I’m sure there is nobody out there that would disagree, our health matters. Being in good health is important and can make our day to day lives easier and more enjoyable. These days good health isn’t just something that people maintain and preserve through healthy diets and routines. It’s packaged and sold to us in promises of new fangled products, lifestyle routines and dietary silver bullets. According to the First World, health is a commodity which you have to earn and pay for.
There are hundreds of people out there profiting from selling ‘their way’ to health and arguing that their particular approach is the only/quickest/easiest path to good health. For some reason, dietary choice has become an emotive topic and people can get very aggressive about enforcing their practices on other people. For some, food has become not a way of nutritiously maintaining our bodies, but a status symbol, a lifestyle statement and way of levying moral superiority over others. Which, when you think about it, is pretty ridiculous.
Interestingly, as dietary evangelicals across the globe solider on with their mission to categorise all foods as either ‘good’ or ‘evil’ (all the time disagreeing wildly, of course) there are some foods that have come out of this as superior to others. The so called ‘super foods’ and dietary elixirs.
Now i’m not against ‘super foods’ as such. If you step back from all the bickering about how we label foods and what we eat, the only real issue is that these foods can be seen as ‘must haves’, as if by denying your body of them you will never reach good health.
However, A healthy diet isn’t defined by one food or nutrient alone.
Often the current hipster foods of choice have some great benefits and are a healthy component (not a necessary component) of our diet – So, in my fast facts posts I’ll shed some light on the benefits of some of the foods caught up in current food trends, take a look at how you can use them and what alternatives there are if these foods are simply a commodity you can’t afford or do not like.
First up, Chia!
What Is Chia?
Native to Central America, Chia (or Salvia Hispanica) is grown commercially for it’s seed. It’s these tiny grey, black or white seeds that have captured the attention of the Western World, due to both their nutritional content and cooking potential.
Chia Seeds are tiny and they absorb water readily when soaked, forming a jelly like substance (full of soluble fibre) around the seed kernels.
Like other seeds, Chia have an impressive nutritional profile. They are high in fat, particularly heart healthy Omega -3’s, a good source of fibre, as well as containing some protein and a range of vitamins and minerals.
What Health Claims Are Attached To It?
Fans of Chia seeds and those who sell the product will readily tell you about the plethora of health claims associated with it. They range from keeping you fuller for longer and increased energy levels to aiding with weight loss and diabetic control.
Are The Claims Backed Up?
There have been a few preliminary studies looking at these claims but unfortunately, at the moment, the small numbers of people involved and short duration of the trials mean none have been convincingly proven. More studies are needed before any hard claims about Chia’s health benefits in weight loss, diabetic control or satiety can be made.
There are, however, some benefits to eating Chia Seeds. They contain a good amount of ALA, the plant source of Omega 3 fatty acids which are known to benefit heart and brain health. We get most of our Omega 3’s from oily fish, however, plant sources can help improve our ratio of omega 3: omega 6 fatty acids (we need both, but in the Western diet, we often have a higher intake of Omega 6 fatty acids).
Chia are also very high in fibre, particularly soluble fibre, which is great for keeping your gut healthy.
They also contain a variety of vitamins and minerals as well as reasonable amounts of calcium and protein per serving – although at the moment, it’s unclear actually how much of that calcium is absorbed and available for use by the body – so take the ‘chia has more calcium than milk’ claims with a pinch of salt for now.
I should also mention they are naturally gluten free – so can be used by people with coeliac disease (always check the label though!).
Holland and Barrett sell Chia for around £12 per 400g (14 servings at 85p each aprox)
Tesco sell it for £4.50 for 150g (90p per 28g serving)
So, it’s not cheap!
How To Use Chia
If you fancy trying Chia, you can eat it raw, soaked or added to a number of different dishes and drinks. It’s pretty tasteless so try it with soups, cereal, salads, smoothies or yoghurt to see how you prefer to eat it!
Here are some chia containing recipes for inspiration:
- Easy Chia Pudding from A Beautiful Mess
- Chia Seed Breakfast Bowl or Gluten Free Chia Bread from Oh She Glows
- Triple Berry Chia Smoothie by Two Peas and Their Pod
- Creamy Strawberry Chia Smoothie from Fit Foodie Finds
What Are The Alternatives?
Don’t like Chia or it doesn’t fit into your food budget? Try Flax seeds (Linseed)! You can buy flax seed (which has a similar nutrient profile & properties) for much less – around £3-£6 per 500g.Have you tried Chia? Do you like it? What’s your favourite way to eat it?
- BDA Food Facts Omega 3 https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/omega3
- The Promising Future of Chia http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3518271/
- Reduction in postprandial glucose excursion and prolongation of satiety: possible explanation of the long-term effects of whole grain Salba (Salvia Hispanica L.). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20087375
- A Dietary Pattern Including Nopal, Chia Seed, Soy Protein, and Oat Reduces Serum Triglycerides and Glucose Intolerance in Patients with Metabolic Syndrome http://jn.nutrition.org/content/142/1/64.long