Health Benefits of Chia

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds seem to be sprouting up everywhere these days in a variety of health foods. Although the chia  seed seems like a “new” food, chia has actually been around for over 3500 years. Chia is a seed native to southern Mexico from a plant called Salvia hisipanica. In Mexico, the Aztecs and Mayans consumed chia seeds to give them strength for battle and relieve pain. The Aztecs also used chia as a high energy-density food they could consume during long travels or during times when food was not as readily available. Now much of the chia in the world is grown in Australia, instead of Mexico, and Australia may soon become the biggest producer of chia seeds internationally.

Chia has several health benefits. These powerful seeds contain a significant amount of the omega-3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), even more than flax seeds. ALA may help reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and even symptoms of asthma. The seeds also have an extra benefit in that the omega-3 fat is protected by a large amount of antioxidants, which prevents the heart-healthy fat from becoming rancid.  Chia seeds are also very high in fiber, providing 10g per ounce.  Chia is a high calcium seed, as it provides 179 mg of calcium per serving. That’s not all for their nutritional benefits, they are also chock full of phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, and zinc all of which are minerals vital to health.

Omega-3s and calcium have been shown to help with weight loss and chia seeds provide large doses of both nutrients. But chia seeds actually have an additional weight-loss boosting benefit other than their nutritional profile. When mixed with water, chia seeds grow to 10x their size, forming a gel that is high soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is not digested by our bodies and therefore is calorie-free. The gel also grows in the stomach, making us feel full and leading to a reduced overall calorie consumption. Soluble fiber traps fat and cholesterol, possibly lowering calorie absorption from a meal. Less calories being absorbed, means less calories are stored as unwanted fat!

Not sure how to eat chia seeds? When mixed with water, they have a rubbery, gel- like consistency. Chia seeds are 100% gluten free so are safe to eat on a gluten or grain free diet. If you want to lose weight, add them to water or tea to help fill you up before a meal, so you feel full and eat less overall. Sprinkle them on salads, blend them into smoothies, or add them to your favorite soup as a thickener. Add them to hot cereal, yogurt, or grind them to add to muffins or breads. Many people use chia as an egg replacer in baked goods to add omega-3 fats and reduce cholesterol. As chia becomes more popular, you are sure to see it pop up in a variety of health foods and they are a great addition to any diet.

Here is a recipe for you adapted from Simple Bites. This recipe is GLUTEN FREE, DAIRY FREE, LOW SUGAR, LOW GLYCAEMIC and HIGH CALCIUM

 

Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond or coconut milk (you can also use 1% cow’s milk)
  • 2 tbsp xylitol or Stevia (you can also use coconut sugar, agave, or honey- although these contain real sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

 

Instructions
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a pint jar. Cover the jar with a lid and give it a vigorous shake.
  2. Chill for about an hour, then return to the jar and shake it up. Let chill for at least 4 hours and overnight is even better.
  3. Chia seeds will expand and turn into pudding the consistency of applesauce (it won’t get really thick).
  4. Serve cold with sliced fruit or toasted nuts on top.

 

 

Dairy Free Sources of Calcium

dairy free calciumCalcium is an abundant and vital mineral found in our bodies. The main function of calcium in our diets is to help maintain strong bones and teeth. Almost all the calcium in our bodies is stored in our bones, but our body will sometimes remove calcium as needed for other bodily functions such as to help release hormones, maintain blood vessels, and to build enzymes. When the body begins to take out too much calcium from the bones, when we don’t get enough from our diet, this may lead to a weakening of the bones called osteoporosis. Therefore, it is important to consume enough calcium via diet, so that our body is not forced to access the stored calcium.  The daily recommended amount (known as RDI) for calcium for adults is 1,000 mg.  Consuming this amount daily may be challenging for some people with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies, as milk, yogurt, and cheese contain a significant amount of calcium. But, there are several dairy free sources that actually have almost as much calcium as dairy, without any of the consequences.

