what's in a pip?...

Should you spit out all fruit seeds or are some safe to swallow?

Although the risk is minor all seeds are potentially dangerous if they are swallowed without being chewed first. Since they are poorly digested and sharp, they can be hazardous in the intestine, resulting in blockages, tears and infection (appendicitis for example) – though these sorts of complications are rare. 

Another way in which seeds may pose a threat is if they are inhaled or ‘go down the wrong way’ and end up in the lungs. Avoid this unpleasant situation by sitting up straight while eating.

There are a few seeds you may want to watch out for however – Apricots, cherries, peaches, pears and apples are examples of fruit with something potentially sinister inside their seeds. 

These seeds contain a chemical called amygdalin, which is harmless while it is kept safely inside the seed – but if the seed is moistened or crushed, amygdalin may be converted into the poison cyanide.

Within the group of edible fruit seeds some outshine the rest. The following seeds contain health-enhancing nutrients so there is definitely no need to panic if you swallow one of them by mistake.

» Watermelon seeds contain small amounts of iron, zinc and protein (about one gram of protein for every 24 seeds). While these doses aren’t particularly impressive they add up for every slice of watermelon you eat and provide a good enough reason to skip the seedless varieties.

» Pomegranate and granadilla. These are jam-packed with healthful seeds. One pomegranate (flesh and seeds) contains antioxidants and almost half of your daily requirement of vitamin C; granadilla’s are also high in vitamin C and will give your diet a useful fibre boost.

» Papaya seeds contain an enzyme called papain, which helps digest protein.

» Citrus seeds from fruit like oranges, grapefruit, lemons and tangerines contain natural chemicals known as limonoids. These chemicals may have anti-cancer, cholesterol lowering and antiviral effects.

» Grape seeds are rich in vitamin E, flavonoids, linoleic acid and powerful antioxidants called oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes. 

» Cocoa is a seed you possibly savour frequently – without even knowing it is a seed. Yes cocoa beans aren’t really beans at all. 

These seeds which are transformed into cocoa powder and chocolate, contain special compounds that have been associated with health benefits like improved blood flow and arterial elasticity, decreased blood pressure and anti-inflammatory action.

» Some fruit contain seeds that make the perfect snack – even without the rest of the fruit. Pumpkin and the various kinds of squash (like butternut and gem squash) are botanically classified as fruit, and their seeds are tasty and very nutritious. 

Pumpkin and squash seeds are high in healthy fats and pumpkin seeds are also a good source of amino acids and several minerals (especially phosphorus, magnesium and potassium). 

To give the seeds a richer flavour, roast them in the oven – simply scoop out the flesh and seeds, separate the seeds and place them in a single layer on a baking tray, and roast them at low heat (about 75 degrees) for 15-20 minutes. 

The low heat and short roasting time will limit the damage to the seeds’ healthy fat content.

» More Health Bites... click here