Thursday, March 7, 2013

Food Focus Friday: Chia Seeds

Should we take diet tips from the Aztecs?

Chia seeds suspended in water.

Maybe so when it comes to chia seeds. These tiny specks of nutritional goodness are being touted as the next "superfood" among many. While I'm not in favor of putting any particular food up on a pedestal, I do believe chia seeds have a lot to offer when it comes to nutritional bang-for-buck.
Chia seeds originate from the desert plant saliva hispanica in central america. They're an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, high in protein, fiber, iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc. Other notable benefits of chia may include:
  • Stabilization of blood sugars: due to its provision of soluble and insoluble fiber and low-glycemic index
  • Rich source of antioxidants
  • It's one of the few plant-based complete proteins!
  • Hydrophilic: absorbs up to 10x it's weight in water
  • Natural anti-inflammatory: omega-3's, quercetin and antioxidants work together to fight off inflammation and free radicals in the body
  • Long lasting fuel: chia seeds were used by acent aztecs and mayans during long battles or hikes
Here's the nutritional breakdown for 1 oz (2 tbsp) of chia seeds:

137 calories
9g fat
4g protein
12g carbohydrate including 11g fiber
18% daily value of calcium
27% daily value of phosphorus
30% daily value of manganese
4915 mg omega-3
1620 mg omega-6

What's the difference between flax seeds and chia seeds?

Both chia and flax seeds are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. They're comparable in calories (150 cal/1oz in flax seeds vs. 137 cal/oz in chia), protein and carbohydrate. Chia seeds provide a greater % daily value of fiber, calcium and phosphorous, while flax seeds offer a higher % daily value of iron, thiamin, magnesium, manganese and copper. Flax seeds should be ground to more effectively release their nutrients (known as flaxseed meal) but chia seeds do not. Chia seeds also form a gel in liquid while flaxseeds do not. Both flaxseed and chia can be mixed with water however to serve as an egg substitute in baked goods.

  • Ground flaxseed egg substitute (1 egg): Mix 1 tbsp flaxseed with 3 tbsp water 
  • Chia seed egg substitute: (1 egg): Mix 1 tbsp chia seeds with 3 tbsp water

Anyways, let's go back to talking about chia... more specifically, let's talk about all the fun ways to incorporate it into your diet!!

Vanilla Mango Breakfast Chia Pudding

8oz vanilla soy milk
1 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 cup mango, diced

Blend mango and soymilk. Stir in chia seeds and allow to sit overnight.

Chocolate Chia Dessert Pudding

8oz chocolate soy milk
2 tbsp chia seeds
sprinkle of cinnamon

Stir chia seeds into the milk and sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover and let sit overnight.

Other uses... Include on Oatmeal or Cereal ...

Don't be alarmed by the color... the blue is from the blueberries.
In Smoothies ...

This recipe will be featured soon enough!!
Yogurt parfaits ...

Here I topped my fruit & yogurt parfait with 1 tbsp chia seeds
to add a little extra crunch, fiber and protein!
Energy Bars...

Sandwiches or Salads ...

I'll sometimes eat this PB-banana-chia seed toast before a run.

Still can't get enough of chia seeds? Consider using them in stir fry, soups, on top of salads or in homemade salad dressings!

Superfood or not, it's important to include a variety of foods into your diet each day. Remember, there are no miracle foods capable of helping you lose a ton of weight or have super endurance powers. Chia seeds are simply a nutrient dense food that you should consider adding to your nutritional repertoire.

*While the aztecs may have used chia seeds to fuel their long expeditions, there's no conclusive research studies that show chia seeds to be a "super fuel' of source. Basically I'm saying individual results may vary, don't depend on chia seeds as a sole source of nutrition during extended bouts of exercise.

** While chia seeds are very nutrient dense, they are also calorically dense. Don't forget to use a measuring spoon and remember everything in moderation!


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