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8 reasons why chia seeds should be on your shopping list

Chia seeds are a nutrient-dense superfood

Chia’ means strength in the Mayan language, and in Mexico – where they originally come from – they were once even used as currency. They are the dried seeds of the Salvia hispanica plant.

8 reasons why chia seeds should be on your shopping list NutriShield Multi Vitamins and Minerals

Chia seeds are high in fibre, very ‘nutrient dense’ and can give you a low-calorie energy boost. In fact, Aztec soldiers used to eat chia seeds for endurance on a long march – so the seeds were known as ‘runners’ food’.

Since they are so rich in nutrients (see below), chia seeds have many proven benefits:

  1. Heart health

    When eaten with a liquid – for example, sprinkled over your breakfast cereal – the fibre in chia seeds forms a gel that has been shown to lower cholesterol.

    Chia seeds also contain nutrients that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Since internal inflammation in body tissues is a key driver of heart disease and stroke (and some cancers), a diet that’s high in anti-inflammatory nurients is important for your health. (See the free e-booklet “Inflamm-ageing” here).

    The heart-healthy benefit of chia seeds is further boosted by the fact that they are a very good vegetarian source of Omega 3. Their high content of Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) is converted into Omega 3 – although not as powerfully as in fish oil.

    Linolenic acid helps with the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, E, D and K.  Studies have shown that chia seeds can also help prevent damaging high triglyceride levels in the bloodstream.

    Medical News Today recommends chia seeds as “an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, rich in antioxidants, providing fibre, iron, and calcium.”

  2. Filling, low calorie and very low carb

    The fibre/gel effect we noted means that a meal that includes chia seeds will make you feel fuller longer, which should help in weight maintenance.

    The fibre/gel formed when chia seeds absorb water can also act as a prebiotic which in turn acts as food for healthy probiotics – the beneficial ‘friendly bacteria’ that have other benefits including improved immune function.

  3. Good for digestion

    Because of their very high fibre content (35%) – chia seeds are good for digestion. Indeed just 75g (3 ounces) provides 30g of fibre – the recommended daily level that most modern diets fail to reach. The high fibre content also means that chia seeds contribute to healthy regular bowel movements.

  4. Stabilises blood sugar – essential to help prevent and reverse diabetes

    This high fibre content means that the seeds – like flax seeds – help keep blood sugar levels steady and balance insulin levels. So diabetics should definitely include them regularly in their diet.

    An animal study reported in the British Journal of Nutrition 2009 showed that rats on an incredibly high sugar diet – 62.5% sugar – when also fed chia seeds, did not develop insulin resistance as would certainly be expected.

    Insulin resistance is, of course, the pre-cursor of diabetes. In a second part of this same study, rats who already had diabetes began to recover. Of special importance was the fact that their belly fat was reduced. It is this ‘belly fat’ or technically ‘visceral adipose tissue’ that releases damaging toxic and inflammatory compounds into the bloodstream.

    A review by the National Institute of Medicine found that diets with 30 grams of fibre for every 2,000 calories were associated with significant reductions in the risk of both coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

  5. Part of ‘anti-ageing’ diet

    Chia seeds are high in anti-oxidants which means they help fight excess free radicals that are strongly linked to premature ageing and damage to DNA. That also makes them good for healthy skin appearance.

  6. Stronger bones

    Chia seeds contain both calcium and boron – important elements for sturdier healthier bones.

  7. Ideal for work-outs

    Chia seeds absorb up to 10 times their own weight of water. This means they can keep you hydrated longer and improve the absorption of electrolytes. Plus they are a good source of minerals you need to replace like zinc, magnesium, copper and niacin (B3).

    The capacity of chia seeds to absorb water, however, means that people who have difficulty swallowing should take care – and very small children should avoid chia seeds for the same reason.

  8. In pregnancy

    Omega 3 is an important nutrient for a growing baby’s brain. Chia seeds are one of the best sources of vegetarian derived Omega 3.

How to include chia seeds in your diet

Unlike flax seeds, you do not need to grind up chia seeds to obtain their full nutritional benefits. You can, however, soak them in water for about 30 minutes before use if you want them in gel form – at about a 1 to 6 ratio of chia seeds to water.

If you grind them, however, store in a glass container in a fridge. Being high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, they can otherwise oxidise.

