds: Another seed high in iron, B6 (65% of your daily requirement in only 100 grams) and magnesium (sensing a theme?) this is one I really like in homemade trail mix, in wraps, on salads and just by the handful. I buy raw unsalted versions of the seed, but I've been known to buy the salted unshelled version for watching baseball games.
- Chia Seeds: Another seed that is an awesome egg replacement (just soak them in water in the fridge for 15 minutes and they turn into a jelly, goopy egg replacer for cooking) I like to add them to my smoothies as well as occasionally random drinks like when I mix Vega One powder with almond milk . Chia seeds are very high in protein, are a calcium superhero (forget dairy, just eat these things) and 100 grams have 42% of your daily iron and 136% of your daily fibre. Like flaxseed, chia seeds are also very high in Omega 3's. Ditch the salmon, this is all you need. Chia seeds come in black or white varieties, I can't tell the difference in taste and use them interchangeably.
- Sesame Seeds: 97% of your daily Calcium can be consumed with 100 grams of sesame seeds. That's pretty amazing. They also have 81% of your iron, 40% of your B6 and 87% of your magnesium. I actually don't eat a lot of sesame seeds, but have thrown them in stir fry, wraps and like them in breads.
Probably one of the biggest criticisms I hear about being vegan is a lack of iron with the possible exception of everyone's hangup on protein. Adding seeds to your diet is a sure fix to the iron problem. While it's true that non-heme iron isn't as well absorbed as heme (from animal blood) iron you simply get so much iron from seeds that it isn't a concern. It's one of the reasons I made sure to make them a daily part of my life as I had early fear as an endurance athlete that this would be an issue. It hasn't been, I've never tested low for iron.
A common argument for eating fish is as a source of Omega 3 and seeds (as well as walnuts) provide a solution to that concern.
Being able to use flaxseed and chia seeds as replacements for eggs is handy for baking (and way healthier) allowing you to still create some of your favourite recipes ( you can also buy commercial egg replacement powders).
Seeds are a great way to get your protein and healthy fat levels up as well. I like that seeds (as well as nuts) fill you up making you feel full for a long time (likely because they are so high in fibre) without forcing you to eat a huge quantity of food.
If your'e considering a plant based diet, are already vegan or just want to get some really fantastic nutrition with little or no effort consider keeping the seeds above in your home and just adding them to the foods you already eat. Even just dumping a heaping tablespoon of hemp seeds on your morning cereal is a great start. If you've ever tested low for iron, or are concerned about your calcium then seeds are a no brainer.