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Chia seeds offer nutritional health benefits

May 19, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Although the seeds you buy in stores aren't quite the same, health experts tie chia to fighting cholesterol, heart disease and digestive issues. Are you ready for chia chow?

Yes, the 1980s phenomenon is making a comeback. Not on a ceramic planter, but on your plate.

"If it finds its way to migrate into more and different foods, I think you're going to see more chia appearing on the marketplace," says Chris Noonan, a public health expert in Santa Monica.

Noonan finds chia seeds are sprouting in popularity.

"It's a nice product, a great nutritional profile," says Noonan. "I hope it makes its way."

Chia farmer John Foss is betting on it.

"It's a whole grain but it's a seed, so it's an omega-3-rich seed and it's the richest plant form of omega 3, as well as dietary fiber, antioxidants, and protein all in one," says John Foss, founder and managing director of the Chia Seed Co.

Restaurateur Akasha Richmond is testing chia chow, putting it in baked goods to burgers.

"Like a tablespoon a patty, that to me would be right and it would be right texture-wise too," says Richmond.

One of the biggest benefits of this tiny seed? It makes you feel full. Here's why: two tablespoons of chia have 7 grams of fiber. That's a lot. When it's consumed with liquid, like when you're digesting, it thickens and becomes extremely filling.

Sprinkle it on salad to add a little extra crunch.

"Or you can turn it into a gel, mix it with water and that gel can go in as a fat replacement in your cooking," says Foss.

You can buy chia seeds online or at some upscale supermarkets. But leave your Chia Pet alone. The type of chia seed that comes with your pet is industrial grade and is not recommended for consumption.

And while not a miracle food, some health experts feel it might just be the ticket for dieters who find themselves constantly hungry. Just two tablespoons of chia gives you a whopping 4 grams of protein and 205 milligrams of calcium -- not to mention what it can do for your digestive system.

"Well it's high in fiber and I mean high in fiber, like, it works, OK? Which is great -- that's a great thing. For a muffin, it's perfect," says Richmond. "What I really like is that it goes with everything."

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