Because they are slightly nutty and mild in flavour, there are many easy ways to chia-enrich your diet:

  • Add chia seeds to home-made smoothies*
  • Add chia to cereals
  • Add chia to stir fries
  • Add chia to rice dishes
  • Add chia to baked recipes
  • Eat chia seeds raw – but chew thoroughly
  • You can even replace eggs with chia in some dishes. Grind and add water. Check out recipes.

*For a nutrient-dense smoothie, blend 2 tablespooons of chia seeds with 2 cups of spinach, a cup of strawberries and one of blueberries. It’s an anti-oxidant fest!

Nutritional content of chia seeds

Chia seeds are very low in sodium and contain no allergens or gluten. The nutritional values are:-

per 25g (2 tbsp) serving) per 100g
Energy (calories) 109 436
Protein 5g 20g
Fibre 9.48g 37.9g
Carbohydrate (Net) 0.5g 2g
Fat 7.75g 31g
of which Omega 3 fats as Alpha Linolenic Acid 4.4g (57%) 17.6g

PLUS (per serving)
Calcium: 18% of the RDA.
Manganese: 30% of the RDA.
Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
Phosphorus: 27% of the RDA.
They also contain significant amounts of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.

Nutrient-dense foods

One of the key benefits of chia seeds that health researchers have noted is that they are ‘nutrient dense’.  We developed the NutriShield nutritional supplement to be the most nutritionally dense supplement available. You can see it here.

 


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8 reasons why chia seeds should be on your shopping list NutriShield Multi Vitamins and Minerals8 reasons why chia seeds should be on your shopping list NutriShield Multi Vitamins and Minerals8 reasons why chia seeds should be on your shopping list NutriShield Multi Vitamins and Minerals

8 reasons why chia seeds should be on your shopping list NutriShield Multi Vitamins and MineralsAnd register now for a free regular e-newsletter on the latest in nutrition and health research.


Dr Paul Clayton designed NutriShield as a comprehensive health8 reasons why chia seeds should be on your shopping list NutriShield Multi Vitamins and Minerals supplement with OPTIMUM levels of essential nutrients including Vitamin D. See more detail elsewhere on this site or click on the button.


8 reasons why chia seeds should be on your shopping list NutriShield Multi Vitamins and MineralsDr Paul Clayton’s best-selling book Health Defence is available from bookstores or from Uni-Vite Healthcare here.

A free summary report and the opportunity to read the book online is available here.


See online here for delicious recipes from the Health Defence Cookbook  incorporating healthy foods featuring in a Mediterranean Diet. 8 reasons why chia seeds should be on your shopping list NutriShield Multi Vitamins and Minerals


References:

Chicco AG, D’Alessandro ME, Hein GJ, Oliva ME, Lombardo YB (2009) Dietary chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) rich in alpha-linolenic acid improves adiposity and normalises hypertriacylglycerolaemia and insulin resistance in dyslipaemic rats. Br J Nutr 101:41–50

Vuksan V, Whitham D, Sievenpiper JL, Jenkins AL, Rogovik AL, Bazinet RP, Vidgen E, Hanna A (2007) Supplementation of conventional therapy with the novel grain Salba (Salvia hispanica L.) improves major and emerging cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: results of a randomized controlled trial. Diabetes Care 30:2804–2810

Burdge GC, Wootton SA (2003) Conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to eicosapentaenoic, docosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids in young women. Br J Nutr 88:411–420 June 2012, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 105–110

 


Nutrient-dense superfoods black rice, purple corn, red palm oil

Experts agree that eating fruits and vegetables is a good idea, health-wise, though even the current recommended ‘dose’ of five-a-day – almost twice what the average UK consumer actually eats – is widely acknowledged to be sub-optimal (1).

The food industry has taken note, and it has also noted that many of us prefer processed to basic foods. Companies have capitalised on this by producing a wide range of processed foods with soft (and meaningless) fruit ‘n’ veg related claims.

Be sceptical of processed food health claims

Iced tea

Nutrient-dense superfoods black rice, purple corn, red palm oil NutriShield Multi Vitamins and Minerals

Fresh green tea contains high levels of healthy protective polyphenols

Do you, for example, drink the increasingly popular bottled “iced” teas because they are ‘healthier’ than fizzy drinks? If so, you might be surprised to hear that most of them contain very few of the protective polyphenols that make green and black tea a healthy option.

Data presented at a meeting of the American Chemistry Society revealed that while green and black teas contain 50 to 150 mg polyphenols per cup, the bottled iced teas were considerably more dilute, ranging from 80 down to 3 mg per bottle, or 40 to 1 mg per cup (2). The manufacturers have cut down the polyphenols to make their drinks more palatable to a generation raised on the insipidly sweet carbonated beverages that dominate the marketplace; but they have sold our health down the river.

