April 9, 2012
Move over, flax and hemp seeds! It's time to share the nutritional spotlight with what's being touted as a new "super" seed, chia. Chia sprouts may be most familiar as the green fur or hair of Chia Pets, a collectible clay figurine.
Chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. Salvia hispanica seed is often sold under its common name “chia” as well as several trademarked names. Its origin is believed to be in Central America where the seed was a staple in the ancient Aztec diet. The seeds of a related plant, Salvia columbariae (golden chia), were used primarily by Native Americans in the southwestern United States.
While chia, flax and hemp seeds all contribute fiber, Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and protein to the diet, let's look at how they stack up.
All the three seeds are a considerable source of calories and fat, considering their serving size. The type of fat provided is high in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Omega fatty acids are essential fatty acids, meaning they are vital to normal growth and health. You have to get them from food sources.
All three seeds are also a source of fiber, although hemp has less fiber. Flax seeds are high in insoluble fiber, the type that helps us have normal bowel movements, while chia is high in soluble fiber, the same type of fiber that helps to lower cholesterol. Emerging research suggests that including chia seeds as part of a healthy diet may help improve cardiovascular risk factors such as lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure and promote weight loss.1
Adding just 2 tablespoons of chia seeds to your daily diet will give you approximately 7 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 205 milligrams of calcium, and a whopping 5 grams of omega-3!
Chia seeds can be eaten raw or prepared in a number of dishes. Ground chia seeds can be used for porridge or baked goods including breads, cakes and biscuits. It can added to soups, stews, yogurt or sprinkled on salads and cereal. In Mexico, a dish called chia fresco is made by soaking chia seeds in fruit juice or water. Chia seeds are very absorbent and develop a gelatinous texture when soaked in water making it easy to mix them into cooked cereal or other dishes.
The seeds are not the only important part of the chia plant. The sprouts are also edible and can be added to salads, sandwiches and other dishes. The chia seeds you get in a Chia Pet
have not been approved as food by the FDA, so get yours from health-food store, or order some online.
Skip the commercial fiber supplements and try some chia.
- Nieman DC, Cayea EJ, Austin MD, Henson DA, McAnulty SR and Jin F. Chia seed does not promote weight loss or alter disease risk factors in overweight adults. Nutrition Research. 2009;29(6):414-418.
April 9, 2012
Is Greek yogurt healthier than regular yogurt?
First, to be clear: Both Greek and regular yogurt, in their plain, nonfat or low-fat forms, can be part of a healthful diet. They're low in calories and packed with calcium and live bacterial cultures. Greek Yogurt is strained extensively to remove much of the liquid whey, lactose, and sugar, giving it its thick consistency—does have an undeniable edge. In roughly the same amount of calories, it can pack up to double the protein, while cutting sugar content by half.
Here's a closer look at how the two stack up nutrition-wise.
Greek (5.3 ounces, nonfat, plain)
Regular (6 ounces, nonfat, plain)
Carbohydrates. Going Greek is a smart choice because of its low carbohydrate content. It contains roughly half the carbs as the regular kind—5 to 8 grams per serving compared with 13 to 17. Plus, the straining process removes some of the milk sugar, lactose, making Greek yogurt less likely to upset the lactose-intolerant. Remember, however, that "both types of yogurt can contain high amounts of carbs if they're sweetened with sugar or another sweetening agent. No matter which type you choose, opt for yogurt with less added sugar
Protein. Greek yogurt is high in protein, which helps promote fullness. A typical 6-ounce serving contains 15 to 20 grams, the amount in 2 to 3 ounces of lean meat. That makes it particularly appealing to vegetarians, who sometimes struggle to get enough of the nutrient. An identical serving of regular yogurt, on the other hand, provides just 9 grams, meaning you may feel hunger pangs sooner.
Fat. Be wary of Greek yogurt's fat content. In just 7 ounces, Fage's full-fat Greek yogurt packs 16 grams of saturated fat—or 80 percent of your total daily allowance if you're on a 2,000-calorie diet. (That's more than in three Snickers bars.) Dannon's regular full-fat yogurt has 5 grams of saturated fat in an 8-ounce serving. Saturated fat raises total and "bad" LDL cholesterol levels, increasing the risk for heart disease. Read nutrition labels carefully. If you're going Greek, stick to low-fat and fat-free versions.
Sodium. A serving of Greek yogurt averages 50 milligrams of sodium—about half the amount in most brands of the regular kind.
Calcium. Regular yogurt provides 30 percent of the recommended daily amount. Greek yogurt loses some of its calcium through the straining process, but still packs a wallop. A 6-ounce cup typically supplies about 20 percent of the daily recommendation.
Still undecided on which team to join? Compare the labels of Dannon's regular and Greek varieties. (Other popular brands of Greek yogurt include Yoplait, Fage, Chobani, and Stonyfield Farm's Oikos).
Though most experts agree that Greek yogurt has a nutritional edge, both kinds help you lose weight by keeping you full on fewer calories. The key is sticking to plain, nonfat, or low-fat varieties
If you do opt for Greek yogurt, take advantage of its versatility. Mix it with seasonings like garlic, dill, and parsley to create a unique dip for carrots, celery sticks, or cucumber slices. Toss in some berries or high-fiber granola. You can also substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream on tacos, for example, or for the eggs and oil in baked goods. It's an acceptable replacement for fatty ingredients like cream cheese, mayonnaise, and butter. "Its thick texture makes it an excellent swap for mayonnaise on sandwiches, or in dishes like potato salad, egg salad, pasta salad, and coleslaw. Since these are comfort foods, it makes it easier to transition to using yogurt in recipes.