Chia seeds – the latest super food?
Thursday, October 17th, 2013
Issue 42, Volume 17.
I admit when I hear the term chia, I think of those whimsical little ceramic containers planted with seeds designed to grow green "fur" foliage to complete the depicted animal’s look. I even remember the commercial jingle. When I mention that (or sing it), I get schooled on the fact that chia seeds are the new "super food" and what I am remembering is irrelevant to the topic at hand. However, just for the record, they are the same seeds, even the experts say so.
Humor aside, it appears chia seeds do have significant, beneficial qualities, but it seems the jury is still out on how helpful it is for those trying to lose weight.
Chia’s formal name is Salvia Hispanica and it is a species of flowering plant in the mint family. It is native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. Historians have said it was cultivated by the Aztecs in pre-Columbian times and was an important food crop to them.
Some data indicates chia seeds were used as an energy booster, since they are a concentrated, whole-grain food containing healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium. One ounce (approx. two tablespoons) equates to 139 calories, 4 grams protein, 9 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates, and 11 grams of fiber in addition to providing several vitamins and minerals. They are also gluten-free.
Mildly nutty in flavor, chia seeds are easily added to a wide variety of foods and beverages. In easiest fashion, they can be sprinkled on cereal, fruit, vegetables, or yogurt, mixed into sauces or drinks, and baked into cakes, muffins, and other breads.
Controversy comes into play when the discussionturns to its benefits as a weight-loss food.
According to Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, an expert columnist for WebMD, "In theory, chia seeds are supposed to expand in your belly, helping you to feel full, eat less, and ultimately shed pounds. But one study indicates otherwise."
Zelman cited an excerpt from the study findings. "Over a 12-week period, we did not see a change in appetite or weight loss" in study participants who consumed chia seeds, says researcher David Nieman, DrPH, a professor at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. "Our study showed no reduction in body weight, body fat and no improvement in traditional cardiovascular markers from 50 grams of chia per day."
However, given the key health benefits, chia seeds are reported to be beneficial in improving cardiovascular health, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Some nutritionists say it can be beneficial to neurological ailments and arthritis. The calcium factor is reportedly good for bone health. Because they digest slowly, chia seeds are touted to help stabilize blood sugar levels in Type II diabetics.
So, I guess the moral of the story is, if they help some with weight loss, great; if not, they do help some improve their metabolic profiles, good. And if all else fails, a ceramic container can be planted with them for conversation-worthy home décor.
Ways to use chia seeds
• Cook brown rice in vegetable stock, stirring in chia seeds during the process.
• Add chia seeds to cookie dough for an added health benefit
• Chia seeds can be added to mixtures for meatballs
• Mix chia seeds with peanut butter or Nutella for a more nutritious spread.
• Soak chia seeds in milk and mix into hot oatmeal
• Sprinkle chia seeds on fresh fruit salad
For recipes using chia seeds, visit www.chiaseedrecipes.com.
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