Tiny, but mighty: These little seeds are a nutritional powerhouse that pack vitamins, protein and flavour into every bite.
By Jane Dummer
Did you know that nine out of every ten bites of food we eat today start with a seed? Seeds are important in our food ecosystem. Seeds – specifically the ones often called “super seeds” such as chia, flax, pumpkin, hemp, sesame and sunflower seeds – are garnering a lot of attention in the North American baking world these days.
These tiny super seeds are packed with essential nutrients like protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. Plus they add texture and variety to an ordinary baked good. While commercial breads made with flaxseed have been available on grocery shelves for a number of years, since my book The Need for Seeds was published in 2016, we’re now starting to see a wider variety of seeds being used creatively as inclusions in commercial breads, muffins, crackers, bites and other baked goods.
John Hale, president of Hale Food agrees, “The companies that I’m working with add seeds to their products for a number of reasons, not least the great nutty flavours they produce. With a focus being on allergens and diet restrictions, seeds are the obvious alternatives. It’s not only the flavour and nutrition, the crunch really helps. Seeds give substance and depth to the texture.”
Gluten-free has become a trend in itself. Yes, seeds are gluten-free. They don’t contain the gluten-producing proteins that most whole grains contain. Natural gluten-free options are important in the baking industry, especially for people who have Celiac disease (which affects at least 1 in 100 people). If a bakery is developing a gluten-free product, the seeds themselves and seed flours both really add a nice option, not only in texture if they’re using the whole seed, but they also have a nice earthy taste.
Eating seeds may be new to some of us, but interestingly, some seeds, such as chia, are ancient foods which were consumed by the Aztecs. Sesame seeds may seem almost invisible, but they carry a big nutritional impact and have been used as an ingredient in many Middle Eastern diets for years. Alon Ozery, founder and co-owner of Ozery Bakery, explains, “At Ozery Bakery we include chia seeds in the Date and Chia Morning Rounds; flax and sunflower seeds in the Muesli Morning and Snacking Rounds; sunflower seeds and flax in Multi Grain OneBun and Multi Grain Sliders. Our newer product, the Organic Lavash Crackers is comprised of sesame, sunflower, and flax seeds and will be available in four hearty flavors including: Spelt; Multi Grain & Seeds; Apple & Quinoa and Cranberry & Grains. While they are currently available in Canada, the Organic Lavash Crackers are slated to enter the United States store shelves later this year.”
The inclusion of seeds provides many benefits to breads and baked goods. In the last 18 months, Hale has spent most of his work centred on the popular dietary trends of plant-based and vegan for his clients. “The most popular seeds are chia, millet along with the usual flax. I currently have a client that is putting all three in a plant-based bite, which is packed with protein and flavour. Another client is using five types of seeds in a plant-based baking kit, ranging from ground pumpkin and sunflower seeds to quinoa flour. The opportunities are endless.”
As consumers are requesting more plant-based ingredients companies continue to respond. Ozery Bakery add various seeds for both a texture and flavour experience as well as adding healthy fats, protein, and vitamins to meet consumer’s need for a balance of great taste and good-for-you nutrition. Ozery describes, “We are always looking to innovate original products with new ideas and ingredients that would delight our consumers, yet provide them with healthy nutrition for their day. We continue to focus on providing wholesome, high quality baked goods that are convenient for fueling the modern-day consumer from breakfast to lunch and any snacking occasion in between. Currently we are looking into the benefits of blueberries and potential seeds to go with them.”
Seeds deliver unique textures along with nutrients and delicious flavours. By adding seeds to breads and baked goods it can open up new possibilities and line extensions. As John Hale recommends, “Seeds are worth a second look and experimentation.”
Jane Dummer, RD, known as the Pod to Plate Food Consultant, collaborates and partners with the food and nutrition industry across North America.