Why I’m nuts about chia

One of the biggest blunders of dietetics was telling people not to eat nuts and seeds. They are positively good for you, lowering cholesterol and reducing risk for heart disease, says a major new study.

Nuts and seeds are positively good for you

Nuts and seeds have always been a staple food of homo sapiens, until 20th century fat phobia kicked in. In case you didn’t know there’s never been any evidence that eating nuts or seeds is anything but positively good for you.

In our 100% Health Survey, (which you get for free when you become a 100% Health Club member) consumption of nuts and seeds was the single biggest predictor of a person’s overall health.

They reduce your risk for heart disease

Last month’s study of 25 high quality trials in the Archives of Internal Medicine, confirms that those who eat 67 grams of nuts and seeds a day, which is a small handful, have lower cholesterol with more HDL and less LDL, lower triglycerides (blood fats) and consequently a reduction in risk for cardiovascular disease.

Fantastic source of antioxidants, soluble fibre, minerals and omega 3

Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of antioxidants such as vitamin E and plant sterols and soluble fibres. Colder climate nuts and seeds are also rich sources of omega 3 fats. Walnut, flax and chia seeds are the best in this regard. They are also abundant in minerals. Almonds, for example, are especially high in calcium, while pumpkin seeds are a superb source of magnesium. All nuts and seeds are rich in zinc.

But which is the best all rounder?

My all round favourite is chia seeds. You might not have heard of them but they were a staple food of Meso-America, going back to pre-BC. But this ‘super’ food was put out of business by the Spanish catholic conquistadores since it was part of their sacred rituals and thus fell foul to the equivalent of 16th century ‘novel food’ act.

Chia seeds are nutritionally superior to flax in that they are high in omega 3, antioxidants, calcium and magnesium, and much lower in sodium. Chia oil is 64% alpha linolenic acid (omega 3) and 19% linoleic acid (omega 6), compared to flax which is 58% omega 3 and 15% omega 6.

In truth both chia and flax are excellent sources of omega 3 but chia definitely has the edge on minerals providing 631mg of calcium and 466mg of magnesium per 100 gram (flax is 199mg of calcium and 362mg of magnesium).

I have a 15 gram serving every day (a heaped dessertspoon) which gives me 100mg of calcium and 70mg of magnesium. That’s a really decent amount.

Chia is also very low in sodium (19mg versus 34mg per 100g in flax) and very high in fibre, as is flax. Both provide soluble fibres. Both are high in protein. Chia is about 20% protein, much higher than grains, including quinoa.

Flax has some disadvantages too which probably stopped it becoming a staple food. Historically it was used more for clothing and for oil. Unlike chia is has quite a high level of anti-nutrients such as glycosides, trypsin inhibitors, phytic acid and others. I don’t want to put you off eating flax but these anti-nutrients don’t make it the ideal food in large quantities while you could literally live off chia. Chia, being very high in antioxidants, also stores for longer.

If you’ve never tried chia it has a much nicer, slightly nutty flavour than flax and tastes good on its own, added to cereal, or on salads, soups or in bread and cakes. You don’t need to grind them because their outer husk dissolves on contact with water, becoming gloopy like porridge.

Traditionally the Tarhumara Indians used to mix a heaped teaspoon in a glass of water, with a squirt of lime or lemon juice and a touch of honey. They leave it for a couple of minutes as the soluble fibre expands making a slightly gelatinous drink. This fuelled their legendary 100 mile runs.

I’m sipping it as I write and it’s remarkably pleasant. Try it. I particularly like ChiaBia’s Blueberry chia, with ground seeds and dried blueberries, and their new Apple & Cinnamon Ground chia.

You can buy them on line at www.HOLFORDirect.com.