Wednesday, May 12, 2010

5 Superfoods that Rock

With time and patience, you can accustom yourself to pretty much anything. Your diet is no exception.  What you eat every day, you'll crave every day.  Pretty simple.  Eat a high saturated fat "Western" diet and you'll probably crave just that. Eat a high fructose corn syrup diet "the dollar menu" and you won't even have a choice in the matter.  Eat a "Mediterranean" diet of healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, grains, and you can fill in the ending, albeit a more pleasant one.

On a personal note, nutrition fascinates me.  I was a full blown vegetarian in high school, mostly out of curiosity.  What would it feel like to exclude meat from my diet? How would I feel?  I gave up my vegetarian living when I went to college, mostly for lack of vegetarian options (if I lived on cooked carrots and the salad bar, I would have certainly been pretty malnourished).  In the last year, I have returned to a vegetarian lifestyle, and my fascination with food is stronger than ever.

If you also share a curiosity with trying new foods, you should absolutely try what's below, if you haven't already.  All five of these foods I never tried 12 months ago, and now I consider daily staples.  I'll highlight all five over the next couple of days, starting with chia seeds tonight.

Chia seeds, or salvia hispanica were once so highly regarded by the Aztec tribes of Mexico, that their rulers accepted this crop as annual tribute from the people of their empires.  Now, chia seeds are largely unknown! As evidence of their obscurity, I couldn't find as much research on these goods as I hoped. Of what I did find, this article presented the most consistent facts of everything I read:

  1. Supports Heart Health
    Chia seeds can help reduce blood pressure. The seeds contain one of the highest known plant sources of essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6). EFAs cannot be synthesized by our bodies however, it is very important that we get enough to support our immune, cardiovascular, nervous and reproductive systems. EFA deficiency is quite common in North America.
  2. Stabilizes Blood Sugar
    Chia seeds slow down the rate at which complex carbohydrates are digested and then assimilated into the body. The soluble fiber helps to stabilize blood glucose levels resulting in steady, sustained energy. In one study on diabetic patients, Dr. Vladamir Vuksan of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, found that blood was thinner and less prone to clotting and blood pressure of participants dropped significantly, after three months of taking Chia seeds daily.
  3. Energizing
    The word “Chia” comes from the Mayan language and means strength. Chia seeds are a balanced blend of protein, carbohydrates, fats and fiber. It is said that 1 tablespoon of Chia can sustain a person for 24 hours. Athletes have reported that Chia seeds help them perform at optimal levels for much longer periods of time.
  4. Anti-Inflammatory Properties
    A number of arthritis sufferers have reported reduced pain and inflammation after a few weeks of taking Chia seeds. The high concentration of omega-3 helps to lubricate joints and keep them supple. Additionally, Omega-3s are converted into prostaglandins which are known to have both pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effects.
  5. Weight Loss
    The essential fatty acids contained in Chia seeds helps to boost metabolism and promote lean muscle mass. The seeds are sometimes added to food to provide bulk and nutrients while adding very few calories. For these reasons, many people have found Chia quite useful in weight loss and weight maintenance.
  6. Detoxification and Elimination
    Similar to psyllium, the swelling action of Chia in the body helps to cleanse and soothe the colon, and absorb toxins while lubricating and strengthening peristaltic action.
  7. High Quality Protein
    Chia seeds contain about 20% protein, a higher percentage than found in many other grains such as wheat and rice. Chia seeds contain strontium which helps to assimilate protein and produce high energy.
  8. Antioxidants
    Chia seeds are an excellent source of antioxidants containing even more antioxidants than fresh blueberries. The high amounts of antioxidants in Chia seeds also keeps the oils from going rancid - contributing to a long shelf life.
  9. Provides Fiber and Other Nutrients
    Besides EFAs, Chia seeds also provide fiber, iron, calcium, niacin, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus.

    2 tablespoons of Chia = 7 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, 205 milligrams of calcium, 5 grams omega-3
  10. Brain Power
    EFAs are known to make cell membranes more flexible and efficient making nutrients more readily available and nerve transmission more efficient. This helps to improve brain function (including memory and concentration).
Don't know what to do with these little guys?  Try these delicious overnight oats - you may snub your nose at first, but I urge you to ignore your biases and give this a try!

...coming up tomorrow!

Superfood #2: Almond Milk

Superfood #3: Spelt Flour

Superfood #4: Cacao Nibs

Superfood #5: Coconut Oil

No comments:

Post a Comment