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    Healthy Superfoods You Haven't Tried Yet: Chia

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    You may have heard of this new star of the superfood world, but have you tried it yet? These tiny seeds pack a powerhouse of nutritional benefits. They have as much protein as many nuts. Like acai berries or goji fruit, these little seeds combine the most nutrition with a minimal number of calories. A tablespoon of these mighty seeds contains only about:
    '' 60 calories
    '' 2.5 grams of protein
    '' 5 grams of fibre
    '' 1.75 grams of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is one of the heart healthy (and plant-based) omega-3 fatty acids we need to increase in our diets.
    '' Zero sugar

    History

    Chia might be the latest superfood to achieve celebrity status, but it's been around for centuries. Chia was a favourite food of the Aztecs and Mayans over 5,000 years ago. These early chia users ground the seeds into flour, pressed them for their oil, or mixed them with water and drank them.

    So how do chia seeds fit into our modern diet? Unlike flax seed, which is hard to digest when eaten whole, chia seeds can be eaten whole or ground. Professor David C. Nieman, Doctor of Public Health at the Human Performance Lab at Appalachian State University says, ''Some other seeds, like flax, are harder to digest because they have more lignan, a tough fibre.'' Their ease of digestion also makes them easier on sensitive stomachs, explained Dr. Nieman.

    Benefits of chia seeds

    Chia is tiny but packs a wallop. It's indispensable if you avoid dairy but need to ensure an adequate supply of calcium and magnesium. Chia is rich in protein, fibre, and "good" fats. It can lower your LDL, raise HDL and reduce inflammation. Chia can also help lower blood pressure and helps with blood sugar control. As a protein-rich, high fibre food, it can be helpful for weight loss or weight maintenance.

    One of chia's magical qualities is that it swells to at last 12 times its size. This means it's great for digestion, especially for, IBS sufferers. Always be sure to give it ''swelling time' before you dig in!

    breakfast_bowl.jpgHow to add chia to your diet

    How can you incorporate chia into your diet? Here are a few options:

    1. In a breakfast bowl, mix together:
    '' Assorted seeds (2 tablespoons each chia, hemp and ground flax)
    '' A handful of walnuts
    '' A handful of almonds,
    '' A handful of organic berries
    '' 1 apple, cut into pieces
    '' 1 banana, cut into pieces
    '' Almond milk
    '' 1 scoop of VegEssential or Whey Essential

    This recipe will give you a great nutritional start to your day and will carry you for hours before you get hungry again.

    2. Add to your favourite smoothie. The added fibre will make it even more filling
    3. You can sprinkle the seeds on cereal or yogurt, or add them to pudding.
    4. Use chia gel as a thickener in jam or soup, or as a binder in veggie patties.
    5. Adding ground chia seed to flour will boost the nutrient content of your muffin or pancakes.
    6. If you are vegan or have egg allergies, you can substitute chia seeds for the eggs in your next batch of home baked goodies.

    Chia is packed with health benefits and amazingly versatile. No wonder it's the latest, greatest superfood. With a nutritional profile like that, it's sure to become a staple in your pantry in no time.