Do you remember those furry, green Chia pets that sprouted “fur” when you started watering them? They were a popular gift item years ago, but did you know that chia seeds are edible and actually good for you? Research has shown that these little black seeds are a good source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Since February is American Heart Month, we all should take a minute or two to think about things that we can do that will benefit our hearts.
Chia seeds are available as either a whole seed or in a ground form. Either way, they are considered whole grains, and just one to two tablespoons per day can give your diet a good boost in omega 3s and fiber. Chia seeds do not need to be ground to be absorbed by your body, and if you mix them with water or another liquid, they will turn into a gel.
Flax seeds, on the other hand, do need to be ground in order to be digested, and they are also a good source of omega 3s. Flax and chia seeds can be sprinkled onto cereal or salads, added to yogurt or oatmeal, baked into breads or muffins or whipped up into smoothies to add flavor and nutrients.
Flax and chia seeds are both “vegetable” versions of omega 3s. Good “animal” sources of this nutrient include: mackerel, pacific herring, salmon, lake whitefish, lake trout and tuna. Grass-fed beef and omega-3-enhanced eggs also can be good food sources of this important nutrient.
So why should we try to include omega 3s in our diets? Some of the heart-health benefits include:
- Lower risk of sudden cardiac death
- Lower the risk of blood clots
- Less inflammation in our blood vessels
- Lower triglyceride levels
- Lower blood pressure
- Increased HDL, “healthy” cholesterol
Omega-3 fats also may be good for other health conditions related to inflammation, such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis.
In a time when we so often hear about what we shouldn’t eat, it’s heartening to hear about what we should eat. Pass the chia seeds, please!