Pimp my potato

At the same meeting, Japanese scientists at Obihiro University in Hokkaido announced a way to enhance the nutritional qualities of the humble spud. This is interesting news; the potato is the most widely consumed vegetable, but is not currently included in 5-a-day schemes because it is mostly starch, with little phyto-nutritional value. [phyto means related to plants]

Many of the compounds we think of as phyto-nutrients are in fact phyto-alexins, which plants use to defend themselves against stressors such as infection or drought. The Japanese took this thought to its logical conclusion, stressed their potatoes by exposing them to ultra-sound or electric shocks, and found that this boosted their levels of polyphenols by up to 60% (3). Shocking potatoes might seem technically laborious, but it was easily done by throwing the tubers into salt water and then passing a small electrical current through the water!

Big potato processors will have seen this research, and some bright advertising executive is probably already dreaming up ads for ‘high antioxidant chips’.

Like ads for bottled teas, however, these will be misleading. It is true that potatoes contribute to people’s polyphenol intake (4), but this is only because we eat so much of them; they contain low levels of these valuable compounds, and an additional 60% of low is still low.

Potatoes are very far from a health food. They have a high glycemic index (ie. when eaten, they pour large amounts of glucose into the blood stream); and as a result, they have a very low nutrient density.

To make matters worse, the important compounds are almost exclusively in the skin and are lost by peeling, so that there are none at all in traditional mash, chips or French fries (5).

The sad fact is that processed foods may be value-added – to the food industry – but most of them are not health-enhanced at all. For the most part, you are better off sticking to basic fruits and vegetables.

If you want to get fancy, go for foods with a high nutrient density such as acai, blackberries, mulberries, raspberries, loganberries, arronia, coffee berries (and beans) …

Nutrient-dense superfoods black rice, purple corn, red palm oil NutriShield Multi Vitamins and MineralsAnd if you must eat potatoes, then choose purple sweet potatoes (or if unavailable, common orange sweet potatoes) and eat them skin and all (6, 7).

Try some unusual high-nutrient-density foods

There are some interesting newly available foods worth looking out for.

Take rice, for example. White rice is a bit like the potato: high glycemic index, low nutrient density.

Black rice

Nutrient-dense superfoods black rice, purple corn, red palm oil NutriShield Multi Vitamins and MineralsBlack rice, however, or ‘forbidden rice’ as it was known in ancient China, is a rich enough source of cancer-preventing anthocyanins (8) to rival blueberries and blackberries (9)! As it also contains high levels of gamma tocotrienol (a very interesting form of vitamin E), plus a substantial amount of fibre, black rice is most definitely a health food. [NB This is NOT the same as the Spanish or Italian dish arroz negro, which – while delicious – is merely white rice coloured with squid ink.]

Purple corn

Purple corn is another newly discovered health food, and an even better source of anthocyanins than black rice; in fact, it appears to contain 4 times more anthocyanins than the blueberries which used to be the benchmark for these compounds (10, 11).

Nutrient-dense superfoods black rice, purple corn, red palm oil NutriShield Multi Vitamins and MineralsPurple corn has been used in Peru for thousands of years in a drink called chicha moranda, which is produced by boiling purple corn with pineapple, quince, green apple, cinnamon, cloves and lime juice. This sounds interesting if astringent, but would be hard to find in Britain unless you have Peruvian friends!

Purple corn tortilla chips, however, are more widely available and a positive alternative to the white and yellow varieties. In fact, when consumed with home-made salsa (tomatoes, garlic, chillies, no salt), this makes up a very health-functional snack.

Red palm oil

Finally, next time you’re buying cooking oil in the supermarket, pass by the extra virgin olive oil and look instead at the ethnic section, where you could find red palm oil.

Nutrient-dense superfoods black rice, purple corn, red palm oil NutriShield Multi Vitamins and Minerals

Red palm oil is made from the flesh of the palm fruit, while standard palm oil is made from the kernel.

This muddy orange oil is a rich source of carotenoids, so much so that when food scientists used it to replace 20% of the oil in chocolate, levels of carotenoids increased 20-fold, and levels of vitamin E increased 4-fold (12). These highly significant improvements in nutrient density were achieved without any trade-off in terms of taste, and point the way ahead to seriously functional confectionery.

