As the school year winds down, the dining options at Usdan graduate from the increasingly predictable to the exceedingly monotonous. However, one aspect of eating at Usdan can still inject a bit more excitement into an otherwise ordinary Wesleyan meal: the availability of high-nutrition seeds.
At the Marketplace, the seed offerings typically include flax, ground flax, hemp, and chia seeds. Based on their prime location (each variety can be found in tall glass jars atop the add-on table by the salad dressings), these toppings are evidently a well-regarded staple of the Wesleyan diet, and students are showing no signs of a waning interest in the fad.
“Student demand drives all of our offerings in our cafés,” Bon Appétit Regional Manager of Nutrition Daniele Rossner wrote in an email to The Argus. “Our goal is to create a healthy environment by making it easy for guests to choose delicious food that supports their well-being.”
Rossner reported that these products are often readily available from Bon Appétit vendors and that there is no additional cost to the school to supply them to students. According to Rossner, there is also no variance in quality among brands of seeds.
“There are some companies that advertise their seeds as ‘better than the others,’” Rossner wrote. “However, laboratory testing of these products has concluded [that there are] no significant nutritional or quality differences. [Yet] these companies tend to charge higher prices for their product.”
In the past year, the touted benefits of health seeds have made them a desirable way for people to get their essential nutrients while staying satiated and losing weight. Replete with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants, these seeds provide a large percentage of the vitamins and minerals recommended for daily intake. These add-ons are used primarily for their nutritional advantages, however, as they do not tend to have much of a taste when eaten unprocessed. But the fact that they have no distinct flavor makes them an easy way for even the pickiest eaters to receive proper nourishment.
“Many do not realize that aside from [the] protein and micronutrients [that] seeds provide, they are an excellent source of essential fatty acids,” Rossner wrote. “They are a way for our vegan population to obtain omega-3 fatty acids.”
These seeds are not just served raw. Recently, their health benefits have become so well known and the seeds themselves so high in demand that caterers and manufacturers, including Bon Appétit, have begun to put these ingredients into the dishes they prepare.
“Our chefs like to get adventurous in the kitchen; they do use seeds in their cooking,” wrote Rossner. “We use them in dressings, marinades, composed salads, sauces, or any menu item that would benefit from the type of seed used.”
In most cases, there is nothing inherently wrong with this practice, because it aims at providing nutrients to consumers who might not otherwise receive them.
Nevertheless, problems can still arise as a result of these covert additions to everyday commodities, namely in the form of food allergies. As these ingredients take on a more prevalent role in the food industry, it becomes more difficult for people with seed allergies to avoid the triggers to their reactions. Those with a sensitivity or allergy to seeds could experience side effects ranging in severity from slight bloating to anaphylaxis.
Although these seed-associated health risks do exist, they are not particularly common. Normally, high-nutrition seeds will provide long-term health benefits when consumed regularly in recommended serving sizes.