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Chia Seeds: The New Super Food?

You may not know what chia seeds are, but you’ve probably heard of the sprout, famously grown and marketed as the Chia Pet. For our sake, we want to concentrate on the seed, because that is where you will find some pretty amazing health benefits.

photo: sweetbeetandgreenbean.net

photo: sweetbeetandgreenbean.net

Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family that grows in abundance in southern Mexico. The chia can be traced back more than 3,000 years to Central America when the Aztecs used it as a primary food source, ranked up with corn and beans.

The nutty-tasting whole grain chia seeds are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, they are said to be up to four times higher in essential fatty acids than other grains. For the sake of comparison, chia has a 64 percent concentration of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), while the better known flax (flax seed) contains 55 percent.

“We know that eating more whole grain products has a correlation with decreasing the risk for type II diabetes, certain cancers, helps to lower the risk of heart disease,” says registered dietitian Janine Albers. “They are high in the plant based omega 3s. They are also high in dietary fiber, especially soluble fiber that can help to decrease cholesterol levels. They are also high in several minerals and vitamins.”

The chia is also a rich source of protein, antioxidants, and dietary fiber. The antioxidants chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and flavanol glycosides are all in abundance, which are strong polyphenols that maintain proper organ and tissue function. They also protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease by removing damaging free radicals.

The benefits keep coming… chia absorbs 10 times its weight in water, which makes it bulky, leaving you feeling full. So, you will eat less of other food, and less calories overall.

So, where can you find chia seeds? It may not be easy to find them in your average neighborhood supermarket, but you probably can in a health food store or organic supermarkets, such as Whole Foods Market or online retailers like Amazon.

December 18th, 2009

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