Why chia seeds are awesome
by Patricia Nadine Mirasol
Every since my brother gifted me with a packet of these last Christmas, I’ve been curious to know exactly whether chia seeds were as good as they were hyped up to be. Why are they touted as a so-called “superfood” with benefits that range from weight loss, heart health, increased energy, and blood pressure regulation? And, more significantly, are chia seeds really the elixir of runners, as some hail them to be?
Chia, meaning “strength”, come from the plant Salvia hispanica, and has been utilized by the Mexicans from as far back as the ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures. Their warriors have been said to depend on them as energy boosters when trekking long journeys. The reason for the healthy reputation of the seeds is this: just one ounce of serving is already packed with 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 11 grams of fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals. That translates to more omega-3 fatty acid ALA’s, plus antioxidant and energy-boosting properties, definitely a worthy contender in the vast sea that is the supplement market.
The seeds also help one feel fuller as they form a gel when combined with liquids such as milk and water. The jury with regards to weight loss and heart health is still out there though, as studies conducted so far show no major benefits with regards to appetite, weight loss, and heart health. This result was culled from a 12-week study period, with participants who ingested 50 grams of chia daily. As such, more research is needed before chia can be recommended for these concerns, according to Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD, National Standard Research Collaboration’s chief editor.
Chia for runners
As for its distinct advantages for runners, chia’s aforementioned characteristic of converting to a gel-like substance when soaked with liquids makes it the ideal endurance food. This is because it is this same attribute that also slows down the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar, the end product of which is that it helps prevent the typical blood glucose highs and lows. Another plus is that its water retention property enables one to minimize water loss and maintain fluid and electrolyte balance for extended stretches. These translate to lesser chances of being tired and worn out during runs. And for everyone who has ever felt cramps mid-marathon, this is a notable point of contention indeed.
A great supplement to a healthy diet
Overall, one should view chia seeds as a great supplement not just for runners but for everyone who seeks a healthy diet. The recommended dose, according to “You Staying Young” authors Michael Roizen, MD, and Mehmet Oz, MD, is two daily ones at 20 grams each. As your body can absorb them as seeds, you may easily enjoy them sprinkled over cereals, oatmeal, yogurt, or mixed in smoothies. There are numerous recipes available online as well that explore other creative means of garnishing one’s meals with chia seeds. At the end of the day though, no miracle pill or magic food that can supplement a well-balanced and varied palate.
Have you ever had chia seeds? How did you find them?
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Health information from webmd.com, thechart.blogs.cnn.com, and ultrarunning.co.nz.
Image from flick.com user Tracy Benjamin.