Sunday, March 31, 2013

Super Seeds

Want more stamina? Try chia, a gluten-free seed rich in omega-3s and fiber.

Chia seeds have been called the world’s healthiest whole food for good reason. “Chia contains the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids of any plant known, and also contains significant amounts of protein, fiber, and antioxidants,” says Wayne Coates, PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Arizona, chia researcher, and author of Chia: The Complete Guide to the Ultimate Superfood.

“Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber have been shown to have positive health benefits in terms of heart health and diabetes,” he says, “And omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants have also been shown to help reduce inflammation and boost immunity.” Plus, chia is gluten-free.

Tiny Seed, Big Benefits

In one study of type 2 diabetics at the University of Toronto, people who received 37 grams of chia daily for 12 weeks experienced decreases in blood pressure, inflammation, and blood sugar that were significant enough to lower their risk for heart disease. The same researchers also found that in healthy people, 15—24 grams of daily chia reduced blood sugar levels and appetite for up to two hours after a meal.

A study of long-distance runners that was published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, found that a half-serving of a sugary sports drink with added chia was a healthier fuel than a full serving of the sports drink alone. For more chia research, visit

Omega-3 Fats

One tablespoon of chia contains a good day’s worth of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based form of omega-3 fats. The Institute of Medicine recommends 1.6 grams daily of ALA for men and 1.1 grams for women, and integrative physicians often recommend around 2—3 grams daily. One tablespoon of chia seeds typically contains more than 2 grams.

It's also worth noting that higher levels of ALA are not toxic, and may be beneficial, especially for those with arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and other inflammatory conditions.

How to Eat Chia

Unlike flax seeds, whole chia seeds are easily digested and most people find they have no distinct taste. Eat whole seeds as a snack, mix them in nut butters, sprinkle them on salads, sandwiches, yogurt or other food, or mix them in juices or smoothies. Chia seeds absorb approximately nine times their weight in water, help control appetite, and boost energy without stimulants. If you prefer less crunch, use ground or milled chia seeds, also called chia meal.

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