Tags: chia seeds | chia pets | superfood | omega-3 | nutrients | antioxidants

Chia Seeds: Ancient Superfood Rediscovered

Monday, 03 Mar 2014 07:17 AM

By Nick Tate

Those tiny, quick-growing seeds that made Chia Pets an offbeat craze back in the 1970s are making an unlikely comeback — as a nutritional superfood.
It turns out that the chia seeds that make fur-like greenery sprout on those kitschy Chia tchotchkes are loaded with omega-3 fatty acid and other nutrients that rejuvenate the heart and brain.
As a result, they’re turning up in nutritional drinks, snack foods, and cereals.
They’re also being sold whole and milled, like flaxseeds, for use in baked goods and as additives for yogurt and smoothies.
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“A lot of people are surprised that the chia seeds of the Chia Pets fame pack a significant nutritional punch,” Vandana Sheth, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells Newsmax Health.
“Chia seeds are really good sources of omega-3 fats, antioxidants, fiber, protein, and minerals. It is not a silly food fad.”
You probably remember those cheesy Chia Pet commercials that first aired during the Carter Administration. “The pottery that grows!” the TV ads declared, flashing time-lapsed images of green shoots sprouting on terracotta cats, dogs, and other critters.
Spreading a gelatinous paste — made by mixing chia seeds with water — on the figurines produced a leafy plant almost overnight.
What you may not know is that chia seeds have been used as medicinal products for thousands of years, going back to the Aztecs, who believed they boosted health and energy.
Only now are scientists discovering the reasons for chia seeds’ beneficial health properties. Food manufacturers such as Dole Food Co. and Nature’s Path have introduced dozens of new chia products. Major supermarkets — including Albertsons, Kroger, Wegmans, and Whole Foods — have been stocking chia foods.
Sheth explains that chia seeds are a great source of a key type of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid — known as ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). Omega-3s have been linked to a number of health benefits, including mental health and reduced cardiovascular risk.
Janie Hoffman was one of the first people to recognize chia’s potential as a health food. She sells a line of fruit juices called Mamma Chia that contain the seeds.
“The nutrients in chia really make it a powerhouse of a seed — omega-3s, fiber, protein, antioxidants, and the list goes on,” she says. “I think people are very aware of the health benefits of a diet high in these nutrients.”
Hoffman says that many people are switching from flaxseed to chia. Chia is almost tasteless and it doesn’t go rancid as easily as flaxseed.
“I started incorporating it into everything I was eating,” she says. “Stir-fries, yogurt, beverages — there really wasn’t anything in my kitchen that didn’t have chia in it.”
Look for ‘Milled’ Chia
When you are buying chia seeds, try to get seeds that are milled rather than whole. Before rolling out its chia products, Dole’s clinical testing found that significantly more healthy alpha-linolenic acid reached the bloodstream when the seeds were milled rather than whole.

Nutiva is one brand of milled chia seeds that is widely available on the web and in health food stores.

The complete version of this article first appeared in Health Radar. To read more, CLICK HERE.

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