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5 Surprising Benefits Of Eating Birdseed

Birdseed, or canary seed, isn’t just for our feathered friends. When it’s grown for human consumption, the cereal grain has amazing health benefits. This functional food suppresses enzymes that constrict blood vessels and increase blood pressure. It also inhibits enzymes that promote carb and fat absorption, making it useful for managing obesity and diabetes. The rich antioxidant content of canary seed also lowers the risk of chronic disease by fighting oxidative stress and inflammation.

Seeds are all the rage at the moment, the most popular ones being chia, flax, pumpkin, and sunflower. Experts have now added birdseed, or canary seeds, to this long list.

Canary seed comes from a grass called Phalaris canariensis. It is native to Mediterranean regions but can be found in the Middle East, Europe, and Argentina. In North America, it grows in some areas of North Dakota, Minnesota, and Canada. And, while it’s typically grown as bird food, canary seeds are also a type of cereal grains.1 Eating birdseed might sound strange, but its benefits make it worth a try. Here are 5 such benefits that bird seeds offer.

1. Lowers High Blood Pressure

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in America.2 And, hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a major risk factor for this disorder.

Research indicates that canary seeds can keep blood pressure under control. A 2014 animal study found that the seed’s proteins can inhibit the angiotensin-converting enzyme or ACE. Excess of this enzyme causes blood vessels to constrict, hence leading to high blood pressure.3 4

Moreover, canary seed promotes the production of nitric oxide, which is a compound that widens your blood vessels. This, in turn, lowers blood pressure and heart rate.5 Hence, if you have a heart condition, you should give canary seeds a try.

2. Fights Oxidative Stress

Antioxidants aren’t limited to green tea and berries. Canary seed is a surprisingly rich source!6

The plant contains several polyphenols (antioxidants). However, its most abundant polyphenol is ferulic acid.7

This is great news for disease prevention. Antioxidants can find and destroy free radicals, the dangerous molecules responsible for cell damage called oxidative stress. And, oxidative stress is a mechanism that plays a role in chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes,  and Alzheimer’s.8

3. Reduces Inflammation

Inflammation, like oxidative stress, is the root of countless chronic diseases. It can affect any part of the body, from the skin to the digestive system.9

Canary seed can keep inflammation in check. According to a 2016 study in Drug Research, the seed reduces inflammatory proteins called cytokines. It also decreases the build-up of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that accumulates during inflammation and plays a key role in its development.10 11 Hence, adding birdseed to your diet might be especially beneficial if you have inflammatory disorders like arthritis, ulcers, and asthma.

4. Lowers The Risk Of Obesity

More than one-third of adult Americans are obese and the numbers show no sign of going down. Obesity has a strong link to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancers.12 And, while there isn’t a miracle cure for this condition, watching what you eat matters.

Canary seed is recommended for patients with obesity because it pumps the brakes on carbohydrate and lipid absorption. While doing this, it inhibits obesity-related enzymes like lipoprotein lipase and pancreatic lipase. Therefore, the seed prevents weight gain. In fact, canary seed is used as an obesity treatment in Mexico.13

5. Lowers Blood Glucose

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the country. And, about 29 million Americans have type 2 “adult onset” diabetes, while another 1.5 million are diagnosed each year.14

If you’re worried about your blood glucose levels, adding canary seed to your diet can be highly beneficial. It suppresses the absorption of carbohydrates by acting on certain enzymes.15

This can do wonders for diabetes prevention and management since blood glucose won’t spike up so fast. And, while it doesn’t have as much fiber as oats, a diabetic-friendly food, the mineral composition is similar.16

While this doesn’t mean that you should stock up on birdfeed in your kitchen, do head to the nearest grocery store and ask the salesperson if they have any canary seeds. Incorporate them into your diet by sprinkling them on your food, adding them to smoothies, or having them straight from the pack.

References   [ + ]

1, 16. Putnam, D. H., E. A. Oelke, E. S. Oplinger, J. D. Doll, and J. B. Peters. “Annual Canarygrass. Alternative Field Crops Manual, University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota.” (1990).
2. Heart Disease Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
3, 5. Estrada-Salas, Patricia A., Gabriela M. Montero-Morán, Pedro P. Martínez-Cuevas, Carmen González, and Ana P. Barba de la Rosa. “Characterization of antidiabetic and antihypertensive properties of canary seed (Phalaris canariensis L.) peptides.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 62, no. 2 (2014): 427-433.
4. Crisan, Domnita, and Jeanne Carr. “Angiotensin I-converting enzyme: genotype and disease associations.” The Journal of molecular diagnostics: JMD 2, no. 3 (2000): 105.
6. Valverde, María Elena, Domancar Orona-Tamayo, Blanca Nieto-Rendón, and Octavio Paredes-López. “Antioxidant and Antihypertensive Potential of Protein Fractions from Flour and Milk Substitutes from Canary Seeds (Phalaris canariensis L.).” Plant Foods for Human Nutrition 72, no. 1 (2017): 20-25.
7. Chen, Zhijie, Lilei Yu, Xinkun Wang, Zhenxin Gu, and Trust Beta. “Changes of phenolic profiles and antioxidant activity in canaryseed (Phalaris canariensis L.) during germination.” Food chemistry 194 (2016): 608-618.
8. Antioxidants: In Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
9. What is an inflammation? U.S. National Library of Medicine.
10. Madrigales-Ahuatzi, D., and Rosa Martha Perez-Gutierrez. “Evaluation of Anti-inflammatory Activity of Seeds of Phalaris canariensis.” Drug research 66, no. 01 (2016): 23-27.
11. Vieira, S. M., H. P. Lemos, R. Grespan, M. H. Napimoga, D. Dal‐Secco, A. Freitas, T. M. Cunha et al. “A crucial role for TNF‐α in mediating neutrophil influx induced by endogenously generated or exogenous chemokines, KC/CXCL1 and LIX/CXCL5.” British journal of pharmacology 158, no. 3 (2009): 779-789.
12. Adult Obesity Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
13, 15. Ahuatzi, Diana Madrigales. “Inhibition by Seeds of Phalaris canariensis Extracts of Key Enzymes Linked to Obesity.” Alternative therapies in health and medicine 22, no. 1 (2016): 8.
14. Statistics About Diabetes. American Diabetes Association.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.