Seeds A Plenty June 29 2016
There is a new commercial out for Silk non-dairy milk in which a big, burly guy says his strength is fueled by a plant-based diet. Vegan and vegetarian diets routinely come under fire for being considered low in essential proteins and essential fats that are associated with animal and animal by-products, but research shows that adding seeds can help provide a healthy balance.
Ever see a chia seed? One can fit squarely in the middle your fingertip; 20 fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. So small in stature, you may be shocked to learn that those seeds contain five times more calcium than milk. That alone makes them a building block of a healthy diet.
In the Mayan language, chia means “strength” and the Aztec warriors ate them for energy and endurance to sustain them during battle. They are high in all the ‘biggies” when it comes to nutrition:
Similar to salmon in nutritional benefits, chia seeds are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which help protect against heart disease and stroke. The seeds also contain essential fatty acids including iron, Vitamins A, B, D and E, and magnesium, needed to build strong bones. And scientists believe chia seeds could help with diabetes by controlling blood sugar.
Chia seeds absorb water or milk, so they can act as a thickening agent for dishes like soups and oatmeal. They add nutrition, and not many calories, and because they are very mild in flavor, they do not take over the taste of the foods to which you are adding them. That same absorption can help keep us hydrated – the seeds absorb water in our stomachs and form a gel-like substance that can help reduce our fluid output (research shows that is helpful for marathon and endurance racers!)
Chia seeds can be found in most health food stores, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, alongside their friend, flax.
Cut Flax Some Slack
Flaxseed comes in many healthy forms – whole seeds, ground powder, tablets and oil. The seeds, whole and ground, are fiber-packed and aid in digestion, with the ground preferred because it can be absorbed easier and quicker into the system. Two tablespoons of ground flaxseed (or flaxseed meal) contains 4 grams of fiber, which is just slightly lower than chia.
While flaxseed cannot take the place of prescription medication, adding it to your diet can lower cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing the risk of hypertension. There is also research that shows that taking flaxseed, along with applying sunscreen, can reduce melanoma tumors by as much as 63 percent.
The ground powder can also act as a healthy binding agent in most baking. I learned that a few years back when, after a too late night at work, I came home to bake brownies for the next morning’s office birthday. Finding out you are out of eggs at 2am is not pleasurable, but a quick Google search revealed that ground flaxseed could act as a substitute. My colleagues ate them happily and were none the wiser.
Our friends at Nuts.com have added 5 Easy Tips on how to incorporate seeds into your daily eating