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Friday, December 16, 2011

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia!

Chia Seeds

By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD

Although a lot of greatness came out of the 80’s: E.T, Atari and, of course, Madonna, we can likely agree there is plenty that should have been left there: shoulder pads and acid wash jeans, for example. But there is one 80’s item that should make a 21st century comeback in your life: ch-ch-ch-chia!

Yes, I’m talking about those silly chia pets. At some point maybe you channeled your inner horticulturist to grow a head of hair on Mr. T, or at least got the jingle stuck in your head. But were you aware that those seeds (and sprouts) are actually edible? And not only are they edible; chia seeds have phenomenal health benefits. Think flax on steroids, with a milder nutty flavor. Here are five reasons you should give this super food a shot:

1.      A nutritional powerhouse: Noshing on chia may sound intimidating and new-agey, but it’s a very ancient practice. Chia was a staple food in prehistoric Mayan and Aztec cultures and was consumed by warriors and messengers for endurance on long journeys. The seeds are nutritional powerhouses: they’re loaded with protein, fiber, omega 3’s, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (chia has more than blueberries).

2.      The best plant source of Omega 3’s: These essential fatty acids can reduce inflammation and decrease your risk for heart disease, cancer and arthritis, as well as improve mood and mental focus. When it comes to plant sources of omega 3’s, flax might be more common, but chia is king. An added plus: chia doesn’t need to be ground to absorb benefits as flax does, and it has a much longer shelf life.

3.      Benefit from fiber: Increasing your fiber intake can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, stabilize blood sugar and improve digestion.  Two tablespoons of chia seeds have 7 g of fiber (the average person needs >25-30 g/day).

4.      Stay hydrated: Chia seeds are hydrophilic, which is just a fancy way of saying they soak up water. When the little seeds absorb liquid, they expand to 10 times their size. Those Mayans were onto something; warrior or not, continued hydration is a great benefit.

5.      Weight loss potential: between the fiber content and expansion in liquid, chia seeds slow down digestion and make you feel full.

Are you convinced yet? Well, I dare you to channel your inner Mayan warrior and give chia a try.

  • Try making the Mexican drink Chia Fresca: mix a tablespoon of seeds in a glass of water and add lemon juice and a bit of sweetener. The result is like a mini bubble tea.
  • Ground chia is perfect for throwing into smoothies, cereal or yogurt, and can be mixed into flour when baking

Nutrition: 1 Tbsp dried Chia Seeds

65 calories, 3g fat, 5g carbohydrates, 5g fiber, 3g protein

Omega 3 ALA (alpha linoleic acid): 2,375mg

Did you know chia was edible? Have you or would you try it?  Any recipe suggestions? And did you own a chia pet (or any other ridiculous 80’s trend)? Share your thoughts in the comments below or in our Food and Cooking Community.

Photo: Carolyn Brown

Posted by: Carolyn Brown, MS, RD at 9:39 am

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