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Aztec Diet secret: Chia Seeds

Aztec Diet secret: Chia Seeds

What are CHIA SEEDS?

Chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. Salvia hispanica is believed to be in Central America where the seed was a staple in the ancient Aztec diet. The seeds of a related plant, Salvia columbariae (golden chia), were used primarily by Native Americans in the southwestern United States.

Chia seeds have recently gained attention as an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid.

They are also an excellent source of fiber at 10 grams per ounce (about 2 tablespoons), and contain protein and minerals including as iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.

Emerging research suggests that including chia seeds as part of a healthy diet may help improve cardiovascular risk factors such as lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. However, there are not many published studies on the health benefits of consuming chia seeds and much of the available information is based on animal studies or human studies with a small number of research participants.

How to Eat Chia Seeds

Chia seeds can be eaten raw or prepared in a number of dishes. Sprinkle ground or whole chia seeds on cereal, rice, yogurt or vegetables. In Mexico, a dish called chia fresco is made by soaking chia seeds in fruit juice or water. Chia seeds are very absorbent and develop a gelatinous texture when soaked in water making it easy to mix them into cooked cereal or other dishes.

The seeds are not the only important part of the chia plant; the sprouts are also edible. Try adding them to salads, sandwiches and other dishes.

 

 

What are the nutrients in chia seeds?

"Chia" means strength, and folklore has it that Mayas and aztecs cultures used the tiny black and white seeds as an energy booster: chia seeds are a concentrated food containing healthy omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium.

 

Chia seeds are an unprocessed, whole-grain food that can be absorbed by the body as seeds (unlike flaxseeds). One ounce (about 2 tablespoons) contains 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates and 11 grams of fiber, plus vitamins and minerals.

 

 

Chia or flax seeds: Which is preferable as an addition to my meals?

I recommend that you vary your choice of seeds and include different types of seeds in your diet. Both flaxseeds and chia seeds are nutrient rich. They are both known as concentrated sources of the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's SR19 Nutrient Database, one ounce of flaxseeds contains about 4.7 grams of ALA while one ounce of chia seeds contains about 5 grams.

 

Both chia and flaxseeds are rich in dietary fiber: one ounce of flaxseeds contains 5.6 grams while the same amount of chia seeds contains 10.7 grams. Like all seeds, both chia and flax contain significant amounts of minerals, and they also both contain a variety of vitamins as well. Because they are very small seeds that we typically don't eat in large amounts, chia and flax do not provide us with large amounts of protein, even though they do contain a good bit of protein in relation to their size.

 

 

The mild, nutty flavor of chia seeds makes them easy to add to foods and beverages. They are most often sprinkled on cereal, sauces, vegetables, rice dishes, or yogurt or mixed into drinks and baked goods. They can also be mixed with water and made into a gel.

 

Can Chia Really Help You Lose Weight?

 

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.

 

"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.”

 

A study reviewing the body of scientific evidence on chia found similar results.

 

"The evidence is limited on chia, and only two clinical trials examined heart health and body weight," says explains researcher Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD.  "One showed some beneficial heart effect, but neither showed any effect on weight loss."

 

More study is needed before chia can be recommended either for weight loss and heart health, says Ulbricht, chief editor of Natural Standard Research Collaboration.

 

The Bottom Line on Chia

 

Enjoy chia seeds for their flavor and to boost the fiber, protein, calcium, antioxidants, and omega-3s in your diet. But don't expect a big weight loss boost.

 

Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet (or seed) for weight loss. If you want to lose weight, you'll need to follow a healthy, calorie-controlled diet and get more physical activity.