You could wait for the new, improved chocolate bars to arrive, or you could simply start to cook with this highly nutritious new (old) oil.

Note: Palm oil sources

Standard palm oil — more appropriately termed palm kernel oil is derived from the kernel or seed of the fruit, whereas red palm oil is derived from the pulp (flesh) of the same fruit.

Therefore check the origin of red palm oil exactly as you would standard palm oil — look for sustainable sources and/or organic producers.

 

 


If you enjoyed this article, please share it with family and friends (see buttons below).

Nutrient-dense superfoods black rice, purple corn, red palm oil NutriShield Multi Vitamins and MineralsAnd register now for a free e-newsletter on the latest in nutrition and health research.

You can follow us on www.facebook.com/nutrishield or www.twitter.com/colinrose40 for daily headline health tweets.


Dr Paul Clayton designed NutriShield as a comprehensive healthNutrient-dense superfoods black rice, purple corn, red palm oil NutriShield Multi Vitamins and Minerals supplement with OPTIMUM levels of essential nutrients. See more detail elsewhere on this site or click on the button.

Nutrient-dense superfoods black rice, purple corn, red palm oil NutriShield Multi Vitamins and MineralsDr Paul Clayton’s best-selling book Health Defence is available from most good bookstores. See the website www.healthdefence.com for excerpts and links to buy direct from the publisher.

See online here for delicious recipes from the Health Defence Cookbook  incorporating healthy foods featuring in a Mediterranean Diet. Nutrient-dense superfoods black rice, purple corn, red palm oil NutriShield Multi Vitamins and Minerals


REFERENCES

1. http://www.cancer.gov/newscenter/pressreleases/9ADay

2. American Chemical Society proceedings 2010 (1) http://portal.acs.org/portal/acs/corg/content?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=PP_ARTICLEMAIN&node_id=223&content_id=CNBP_025471&use_sec=true&sec_url_var=region1&__uuid=a9cbfe6e-dc34-4d64-a996-e45c499d47f6

3. American Chemical Society proceedings 2010 (2) http://portal.acs.org/portal/acs/corg/content?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=PP_ARTICLEMAIN&node_id=222&content_id=CNBP_025384&use_sec=true&sec_url_var=region1&__uuid=d03510d7-7787-46aa-b5e9-7cd0957db6cf

4. Brat P, Georgé S, Bellamy A, Du Chaffaut L, Scalbert A, Mennen L, Arnault N, Amiot MJ. Daily polyphenol intake in France from fruit and vegetables. J Nutr. 2006 Sep;136(9):2368-73.

5. Manach C, Scalbert A, Morand C, Rémésy C, Jiménez L. Polyphenols: food sources and bioavailability. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 May;79(5):727-47. Review

6. Park KH, Kim JR, Lee JS, Lee H, Cho KH. Ethanol and water extract of purple sweet potato exhibits anti-atherosclerotic activity and inhibits protein glycation. J Med Food. 2010 Feb;13(1):91-8.

7. Lu J, Wu DM, Zheng YL, Hu B, Zhang ZF. Purple sweet potato color alleviates D-galactose-induced brain aging in old mice by promoting survival of neurons via PI3K pathway and inhibiting cytochrome C-mediated apoptosis. Brain Pathol. 2010 May;20(3):598-612.

8. Forester SC, Waterhouse AL. Gut metabolites of anthocyanins, gallic acid, 3-O-methylgallic acid, and 2,4,6-trihydroxybenzaldehyde, inhibit cell proliferation of Caco-2 cells. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 May 12;58(9):5320-7

9. American Chemical Society proceedings 2010 (3)  http://portal.acs.org/portal/acs/corg/content?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=PP_ARTICLEMAIN&node_id=222&content_id=CNBP_025385&use_sec=true&sec_url_var=region1&__uuid=e2186d37-2aed-4102-84a1-e5043b99b3b3

10. Jing P, Noriega V, Schwartz SJ, Giusti MM. Effects of growing conditions on purple corncob (Zea mays L.) anthocyanins. J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Oct 17;55(21):8625-9

11. de Pascual-Teresa S, Santos-Buelga C, Rivas-Gonzalo J C. LC-MS analysis of anthocyanins from purple corn cob. J Sci Food Agric. 2002;82(9):1003-1006.

12. El-Hadad NNM, Youssef MM, Abd El-Aal MH, Abou-Gharbia HH. Utilisation of red palm olein in formulating functional chocolate spread. Food Chemistry, d.o.i. 1016/j.foodchem.2010.06.034