The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Nutrition for the Aging: Chia seeds

These tiny black seeds can be healthy additions to your diet. Although they apparently don't do much for dementia specifically, they are good soldiers against aging in general. They also are helpful with diabetes, fighting infections, increasing energy, and decreasing wrinkles. But caregivers beware! If you or your loved one are prone to swallowing or intestinal problems, do NOT eat them unless they've been cooked or well soaked. In the presence of fluid, these raw seed swell up to at least twelve times their size and have caused serious blockages in the esophagus or intestine.

This doesn't have to stop you from using them. They have little flavor and you can toss them into almost anything you cook. In mac and cheese, they look like pepper. In oatmeal, they add bulk--great for the dieter. You can even make no-cook puddings with them. See the recipes below. I made the chocolate pudding and found it tasty, although the slimy texture is a bit of of a put-off.

These tiny black seeds are NOT supplements. They are "plant-based food," which makes them especially good for your diet. With a few exceptions, it is best to get your vitamins and minerals from foods rather than supplements. Research has shown over and over that food based nutrients metabolize and do their job than supplements do.

One ounce of chia seeds (app. 28 grams or 3 tablespoons) contains:

• 10 grams of fiber (app. 30% of RDA). Fiber is a much needed substance, used for bowel regularity, colon detoxification, and to eliminate toxins. It does its job as it passes through the body and is mostly indigestible.
• 12 grams of carbohydrate, only 1 of which is digestible (the rest is fiber!)
• 138 calories. With the fiber subtracted, the useable amount is only 101 calories.
• 8-9 grams of fat. Over half is Omega3, a very healthy fat.
• 5 grams Omega3, 200%+ of the recommended daily amount (RDA)
• 4-5 grams of protein. That's almost as high as meat and higher than eggs. Although chia seeds are a vegetarian protein, they contain all the amino acids. This can be said of very few other types of plant-based vs. animal-based foods.
• 11 grams of fiber, app. 30% of RDA.
• 18% RDA of calcium
• 27% RDA of phosphorus
• 30% RDA of manganese
• 30% RDA of magnesium
• 9% of your daily requirement of calcium (more per oz than dairy products!)
• 7% of your daily requirement of iron
• "Decent amounts" of zinc, potassium, and Vitamins B1 (Thiamine), B2 and B3 (Niacin)
• Enough antioxidants so that the seeds can be stored for long times without deteriorating or becoming rancid.

Chia seeds, used safely, are fun to experiment with and they can improve your diet.

• Add 1 T chia seeds to 1 c water and store your fridge to use raw. Add these soaked seeds to smoothies, or stir them into cold cereal, yogurt, applesauce, etc. Quick method: Add seeds to boiled water and soak at least 2 hours. Stir several times.
• For a smoother texture, use a coffee grinder to pulverize the seeds or put them in the blender with juice, milk or water before use.
• Make thickened fluids by adding raw chia seeds to juice, soup or other fluids. Let stand until fluid thickens before serving. (Overnight, or at least two hours.)
• Use 1 T of chia seeds with 3 T of water as a substitute for 1 egg in baking. Let the mixture sit until it turns into a gel before adding it to the mix.
• Use soaked chia seeds in place of oil or butter in cooking or baking.
• Use chia seeds as a thickener for stews or casseroles. Soak 1 T chia seeds in 1 c water overnight (or at least 3 hours).
• Chia fruit pudding: Blend 1/2 cup of fruit, sugar, honey or sweetener to taste, 1 t vanilla extract and 2 1/2 c milk until smooth. Pour over 1/2 c chia seeds, stir thoroughly. Let rest for 5 minutes and stir again. Repeat in 10 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Serves 4. Vanilla pudding: Leave out the fruit and decrease the milk to 2 c for vanilla pudding.
• Easy chia chocolate pudding: Mix 1 pkg hot chocolate mix, 1/4 c chia seeds. Add 3/4 c water or milk and 1/t vanilla and stir well. Let rest for several hours, stirring occasionally. Serves two.

Facts from Chia Seeds: Health Benefits and Nutritional Information.

For information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia

Helen and James Whitworth are not doctors. As informed caregivers, they share the information here for educational purposes only. It should never be used instead of a physician's advice.

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