Nutrition Tips - Chia Seeds


Chia Seeds-

Chia seeds have become famous of late, touted as a ‘super food’ – but what exactly are they?  And are they really that good for you?

Chia seeds are the ripe seeds from a plant, Salvia Hispanica, which is native to Mexico.  There are black and white seed varieties, however both have similar nutritional qualities.  They are both great sources of omega 3’s, fibre, protein, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.  Chia seeds claim to improve heart health, lower cholesterol, help form strong bones, have a high antioxidant activity and are low in GI.

Chia seeds can be bought in whole seed form and added to cereal, muesli or in cooking; or can be found in some commercially made breads.  You can also make a gel out of the seeds by adding water to the seeds and allowing the natural soluble fibre to bind the water.  Chia seed gel can then be added to smoothies, juices or yoghurts.  Most people who have tried the chia seed breads have been unable to detect the addition of the seed.

The Verdict?  Not likely to make a noticeable improvement in your heart function or the density of your bones, but for many people an additional source of omega 3 and fibre in their diet is an advantage.  For those with high cholesterol, an additional source of fibre, in particular soluble fibre may be helpful.  May also be beneficial for those who do not like or are unable to eat seeded bread as the gel form of the chia seed is often added to commercial breads, thus increasing its fibre content while still remaining white in colour and uniform in texture.

Above all, its unlikely to cause harm so may be safely added to your diet to add variety, omega 3, fibre and antioxidants!Few of us think about our bones until they break or become soft and brittle.  While its never too late to take steps to improve your bone health, acting early is the key preventing soft, brittle and easily broken bones.

You reach your peak bone mass in your early 20’s and then there is an age-related decline in bone density.  In females this bone density loss is accelerated in the menopausal years.  Reaching your peak bone mass is critical to avoiding osteoporosis in the later years, but even if you are beyond your 30’s, there are many ways you can improve your bone health in your 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond.

Calcium intake
We all know dairy is good for bones, but how much do we need?  For most adults 3 serves of low fat dairy per day is sufficient.  For menopausal females and males over 70 years, 4 serves per day is recommended.  While dairy is an easy and rich source of calcium, you can also increase your calcium intake with tofu, salmon with edible bones, green leafy vegetables and almonds.

Other nutritional factors, such as too much salt (sodium) as well as the excessive intake of protein and caffeine, can increase the loss of calcium in the urine but have the most devastating effect when the individual already has a poor calcium intake.

Vitamin D
As discussed in the July tip, Vitamin D is important for good bone health so make you do have some healthy sun exposure for optimal bone health.

The best exercise for healthy bones is weight bearing or resistance exercise that places load on the muscle, or gravity then pulls on a bone.  For example, walking up stairs places load on the leg muscles and exerts force on the bones in the leg and hip.  If you doing a bicep curl with weights this is placing force on the muscles and bones in the arm.  When these types of exercise occur, the bone becomes stronger to cope with the increasing load.  If you have ever broken a bone and had it immobilized for long periods, you will notice it is quite weak and requires weeks or months of training to bring the muscle and bone back to full strength.  The same occurs if you do not use muscles and bones in your daily activities or exercise regime.

Recent studies indicate that exercise programs focusing specifically on challenging balance exercises or incorporating a combination of strength training with weight-bearing impact exercises and balance activities are most effective for improving or preventing bone loss and optimising muscle mass, strength and functional performance in older people.

So to improve your bone health – drink your milk, get some sun and take the stairs!

If you are worried about your bone health – talk to your Eat Smart Dietitian or book an appointment with Joseph Spelta – a qualified Exercise Physiologist who can design an exercise program to maximize your bone health.