Seeds – is it natural and ethical to eat them?

Last post we discussed whether it is natural and ethical to eat flowers. The reason why we’re asking questions like this is because we, as conscious humans, can and should make decisions that could not only positively change the environment, but also, by association, elevate the level of compassion in the world, something that is sorely needed in this day and age.

Pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds

Pumpkin and black and white sesame seeds by cbenjasuwan

So, seeds are the next topic under discussion. Seeds include:

  • grains (cereals)
  • pseudo cereals
  • pulses (legumes)
  • nuts
  • nut-like gymnosperm seeds

Seeds are embryonic plants inside protective coatings.

People eat all types of seeds: coffee, sesame seeds, sunflower, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, mustard seeds, cumin, caraway, peanuts, kidney beans, wheat, oats, peas, maize, rice, almonds, coconuts, pine nuts, buckwheat, quinoa, cocoa, walnuts, barley and so forth. Seeds contain complex carbohydrates, protein, good fats and various vitamins and minerals.

But, is it natural and ethical to eat seeds?

Is it natural?

Can we (human primates, equipped only with our bodies and natural items such as rocks, sticks, soil, fire, etc) gather, prepare and eat seeds. This has been proven over millenia to be not only easy to do, but has evolved into a practice that has kept humans alive during hard times, as seeds can be easily stored for long periods, and not only serve as food, but also as a means to grow more food.

Gathering, growing and eating seeds is natural for the human primate. However, one must consider whether eating grains, pseudo cereals and legumes (many of which are cooked to turn them into food that humans today find palatable) is natural for humans [See the section below on Is this food good for us]. Ideally, natural food for humans is food that can be eaten raw, since the natural human primate will not have tools or utensils. As discussed below, these hard-to-digest foods can be sprouted or fermented to improve their digestibility, which means that these can be eaten raw.

Is it ethical?

a) Has it suffered the least harm?

The seeds in themselves probably feel no pain. Perhaps when they are sprouted, they may have a form of nervous or sense response, but nothing in the league of the pain an animal feels when it is slaughtered. For those who are concerned about and feel that plants could feel pain, read this post.

So, the harm that a seed may suffer is irrelevant other than that, as discussed in the post about eating flowers, care should be taken to ensure that plants are not killed to harvest the seeds, and that enough seeds are replanted or left to grow to ensure the continuous survival of the species.

So, let’s look at the different seed groups and see how feasible this is:

Grains (cereals)

Most grain crops like wheat, barley, maize, spelt, rye, millet and oats are annual plants, which means that they die after seeding in a single year. So, gathering the grain from them, even before the plant has died naturally, could be considered to be ethical. Should one wait until the plant has died, in all likelihood all the grain would have scattered.

Pseudo cereals

Pseudo cereals like amaranth, quinoa, sesame and buckwheat are not grasses, as are grains, but are also annuals so can be harvested off the plant before it dies.

Pulses (legumes)

Pulses are seeds such as lentils, beans, peas and peanuts that consist of two parts and are housed in pods. They are also annuals, so no problem there with harvesting the seeds before the plants dies.


Nuts are a different story entirely to the above groups. We have almonds, brazils, cashews, walnuts, coconuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, chestnuts and pistachios, to name a few. Nuts are borne on trees, which are not annuals. Fortunately for human primates, the nuts fall to the ground when the tree is ready to shed them for the growing season, and because they are encased in sometimes very tough shells, do not rot or get eaten by animals too quickly. So, gathering nuts is ethical providing enough are left to assure the continuation of the species.

Nut-like gymnosperm seeds

Gymnosperms are plants like pine trees and cycads, and we get get pine nuts from pine trees. Again, the tree drops these to the ground when they are ready, and can be gathered just as nuts are.

There are also other seeds that we eat that are not in the above groups, but also allow for gathering without destroying the plant, such as cocoa beans, coffee beans, sunflower seeds and hemp seeds.

So, generally, it is ethical to gather and eat all types of seeds, providing enough are left for sustainability.

b) Has it had the best life possible?

Now we get to the difference between natural growing methods such as biodynamic and organic, as opposed to current standard commercial practices where plants are often poisoned by pesticides, fungicides and artificial fertilizers. Read this to see why these substances are bad for plants.

c) Is this food good for us?

Most seeds are good food for humans. There are problems, though, with allergens. Some people are allergic to gluten which is found in grains. This is becoming more common as it appears that grains such as wheat are now being bred with a higher percentage of gluten to aid in bread making.

Other allergens include peanuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, tree nuts and poppy seeds.

There are also problems with some seeds in that they are difficult for humans to digest. Grains such as wheat, for example, digest better once they have been sprouted or fermented. Cattle and other ruminants digest grains and grass by allowing them to ferment first in one of their stomach compartments. Even horses and rabbits digest grass and grain in part of their large intestine. Humans have no separate compartments, so must make another plan.

This is why bread, in the early days, was made from sprouted and/or fermented grains. You can buy or make Essene bread, which is made from sprouted grain, and Pumpernickel bread made from fermented grain.

Pulses, too, can be difficult to digest (many of you will ahem… smile at this). There is a reason why – legumes contain phytic acid and some also have olligosaccharides that the human digestive system doesn’t agree with. So, for beans in particular, soaking, sprouting and cooking very slowly and eating them just as slowly helps humans digest them.

We will discuss the indigestibility of grains and other seeds when we deal with them one by one in the recipes section , coming soon!

See here how to make traditional sour dough rye bread:

However, for those who suffer no allergic reactions or digestibility problems, seeds are good food. They vary in nutrition with grains being high in carbohydrates, through to seeds like sesame and linseed as well as tree nuts being high in protein and good fats.

Final verdict – my opinion:

Seeds are natural food for humans. They are easy to gather and eat, and are nutritious. They are also ethical food since there is no need to kill the plant to take advantage of the bounty.

What do you think?

Next post: Fruit


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s