While many people may desire a healthier lifestyle, few are able to make drastic lifestyle changes overnight. While a medical emergency may necessitate sudden changes, most find it easier to focus on a few small changes at a time. Once those changes become a habit, then they can focus on forming additional healthy habits. Since everyone wants to become healthy without much effort, National Health 101 Examiner will be sharing a few quick and easy health tips each week that provide the biggest bang for the buck in terms of health. The tips shared during the month of August will relate to eating breakfast.
Most people would agree that it is best to start the day with a nutritious breakfast. For many Americans, a healthy breakfast is comprised of high-fiber whole grains, proteins that are low in saturated fat, and fresh produce (preferably organic, local, or pesticide free). To optimize the nutritional value of convenience breakfasts, sprinkle one to two tablespoons of chia seeds into cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, or smoothies. Chia seeds have a very mild nutty taste that is not noticeable when mixed with other foods, yet they are one of the world’s top super foods providing a nutritional boost that the body cannot help but notice.
Chia seeds were respected by the ancient Mayans and Aztecs as a key source of energy and endurance. Chia seeds were the “running food” of those ancient warriors and were key components in their diet when preparing for battle or long marches. They believed that one tablespoon of chia seeds could sustain someone for up to 24 hours (Andrew Weil, MD). Chia seeds lost their prominence in modern culture until Chia Pets popularized chia sprouts. Now, chia seeds are returning to the limelight as a staple food for elite athletes or anyone seeking a high performance life.
Chia seeds are useful to athletes because they provide long lasting energy while hydrating the body. Soluble fiber coats each seed. When the seeds are mixed with water, they form a gel. This gel acts as a physical barrier between the digestive enzymes and the carbohydrates which slows down the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar. As a result, energy is maintained while blood sugar and insulin are stabilized. (Nutsonline.com)
Chia seeds support the gastrointestinal system. Since these seeds expand in water, they help cleanse and soothe the colon, removing toxins while strengthening GI muscles. They are high in fiber which helps prevent constipation. Since chia seeds absorb almost 10 times their weight in water, they provide bulk which promotes a feeling of fullness and reduces the tendency to overeat.
Chia seeds contain all nine essential amino acids the body must obtain through food. Thus, they are a source of complete protein and an ideal choice for vegetarians and vegans. (eatingbirdfood.com)
One of the greatest health benefits of chia seeds is that they are very high in omega 3 fatty acids. They are the highest vegetable source of omega 3’s which help reduce inflammation and the risk of heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. These essential fats help the body absorb essential nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, and K which support the cardiovascular and reproductive systems. (eatingbirdfood.com)
Chia seeds are also rich in antioxidants which help fight cancer causing free radicals. Chia seeds are also high in calcium and the trace minerals, boron and magnesium, which help the body absorb and utilize calcium. Chia seeds are rich in potassium, too.
Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds do not need to be ground to release their nutrients. They can be eaten raw, soaked in juice, or mixed into pudding, yogurt, smoothies, or baked goods. They can be hydrated for jellies, jams, and gravies. They can also be added to any stir fry recipe or tossed into salads. Toss a teaspoon of chia seeds into a glass of lemonade for a chia fresca. Adventurous chocoholics may want to try this gluten-free recipe for chia seed chocolate truffles.
Nutritional and Purchasing Information
The recommended daily intake of chia seeds is two to three tablespoons, twice a day. Two tablespoons of white chia seeds contain 50 calories, 5 grams of fat, 3 grams of protein, less than 0.5 gram of saturated fat, and as much calcium as in a third cup of milk (Healthy Origins product label).
Chia seeds can be purchased at specialty nutrition stores or on-line. Nutsonline.com sells them for just under $7 per pound. Getchia.com sells certified organic chia seeds for $17.99 per pound or 3 pound bags for $25.98.
Healthy Origins White Chia Seed product label
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