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Chia Seeds the new superfoodby Dave Foreman
Recently I was exposed to Chia Seeds as a super food. I believe most of us are familiar with the "Chia Pet®" (registered trademark belonging to Joseph Enterprises, Inc). Figurines in the shape of animals have been made for centuries as art objects. These figurines have typically been made of clay, stone or wood. The seeds on your "pet" are not necessarily the same seeds used as a super food. The chia I am writing about is from the plant Salvia hispanica – not always the seeds used with your pet. Also, the seeds I use are grown organically and for human consumption.
Enough about the pets, lets take a deeper look into this incredible food. Chia seeds have been a staple food source for the Native American people for centuries. Aztec warriors would eat chia during hunting trips, and the Native Americans of the Southwest would eat only chia seed mixed with water as they ran from the Colorado River to the Pacific Ocean to trade products. Recently, the press has picked up on Chia (I was recently interviewed by the Fox News Channel) and its amazing attributes.WHAT MAKES CHIA SO GREAT?
To start with, Chia really is a super food. The nutritional profile of Chia is amazing. Here are just a few reasons (I will go into further detail later):
This list could go on and on but I think you are getting the idea. It may almost sound too good to be true. Well, after doing my homework on Chia, it has now become a part of my daily eating habits.
Let's take a closer look at some of the reasons in more detail.OMEGA-3S
The seeds and oil naturally contain more than 60% Omega-3 fatty acid. This is higher than any other plant we know. Chia seeds do not have to be ground up prior to consumption like many other seeds high in good fats, which adds a convenience factor.PROTEIN
It is estimated that between 19–23 percent of the seed by weight is protein. This is higher than most other seeds and grains. Combining the good fats with an excellent source of protein make this a dieter's dream.FIBER
Chia can absorb up to 30 times its weight in water. This also works with other liquids like juices. This ability can prolong hydration (I call it having time-released water) and retain electrolytes in body fluids, especially during exertion or exercise. A 15 gram serving of Chia seeds can provide you with 4-5 grams of fiber.ANTIOXIDANTS
Chia contains Vitamin C and Vitamin E but also has something named Cinnamic acids. It is believed that these three (especially the cinnamic acid) help preserve the seeds and, more importantly, protect the good fats from oxidizing (going bad). This is why chia is a stable product for years.CALCIUM
This one will make you stop in your tracks: Just two ounces of Chia seeds contain 600 mg of Calcium, compared with 120 mg for milk. Following the Herbal Pharmacist® recommendation to find your vitamins and minerals in "food form" make Chia a top suggestion for those seeking more calcium in their diet without resorting to tablets or capsules. On top of that, Chia also contains Boron – a critical mineral for bones – so it's ideal for those concerned with Osteoporosis and overall bone health.WHAT ABOUT THE HEALTH BENEFITS? WEIGHT LOSS AND BLOOD SUGAR CONTROL
Ask any good dietician what to do for weight loss and one thing they will usually say is increase the amount of fiber in your diet. Fiber before a meal can help curb your appetite by giving you the sense of being full. Since Chia can absorb up to 30 times its weight in water, it certainly can make you feel full. As mentioned above, Chia is high in protein. Protein can be beneficial in any weight loss program by providing a great energy source and helping assure you keep your muscle mass while burning off fat. If you starve yourself, the body will use your own muscle as energy and you will not only lose fat but also muscle. Muscle is where your metabolism occurs so losing muscle may lead to decreased metabolism over time. The gel that Chia forms can also slow digestion and help balance blood sugar levels. When Chia seeds are mixed with water or stomach juices, a gel forms that creates a physical barrier between the carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down. The carbohydrates are digested eventually, but at a slow and uniform rate. There is no insulin surge or spike needed to lower the blood sugar level after eating Chia. By achieving this, you will have fewer energy drops and cravings for refined foods. This balancing of blood sugar levels is also critical for those with both hyper (high) and hypo (low) blood sugar.HEART DISEASE
With regards to heart disease Chia can provide added dietary support.We know that a diet high in fiber is recommended for those with high cholesterol and other forms of cardiovascular disease. Also, Omega-3s (usually from fish oil) are recommended for heart health. The Omega-3 found in Chia (ALA) can be converted into EPA (the heart healthy component of fish oil). Adding a few servings of Chia to your every day diet would be a huge step in the right direction for all of us (yes me) concerned with cardiovascular disease.BONE HEALTH
As mentioned above, Chia is high in Calcium and other minerals known to be helpful for bone health. Getting your minerals (and vitamins) from a food source (Chia in this case) is the best way to do it. You get better digestion, absorption and retention when they come from food vs. synthetic. A recent newsletter of mine spoke of a study showing that women who consumed more calcium in their everyday diet had better bone health than those who took most of their calcium from supplements. The women who got calcium from their diet required less calcium too. Hey – I have never been a big dairy fan and now I have one more reason not to consume it – Go Chia!DIGESTIVE DISORDERS
I think by now that all of my loyal listeners, viewers, attendees and readers know that fiber is critical for healthy digestion. We need to consume 35+ grams of fiber per day and if it doesn't come from your food you must supplement. Now, with Chia, 1 tablespoon serving can give you about 1/5 of your daily needs (7.4 grams). One tablespoon of Chia isn't very much, so I recommend at least 2 to 4 per day as part of your every day diet.HOW TO USE CHIA
Chia should be considered part of your everyday diet and not a supplement. You can add Chia to just about everything. Just as we add things to our salads, soups, veggies, etc., you can do the same with Chia. Guess what? It has virtually no flavor (I think it has none at all). This is a huge point because often we end up with something that imparts a new flavor or texture to our food, making it a challenge to consume. This will not happen with Chia. You can add the seeds directly to your foods (dry) or as a gel. Chia can even be eaten directly from the container. (I don't recommend this because the seeds are so tiny (smaller than sesame seeds) they will end up between your teeth.) Remember to drink an ample amount of water, as you would when consuming any fiber.
Since chia seed is an USDA approved food product, you can do this as often as you prefer just as you can eat more than one apple or other fruit per day. You can also use it to make a versatile gel, which can be added to jams, jellies, peanut butter, milkshakes, nut spreads, smoothies, hot or cold cereals, yogurts, mustard, catsup, tartar sauce, barbecue sauces, etc. It makes a great fat substitute, promoting energy and endurance.
CHIA GEL RECIPE Put nine parts water in a sealable plastic container. Slowly pour one part seed into the water, then mix with a wire whisk or fork. This process will avoid any clumping of the seed. Wait a few minutes and stir again to break up any clumps, let stand ten minutes, and stir again. Store up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Add the gel, between 50 to 70 percent by volume, to any of the above mentioned foods, mix well, and taste.