5 Healthy & Fun Facts About Chia Seeds

Chia seeds maybe one of the hidden nutrition gems in the health and wellness industry. For those unfamiliar, chia is an edible, whole-grain seed that originates from  Salvia hispanica, a historical Mexican plant that dates back to the 16th century. They are rich in protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and tons of fiber!

Here are a few fun facts about chia seeds and why you need to include them in your diet if you’re not already doing so:

1. Fiber: Chia seeds are very rich in fiber, packing a whopping 11 grams per ounce, which is about one-third of the daily recommended intake. Fiber, as we all know, aids in maintenance of the digestive system, elimination of toxic waste from the body and avoiding curbing food cravings because of their ability to keep you full faster. Basically they prevent you from overeating.

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: By now many of us know the role healthy fats play in keeping our organs functioning at a high level. Omega-3 fatty acids is one of such healthy fats and they can be found in chia seeds as well. About 5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids can be found in an ounce of chia seeds, more than the amount in a single salmon. Remember our bodies can’t manufacture omega-3 fatty acids so we must obtain them from outside sources.

3. Protein: One ounce of chia seeds is also packed with nearly 5 grams of protein, making it another great source of protein for exercisers and fitness enthusiasts. Protein, as we all know, is an essential macronutrient for the development of lean tissue and maintenance of muscle and bone.

4. Calcium & Joint Pain: Consumption of chia seeds has been linked to reduction of osteoporosis and arthritic conditions in some people. This is due to its moderately-high calcium content of about 20 percent of the daily recommended intake. Those who are lactose-intolerant or those looking for a dairy-free calcium source can look to chia seeds as an alternative.

5. The Best Type: You can pick up chia seeds in most supermarkets or via www.nuts.com, a great site for all types of healthy nuts and seeds. However I prefer Nature’s Intent Organic Chia Seeds. It is certified organic by the USDA and also gluten-free, making a staple for those with gluten sensitivity. Whole Foods and Costco have organic versions of chia seeds.

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Chia seeds can be mixed with and sprinkled over cereals, oatmeal, beans, protein shakes and other beverages, cottage cheese, yogurt and pudding. They can also be used as an additive in baking snacks and foods or can simply be eaten raw.

To Carb or Not to Carb?

The following is a part of a dialogue that transpired between a new client and I during her initial consultation 2 years ago:

Me: Tell me a little bit about your diet.

Client: It’s pretty good. I eat healthy.

Me: Could you be more specific?

Client: Well, I don’t eat carbs.

To eat carbs or to not eat carbs. It’s a hot topic of interest that has ubiquitously made waves all around the world and more apparent in fitness circles. Carbohydrate consumption has become arguably the mot polarizing topic in the health and fitness industry. Television and print media continue to saturate our minds with so many overwhelming theories and information leaving the consumer very confused. I will tell you what I’ve learned through trial and error and extensive research study in 10 years.

Carbohydrates are the most important macronutrients in the human body. They are the body’s most important source of fuel which also provide the most immediate burst of energy during activities like sprinting and weight training. Simply put: Without carbs, we’d all be dead! Protein and Fat, the two other macronutrients, aren’t capable of breaking down quickly enough to supply the body with fuel during high intensity activities. When carbs are readily available in the body (stored in the form of glycogen), the body is able to push itself through all types of physical activities. When we don’t consume enough carbs, our bodies will look to obtain fuel from other sources, most notably our protein stores in the liver. This will subsequently lead to loss of muscle.

Our nervous system also relies heavily on carbs for sustained maintenance and energy. When blood sugar falls beneath the optimal functioning level, our bodies quiver and we get weary quickly. Ever felt so tired and out of it in the middle of the day for no apparent reason? It is because you probably hadn’t consumed enough sugars for the day up to that point. When these blood sugar levels dip too low, unconsciousness, lethargy, dizziness and brain dysfunction are the results.

Carbohydrates are classified as Simple (High-glycemic) and Complex (Low-glycemic). While both are crucial for optimal functioning and performance, complex carbs (oatmeal, brown rice, beans, vegetables, almonds, fruits) are preferred because of their low glycemic index feature which allow them to be absorbed more slowly by the body and provide sustained energy. High glycemic carbs (white bread, pasta, bagel, corn flakes, soda ) may be ideal for refueling and replenishing the body’s glycogen stores after exercise, but at other times of the day, their heavy carbohydrate load results in fat storage. This is because when these carbs are consumed but not utilized right away for fuel, they are converted to fat and stored in the body’s adipose tissues, which stores fat in the body’s midsection.

Carbohydrates should make up 45-65% of our daily calories. Carbohydrate consumption should be based on physical activity levels, time of day and fitness goals. If you’re an elite athlete or competitive lifter, you should consume more carbs than the average person. If the goal is weight loss, carbs should be on the low-to-moderate side, altough calories consumed versus calories burned will ultimately be the deciding factor. Carbs are good for you. Just make sure you’re not eating too much of them and also consuming the right ones.