Chia seeds come from the plant Salvia hispanica L., and were at one time a major food crop in Mexico and Guatemala. The chia seed market is projected to reach more than 2 billion USD in sales by 2022. Chia seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 fatty acids), fiber, protein, calcium, phosphorous, and zinc.
Two tablespoons of chia seeds (1 ounce or 28 grams) contain about 140 calories, 4 grams of protein, 11 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of unsaturated fat. They are the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Reasons to Eat Chia Seeds
Chia seeds contain several components that, when eaten as part of a balanced plant-rich diet, may prevent the development of various chronic diseases.
1. Digestive Health
Chia seeds are high in fiber, providing 11 grams of fiber per ounce. Being high in fiber, chia seeds benefit bowel regularity. These fibers may also lower LDL cholesterol and slow down digestion, which can prevent blood sugar spikes after eating a meal and promote a feeling of fullness.
2. Heart Health
Chia seeds are a very good source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids. Just one tablespoon of chia seeds contains 2.5 grams of ALA. Omega-3 fatty acids protect the heart by lowering bad cholesterol, blood pressure and inflammation. Inflammation can put strain on blood vessels and cause heart disease.
Ways to Enjoy Chia seeds
Chia Gel: Chia seeds absorb water quickly. Place 1/4 cup seeds in 1 cup liquid, stir well and cover. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes until the texture becomes a soft gelatin. Add to smoothies and soups for a thicker consistency and added nutrition.
Chia Pudding: Mix 1/4 cup seeds with 1 cup liquid such as milk (almond, soy, or dairy) or 100% fruit juice. Allow to sit refrigerated for 15 minutes. Add nuts, chopped fresh fruit, or cinnamon if desired.
Egg Replacer: Can be used to replace whole eggs in baking. For 1 whole egg, mix 1 tablespoon whole chia seeds or 2 teaspoons ground chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water. Let sit for at least 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens to the consistency of a raw scrambled egg.
Cereal Topping: Sprinkle a few teaspoons into breakfast cereals (hot or cold).
Baking: Stir into cake/muffin/bread batter.
Stews and Soups: Stir into stews or soups.
Sauces and Marinades: Stir into salad dressings, sauces, and marinades.
Avocado – that buttery green fruit that you can spread on a sandwich, dice into a salad, and mash into guacamole (America’s favorite dip). Research has demonstrated that avocados offer some surprising and powerful health benefits.
One of the most nutrient-dense foods, avocados are high in fiber, folate, potassium, vitamin E, and magnesium. No doubt, avocado nutrition makes it a powerful superfood.
Avocados have been cultivated for thousands of years. A favorite of the Aztecs, they were originally native to Central America. There are generally two types available in the USA today – the Hass avocado from California and the West Indian avocado from Florida.
Hass avocados are nutty, buttery and rich in monounsaturated oil (18 to 30 percent oil in each avocado). The light green Florida avocado is larger and juicier than the Hass variety, but it is less buttery, considerably lower in oil (3 to 5 percent oil) and has roughly 25 to 50 percent less fat than the Hass variety.
The avocado’s monounsaturated fat content is its biggest health claim. The only other fruit with a comparable amount of monounsaturated fat is the olive. The monounsaturated fat in avocados is oleic acid, which helps lower cholesterol. One study found that after seven days on a diet that included avocados, there were significant decreases in both total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, as well as an 11 percent increase in HDL (good) cholesterol.
Reasons To Eat Avocados
1. Avocados are packed with carotenoids
Avocados are a great source of lutein, a carotenoid that works as an antioxidant and helps protect against eye disease. They also contain related carotenoids zeaxanthin, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, as well as vitamin E.
2. Avocados are rich in healthy fats
Since carotenoids are fat-soluble, they need to be eaten with fats at the same meal to be absorbed into the blood stream. Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats that help the body absorb these carotenoids from the avocado and also from other foods. An easy way to do this is to add sliced avocado to a mixed salad.
3. Avocados make you feel full
Half an avocado contains 3.4 grams of fiber, including soluble and insoluble, both of which your body needs to keep the digestive system running smoothly. The soluble fiber also slows the breakdown of carbohydrates in your body, helping you feel full longer.
Avocados also contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that activates the part of your brain that makes you feel full. Healthier unsaturated fats containing oleic acid have been shown to produce a greater feeling of satiety than less healthy saturated fats and trans fats found in processed foods.
4. Avocados are rich in folate
One cup of avocado contains almost a quarter of the recommended daily intake of folate, a vitamin which cuts the risk of birth defects. So if you are pregnant, or planning to be, avocados will help protect your unborn baby.
A high folate intake is also associated with a lower risk of heart attacks and heart disease. So avocados could help keep your heart healthy.
5. Avocados can help lower your cholesterol
In addition to making you feel full, the oleic acid in avocados can help lower cholesterol levels. In one study, an avocado-rich diet resulted in a significant reduction in total cholesterol levels and an 11 percent increase in HDL (good) cholesterol.
6. Avocados can regulate your blood pressure
Avocados are full of potassium and magnesium, two nutrients known to lower blood pressure. A one-cup serving of avocado contains 15% of the RDI of potassium compare to 11% in bananas, which are a typical high-potassium food. The avocado also contains 14% of the RDI of magnesium, more than several fruits including the banana, strawberry, and kiwi.
7. Avocados taste great
Avocados are a healthy way to boost the flavor and texture of your meals. Toss chopped avocados on a salad or bowl of soup. Serve guacamole as an appetizer or condiment.
Putting It Into Practice
Salads: Garnish vegetable, fruit, and whole grain salads with diced avocados, and then toss gently to mix.
Pasta salads: Add diced avocado, diced bell pepper, and sliced scallions to cooked pasta, and dress with a mixture of extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar, and mustard for a tasty pasta salad.
Guacamole: Mashed avocados are the main ingredient in this tasty dip.
Spreads: Mash half an avocado and spread it on whole grain bread or toast for a nourishing breakfast or snack.
Wraps: Put sliced avocado in wraps and sandwiches.
Omelets: Add diced avocado to eggs or omelets before cooking.
Crackers: Top whole grain crackers with thin slices of avocado and smoked salmon for a tasty appetizer or snack.
Butter: Top baked potatoes with avocado butter, made by mashing a ripe avocado with a tablespoon of lemon or lime juice, salt and pepper.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in monounsaturated fats, one type of healthy fat. Nuts, particularly almonds, are rich in these monounsaturated fats. Research shows that just one serving (1 ounce) of nuts is associated with lower total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels.
Almonds contain a lot of dietary fiber, in fact the highest amount of dietary fiber of all the tree nuts. High fiber diets are associated with lower cholesterol levels and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Almonds contain powerful antioxidants that help prevent oxidation, a precursor to plaque buildup in our arteries. These antioxidants (flavonoids and vitamin E) may be the key to almonds’ ability to protect LDL cholesterol and prevent death from cardiovascular disease.
Almonds relax our arteries so they open up, which lowers our blood pressure. Almonds also reduce the ability of our blood to clot, therefore reducing the risk of a heart attack.
Almonds are calorie dense, so they should be consumed in moderation. No more than one to two ounces a day. An ounce is about a handful. Click here to read this post for ideas on how to use almonds.
Finally it is best to store almonds in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This is because they are high in fat, so they are prone to spoilage.