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Superfoods: Chia Seeds

Superfoods: Chia seeds

Key takeaways

  1. Chia seeds have become one of the most popular superfoods. Chia is extremely rich in omega 3 fatty acids, containing eight times more, per gram, than salmon. It also contains dietary fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, proteins and essential minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium and iron.
  2. Rich in omega-3, antioxidants, dietary fiber, vitamins, proteins and minerals, chia is an excellent food to add to our daily diets.
  3. Chia seeds are particularly beneficial for reducing cardiovascular disease, promoting weight loss, reducing the risk of diabetes and insulin sensitivity and improving endurance.

 

A number of studies have looked into the benefits of chia seeds on cardiovascular health. Chia seeds are 40% fiber by weight, making them one of the best sources of fiber. A cohort study of 58,730 subjects found that the intake of dietary fiber was inversely associated with the risk of coronary heart disease. Another cohort study of 1373 men found that every additional 10g of dietary fiber intake per day reduced coronary heart disease by 17%. There are many potential mechanisms behind this protective role, including the formation of gels that attenuates blood glucose and lipid rises. Soluble fibre are additionally fermented by bacteria in the large intestine, producing short chain fatty acids, which help reduce circulating cholesterol levels. 

 

On the other hand, researchers have found conflicting results on chia seeds and its role in weight loss. In fact, some studies showed that increasing the intake of dietary fiber can significantly reduce the risk of gaining weight and fat. Because chia seeds are rich in fiber, they can absorb up to 10-12 times their weight in water. By doing so, it becomes gel-like and expands in the stomach. As a result, this is thought to increase fullness and slow the absorption of foods, ultimately reducing calorie intake. Another mechanism could be the high concentration of proteins in chia seeds (14%), which causes a reduction in appetite and obsessive thoughts about food by 60% and night time snacking by 50%. However, other studies have found that chia seed intake does not necessarily cause weight loss. Additional studies are therefore necessary in order to conclude on the possible role of chia seeds on weight loss. 

 

Chia seeds, and in particular its high concentration in fibers, have also been found to reduce the risk of diabetes and insulin sensitivity. Low insulin sensitivity, or insulin resistance, is characterized by an increase in the amount of insulin needed to keep blood glucose stable. This can lead to a variety of health problems, including diabetes. Studies found that a higher dietary fiber or chia seed intake decreased the incidence of insulin sensitivity and diabetes. It is thought to be thanks to dietary fiber that is able to slow down digestion and the absorption of foodsThe faster carbohydrates are digested and absorbed, the quicker and the higher your blood sugar levels can rise after eating.

 

Finally, chia seeds are an effective way of boosting endurance. Indeed, a study found that chia enhanced performance for endurance events lasting more than 90 minutes and also allowed a decrease in the dietary intake of sugar while increasing the intake of dietary omega-3. 

 

How to take it? 

Chia seeds can be used in several ways: 

– Directly by adding it to oatmeal, cereals, granola or yogurt.

– Adding it to smoothies, soups or puddings to serve as a thickening agent.

– Or by using chia seed flour, a wheat flour substitute, for baking purposes.

The recommended amount per day is 20 grams. 

 

 

Work cited:

Eshak, E., Iso, H., Date, C., Kikuchi, S., Watanabe, Y., Wada, Y., Wakai, K. and Tamakoshi, A. (2010). Dietary Fiber Intake Is Associated with Reduced Risk of Mortality from Cardiovascular Disease among Japanese Men and Women. The Journal of Nutrition, 140(8), pp.1445-1453. 

Guevara-Cruz, M., Tovar, A., Aguilar-Salinas, C., Medina-Vera, I., Gil-Zenteno, L., Hernández-Viveros, I., López-Romero, P., Ordaz-Nava, G., Canizales-Quinteros, S., Guillen Pineda, L. and Torres, N. (2011). A Dietary Pattern Including Nopal, Chia Seed, Soy Protein, and Oat Reduces Serum Triglycerides and Glucose Intolerance in Patients with Metabolic Syndrome. The Journal of Nutrition, 142(1), pp.64-69.

Illian, T., Casey, J. and Bishop, P. (2011). Omega 3 Chia Seed Loading as a Means of Carbohydrate Loading. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(1), pp.61-65.

Streppel M., Ocké M., Boshuizen H., Kok F. and Krombout D. (2008). Dietary fiber intake in relation to coronary heart disease and all-cause mortality over 40 y: the Zutphen Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 88(4), pp.1119-25. 

Threapleton D., Greenwood D., Evans C., Cleghorn C., Nykjaer C., Woodhead C., Cade J., Gale C. and Burley V. (2013). BMJ,347. 

Tucker, L. and Thomas, K. (2009). Increasing Total Fiber Intake Reduces Risk of Weight and Fat Gains in Women. The Journal of Nutrition, 139(3), pp.576-581.

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