Vegetables

Several vegetables contain a significant amount of dairy free calcium. All of the green leafy vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, and spinach, contain calcium. A cup of broccoli has 180 mg and spinach contains 240 mg per cup. Other vegetables to try: arugula, bok choy, and swiss chard. The only issue with getting all of your calcium from green leafy vegetables is that they are high in oxalates, which can block calcium absorption so it is hard to determine how much is actually absorbed. Try to vary your high calcium foods so that you don’t just rely on vegetables to supply your daily needs.

Seafood

Fish is a surprising source of dairy free calcium. In order for fish to contain calcium, it must also contain bones. Seven sardines contain about 321 mg of calcium, as they are consumed whole with the bones intact. Canned salmon, which contains small bone fragments, contains 232mg for only ½ a can. Seaweed is also very high in calcium, provides 126 mg per cup.

Nuts and Seeds

Several varieties of nuts and seeds can be great sources of calcium. Chia seeds are amongst the highest in calcium, they provide 179 mg per 28g AA026294serving. Not sure how to eat chia seeds? You can sprinkle them on salads or other cold dishes or just add them to tea or water for an extra dose of calcium. Sesame seeds provide 64 mg per tablespoon and Tahini (sesame paste contains 119 mg calcium per ounce. Almonds are also high in calcium, containing 75mg per ounce. An ounce of nuts can provide an excellent filling snack and a great source of dairy free calcium!

Milk Alternatives

For those that have a dairy allergy or are lactose intolerant, there are several beverages considered “milk alternatives” that can be substituted for milk as a source of dairy free calcium. Lactose-free milk is a good alternative for those with lactose intolerance, but would not work for people with a dairy allergy. Soy milk can contain between 200-400mg per cup depending on the brand. Almond milk is also very high in calcium, containing about 200 mg per cup. Even orange juice is calcium fortified, but watch out the sugar content.

Supplements

If you feel you are not reaching your calcium goals for the day, you may want to consider a supplement. Make sure it is a calcium citrate supplement which is better absorbed than calcium carbonate.  But, your body cannot absorb more than 500 mg of calcium at once, so split up your dose if you are aiming for 1,000 mg per day.

Even if you have lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy, with these high-calcium dairy free alternatives it will be easy to get enough calcium daily and maintain strong teeth and bones.

 

Banana and Walnut Muffins – gf, df, sf, low FODMAP

I had a whole heap of mushie brown bananas and didn’t know what to do with them. I put it on our Facebook page, and our followers had terrific suggested to use them up. Some great ideas included smoothies, banana frozen yoghurt, pancakes (using banana instead of sugar) and even cocktails!  The winning vote however was for muffins.   Being a self confessed horrible muffin maker, I was guided by the suggestions of all our followers to make a really amazing finished product.  The trick is – don’t overmix, keep the oven temperature lower and only cook them for 15-20 minutes. 

These delicious banana and walnut muffins are perfect for a sweet treat – even for those that are gluten free, dairy free, soy free or on a low FODMAPs diet.  Plus, they are higher protein  and have good fats due to the walnuts and chia seeds.  Don’t forget to freeze them for lunchbox fillers.

 

BANANA & WALNUT MUFFINS

[Options for gluten free, dairy free and soy free]

Cooking Time   20 minutes

Makes   12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (150g) self-raising flour (I used Orgran gluten free)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 70g butter, melted, cooled (I used Nuttelex lite)
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 3-4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup chia seeds

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line 12 x muffin pan.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, chia seeds and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk butter and eggs together. Stir in banana and walnuts (do not overmix). Spoon into prepared muffin pan.
  3. Bake for 20 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Set aside in the pan for 10 mins before turning out onto a wire rack.

Note:

– To make this into banana bread instead, use 1 cup plain flour and ½ cup self-raising flour.  Cook for 45-50 minutes.

– Freeze extras for easy snacks