Friday, 3 January 2014

Chia - The Strength Seed

1 to 2 tbsp, or a small palmful, of chia seed/day can double fibre, calcium and omega 3 intake.
Chia seeds are a fairly recent discovery for me. Sure I've heard other people talk about them and recommend them but to be honest I wasn't paying much attention. I figured with the amount of vegetables I was eating in a day I was getting all the fibre I needed. And my diet is typically bursting with omega-3 rich foods like fish, flax, and walnuts. I didn't think I needed any improvement.

Recently when I audited my nutrition program and looked at my fibre intake I was really surprised. My average was below the recommended 25 to 35 grams per day on lots of days. What really shocked me was that on a 'typical' day of eating I was way under the mark. Berries with Greek Yogourt, raw almonds and flax for breakfast. Grilled shrimp on a very large salad for lunch. And Tuna with another pile of veggies for dinner. Pretty standard fare for me on a mid-week working day. Total grams of fibre? 18. Not even close.

I knew that Chia seeds were big bang for buck in the fibre department so I started to add some in to my daily intake. With a little research I now know that they offer so much more than fibre.

Chia is a whole and ancient seed that comes from a flowering plant in the mint family. It was used by the Aztecs and other cultures in Mexico and Central and South America in both its whole form and ground up to be used as a flour. The Mayan name for chia means "strength".

The basic nutrition info for chia is that 1 tablespoon (= 1/2 an ounce) provides 5 grams of fibre, 4.5 grams of healthy fat and 3 grams of protein with just 5 grams of carbohydrate and 60 calories. But beyond the basics Chia is a power house of Omega 3, calcium and potassium to name a few.

Chia provides double the amount of potassium of bananas, three times the amount of iron found in spinach, and up to five times the amount of calcium found in milk. They offer 5 grams of omega-3 in a one ounce serving which is higher than wild salmon and more bioavailable (easier to digest and absorb) than flax seed.

Other benefits of Chia:

  • Manganese: 30% of your recommended daily intake (RDI)/ounce. Good for bones & gut. 
  • Phosphorus: 27% of your RDI/ounce. Good for bones & teeth. 
  • Protein: good for muscles and appetite regulation.
  • Tryptophan: good for appetite regulation, sleep & mood (we use tryptophan to make serotonin).
  • Omega 6: all the omegas support healthy and vibrant skin, hair and nails. 
  • Antioxidants: chia is rich in these which we believe reduces the risk of cancers.
  • Heart Health: research evolving to show that Chia reduces cholesterol (like all high fibre foods).
  • Diabetes: Chia lowers the glycemic index of meals which means less insulin has to be produced.

Practically speaking chia seed is brilliantly easy to use. You can add it to just about anything. You can eat it as seeds for a nice crunch in your food or you can grind it up if you want something less noticeable. That means chia can be 'blended' (aka hidden) in other foods for kids or fussy eaters. And for those of you who either don't like fish and seafood or are allergic to it chia seed is a perfectly safe source of the omegas. 

There are lots of recipes on-line for using chia. I now just add it in to breakfast. Anywhere you can put sesame or poppy seeds you can use chia. Just watch if you are putting the seeds into fluid - they expand and make things quite thick which you may not want.

Thanks for reading Getting Health With NP Sam. Comments welcome - just click the pencil icon below. 

Benefits of Chia Seeds (Huffington Post)
15 Ways to Add Chia to Your Diet (Huffington Post)
Chia: Ancient Super-Seed Secret (Dr. Oz)
Health Benefits of Chia Seeds (Garden Basket)
Benefits of Chia Seed (American Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics)
Your Challenge: Choose Nuts & Seeds More Often (Eat Right Ontario)
Kids & Fat (Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation)

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