With summer finally here many of us want to make the most out of the long, sunny days by eating well, feeling energized and looking fit. With warmer weather, we no longer need as many warming, comforting foods. Instead, we crave lighter and more cooling foods like big, raw salads.
Salads are awesome, but one of the most common questions I get from my coaching clients is “How can I add flavor and texture to my salads to make them more interesting and more filling?” One of my top recommendations is to add chia seeds. Chia seeds easily incorporate into any meal, are natural, holistic, packed full of vitamins and minerals, and may help you to lose weight and improve your skin too? Is this too good to be true? I think not–chia is one of my absolute favorite superfoods.
Today’s post, contributed by special guest writer, Lucy Farraday, offers a comprehensive rundown of everything you need to know about chia seeds and how you can get them into your diet this summer.
What are chia seeds?
Chia seeds come from a desert plant native to Mexico known as Salvia Hispanica and are usually either white or black in color – they can also be found in red or brown colors but these types are immature and shouldn’t be eaten. Evidence suggests that they were an important food crop in Ancient Aztec times and are still widely used in South America. They are gaining in popularity in the Western World , though they are typically still only available in specialist health stores or supermarkets.
Why are chia seeds so healthy?
Chia seeds may be tiny but they are big on nutritional content. Packed full of omega-3 (with a higher potency than flaxseeds) and fiber, they are good for digestion and brain health alike. They also contain high levels of manganese, phosphorus and calcium which are great for supporting healthy teeth and bones.
Chia seeds are thought to be particularly helpful for people suffering from diabetes as they form a gel in the stomach which can help to slow down digestion and keep blood sugar levels stable. They also reduce “bad” cholesterol which is also good for cardiovascular health.
Their ability to aid with weight loss is also another way of keeping obesity levels down and promoting general health. MindBodyGreen puts this in perspective by identifying that chia contains five times the amount of calcium found in milk (in a more bioavailable form), three times the amount of iron found in spinach, and three times the amount of antioxidants found in blueberries. Antioxidants are very important in maintaining good immune system health and are often prescribed for people who are suffering from a depleted immune system either through illness or lifestyle choices such as trying to overcome addiction.
In short this is a tiny seed with a weath of health benefits that can help people prevent illness, fight existing illness and help rebuild their immune system and general health.
How do chia seeds promote weight loss and healthy skin?
Chia seeds are high in tryptophan, an amino acid that regulates appetite and leaves you feeling full after a meal. When added to liquids the seeds are also able to soak up moisture and expand – sometimes up to three times their normal size. This will help bulk up your meals and trick your stomach into thinking you have eaten more than you actually have. Because the chia seeds contain barely any calories at all you are effectively filling up on something that is naturally very low fat, very healthy and apt to leave you feeling fuller for longer. This is how they may help you to lose weight.
Amino acids are also very important for healthy skin. Skin is primarily comprised of different proteins, and amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Because chia seeds are also high in healthy essential fatty acids (AKA “good” fat), they also help nourish, hydrate, and protect the skin at a cellular level.
How do I incorporate chia seeds into my diet?
The beauty of chia seeds is that they can be added into just about any type of meal. They are most commonly found in cereal/energy bars, as toppings for fruit and yogurts, and in juices and kombucha; but because they are tasteless and therefore able to take on the flavor of any ingredient that they are added to, you can really use your imagination. They can be ground down into a crust for a joint of meat, or used as a thickening agent in anything from a cake mix to a sauce or soup. They can be tossed into a salad or blitzed into a fruity smoothie. They can be sprinkled on top of your breakfast porridge or simply eaten in a handful as you run out of the door in a morning. The options are varied and endless so chia really is an easy thing to work into your diet with very little effort.
Are there any complications with using chia?
Despite the numerous health benefits of chia, experts do advise that like anything, it should be used in moderation and not as a replacement for healthy, well balanced meals. VegKitchen advise that eating too much chia can cause bloating and that you should also consult a healthcare provider before taking chia if you are on any type of medication.
Although chia is thought to help people who are suffering from addiction to rebuild their health and boost their immune system, there are some concerns that chia can itself become addictive so like most health foods it is advisable to u
se it in moderation and take regular breaks.
I’d love to know how you’ve used chia seeds in your diet–do you love them? Do you not love them? Please leave a reply in the comments box below to share your chia experience.
*Image 1 by Daniel Schwen (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Image 2 by ParentingPatch (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Image 3 by Maryjeanne.li (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons