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The truth about chia seeds…

Chia seeds - The truth about chia seeds - Healthy eating - Diet & wellbeing -

Super seed

Some find it bland, others swear it’s nutty and delicious – but the real reason so many people are talking about chia (pronounced chee-ah) has nothing to do with its taste. It’s because of what it can do for our health – and it’s the super-healthy (nutritionists and athletes) who’ve been raving about it the most, saying these tiny grey seeds are a nutritional powerhouse: packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids. According to its fans, it’s the equivalent of several supplements rolled into one natural food. 
With all these nutrients, people claim that if no other food was left on earth, you could live healthily on chia alone. It reportedly does everything from strengthening hair and nails to relieving digestive and joint problems. Also claimed to lower cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart disease and build muscle, just one tablespoon of chia is as nutritionally beneficial as a smoothie made of salmon, spinach and human growth hormone – but more palatable. 

Chia’s history

The little seeds were grown in Mexico and used as a food as early as 3500 BC when the Aztecs relied on them to keep their civilisation healthy. They were eaten alone or mixed with other grains; ground to make flour; pressed for their oil; and added to medicines. It is only in the last few years that they’ve been rediscovered and elevated to superfood status.

Diet aid?

OK – so now we get to the nub of it. The big pull of chia is that, sprinkled over your salad or yogurt, it could act as a sneaky slimming aid… that’s because chia is hydrophilic – meaning it absorbs moisture – and its outer layer swells into a gelatinous covering that, in theory, makes you feel full and keeps mindless snacking in check. The seed is also 38 per cent fibre, so this should also make you feel fuller. 

Try it for yourself - but, before you start dreaming of dropping a dress size, you may want to know that one study disputes these weight loss claims. Sadly researchers at the Appalachian State University in North Carolina found that over a 12-week period participants who ate 50g chia seeds daily actually saw no change to their appetite – and no reduction in body weight or body fat – so don’t expect miracles, at least as far as your weight is concerned. The good news is that the same study did conclude that participants had significantly higher levels of the omega 3 fatty acid ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) in their blood, so it did have other - non weight loss - benefits on health.

How to eat it

● Try chia seed pudding, recipe on page 2.

● Turn it into a drink – using one tablespoon of chia seeds stirred well into eight to ten fluid ounces of cold water flavoured with the juice of half a lemon or lime.

● Alternatively add the same amount of chia to a green smoothie of 1½ cups of coconut water, three leaves of kale and a small cucumber.

● Add it to muffins and easy-cook cakes. For example if you buy a supermarket cake mix, replace half the recommended oil with chia gel made from one cup of cold water and 1 ¾ tablespoons of chia seeds.
● Sneak it into spreads and dips. The best ratio is 1 teaspoon of chia gel for every tablespoon of jam, honey, maple syrup, and salsa. Half a tablespoon for every tablespoon of guacamole; and one tablespoon to every tablespoon of peanut butter, hummus, mayonnaise, mustard and sour cream.

Need to know

Superfood it may be, but there has been at least one case of someone choking on the gloopy gel – so anyone with a history of swallowing problems should take note. Earlier this year there was also an outbreak of salmonella in Canada linked to sprouted chia seed powder. 

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