Protein, carbohydrates and fats are the macronutrients that make up the bulk of our diet. There are a variety of proteins and carbohydrates to choose from but some struggle with finding healthy fat choices-healthy being the operative word! They either can’t eat or don’t like nuts and avocados are green and who eats green foods! Fish is another option but many are allergic or just don’t like the taste. So what are some other options? Plant based Omega 3’s and let’s look at two in particular today.
Chia seeds have been around for centuries. Chia is the Mayan word for strength. The Aztecs and Mayan Indians used them in their diet as an energy source. Chia seeds are derived from a plant related to the mint family native to South America. You will find them black and white in color. Both are equally nutritious with black being a bit higher in antioxidants. They are low in carbohydrates, high in fiber and contain a small amount of protein that is readily absorbed by our body. The fiber in chia seeds attracts water becoming gel-like giving them a unique texture. This gel-like fiber expands in the stomach improving satiety and aids in appetite control. Chia seeds are a good source of calcium for those who can’t or won’t eat dairy. And finally, they are a rich in Omega 3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory.
They can be bought whole or already ground depending on your texture preference. If you wish to hide chia seeds in your smoothies then choose the white, ground variety. I prefer them whole because I enjoy the texture they provide-it is similar to tapioca. They can be eaten raw so add them to your protein shakes, oatmeal or baked goods. A serving is 2 tablespoons.
Just like chia seeds, flax seeds have been eaten for centuries. Flax seeds are the richest source of plant based Omega 3’s. Because they are high in fiber, while being low in carbohydrates, they help control blood sugar and help to decrease sugar cravings. Flax seeds contain a compound called lignans. Lignans are a polyphenol (lots of big words I know) and help combat cancer, heart disease, are anti-aging by balancing hormones and improving cellular health. Lately there has been a lot of talk about “gut” health and it’s linkage to weight gain, illnesses and chronic disease. Consuming flax seeds help to protect our gastrointestinal lining and reduces gut inflammation. Lastly, the average American eats about 15 grams of fiber per day. For optimal health, the recommendation for women is 25 grams and men 35 grams. Flax seeds are a simple way to boost fiber intake because 2 tablespoons contain 5 grams of fiber!
While chia seeds can be eaten whole, flax seeds cannot. You can purchase whole (to grind yourself), ground or in oil form. Add 1-3 tablespoons to your morning smoothie or mixed with a bit of honey in Greek yogurt. Sprinkled them over salad or cooked vegetables and finally add them to baked goods as well.
While nuts, avocados and salmon are wonderfully delicious, they aren’t the most popular types of fat for many. Plant based Omega 3’s are a great alternative to get your healthy fat source and necessary fiber, anti-oxidants and other vitamins/minerals for optimal health and well-being. Today, you can find blends of chia and flax seeds for that 1-2 punch of goodness. Store these in the refrigerator and use regularly because Omega 3 fats are sensitive to heat and can easily become rancid negating their many health benefits.