Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Superfood Spotlight: Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia

I always wanted a Chia Pet when I was growing up!
Hi!  I'm back to see you after nearly two weeks away.  Hope all is well in your world :)

I'm going to be spotlighting some spectacular super foods from time to time, that everyone should know about.  The first superfood is the Chia Seed (salvia hispanica), which is an ancient food indigenous to Mexico and Guatemala.  Aside from growing into amazing little Chia Pets, the chia seed is well known for its amazing health benefits.  Let's have a looky:

  • Chia seeds are high in Omega 3 oil. In fact, 30% of their oil comes in the form of this valuable nutrient. Another 40% of their oil content is Omega 6 oil.  They are the richest plant based source of alpha-lineolic acid.  The presence and density of such alpha-linolenic acids in these seeds has led many that normally use flax seeds for such nutrition to switch to chia seeds. Another added benefit that chia seeds have over flax is that they do not need to be ground to be digested, unlike flax seeds.

  • When chia seeds are added to water, they become a gel, which has a variety of benefits when you take them whole into your system.  First, their hydrophilic nature causes them to absorb water, even within your stomach. This causes the water to stay in your system longer and increase hydration, which is great for exercising. They also slow down how fast your body converts carbohydrate calories into sugars, and produce a feeling of fullness, which is good for weight loss and helps with diabetes.  The gel that is formed in the stomach creates a physical barrier between carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down, thus slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar.  They absorb ten times their weight in water.  That is super!

  • Chia seeds are also high in antioxidants and fibre. The antioxidants within these seeds actually keep them fresh longer, so they don’t turn rancid quickly as flax seeds do.  Chia seeds actually contain more antioxidants than blueberries.

  • They are also high in manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, calcium, iron, copper, zinc, niacin, vitamin B, vitamin C, and vitamin E, and molybdenum.

Chia seeds' health benefits include helping reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease, providing more energy, stabilizing blood sugar levels, aiding in weight loss, and providing daily requirements of vitamins and fibre.  As well, chia seeds have no taste, so they can easily be added to many dishes without affecting the taste.

To sum up, chia seeds contain: 

  • Nature's richest vegetarian source of omega-3 essential fatty acids
  • Nature’s richest source of fibre (especially rich in soluble fibre)
  • Complete protein with high levels of 18 Amino Acids (including the essential 10)
  • Three times more iron than spinach
  • Fifteen times more magnesium than broccoli
  • Six times more calcium than milk
  • No trans fats

Two tablespoons a day is all you need of these amazing seeds.  You can add them to a smoothie (great for post-work out because of the protein), cereal and oatmeal, or put them in almost any dish.  I like to throw them on a salad.  You can also make a dessert by combining 1/3 cup chia seeds and 2 cups of water (or almond milk, coconut milk, etc.).  Let the seeds and liquid sit together for 15 or 20 minutes, until you have a thicker gel.  Add anything you want to make this pudding delish: cocoa, banana, berries, vanilla.  You get the picture.  They come in black and white, but there is no difference in the nutritional content.  The black seeds are actually made up of black, brown, and white seeds.  The white seeds are simply separated from the others and sold on their own.  You might prefer white seeds esthetically, as black seeds may discolour your smoothies.

Black and white chia seeds.  They are much smaller than
they appear in this photo.  Picture sesame seeds.

Chia seeds are indeed a superfood with some pretty incredible health benefits crammed into a tiny package.  Pick some up at your health food store today, and start incorporating them into your healthy lifestyle.

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