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Health Foods 101: Chia Seeds

Health Foods 101: Chia Seeds(Source: Thinkstock)

Everyone wants to eat healthy, but not everyone knows where to start. Whether you're trying to lose a few pounds or looking for an extra energy boost, food is the foundation of positive results. To help you navigate the grocery aisles, we're starting Health Foods 101 and breaking down popular ingredients, why they're good for you and how to eat them with the help of experts. 

Up this week: chia seeds, according to Julieanna Hever, MS RD CPT and author of several healthy eating books including The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition; and Amy Shapiro, MS RD CDN, and the founder and director of Real Nutrition, a wellness private practice in NYC.

What they are:
Chia seeds originate from a South American plant in the mint species, and are reminiscent of poppy seeds in look and feel. They have a neutral flavor and can be eaten raw or used in various recipes. Because they they absorb liquid, swell up and provide texture, they're extremely versatile.

Their nutritional value:
Chia is one of the richest plant sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids. They pack iron, calcium, protein, fiber and antioxidants. One hundred grams of it has as much calcium as two cups of milk! Plus, one ounce contains a third of your daily recommended fiber and more than your daily recommended omega-3 intake.

Health benefits they yield:
"It helps to keep you full, maintains blood sugar levels and hydration," notes Shapiro. "It also helps with regularity and weight loss." Hever adds that they "provide good nutrition to support gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and immune health."

How you eat them:
As mentioned before, they can be eaten alone or in recipes. Our experts suggest throwing them into oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies, salads and cups of fruit. Hever claims that they can gelatinize and be used as replacements for eggs.

How much you should eat:
Both Hever and Shapiro suggest making chia seeds a part of your daily diet. Eating two tablespoons is ideal.

Recipe to Try: Chocolate Chia Seed Superfood Pudding 

Now that you've learned all about this superfood, head over to healthy eating blog Tasty Yummies for the full recipe of this nutrient-packed vegan treat.

Health Foods 101: Chia Seeds(Source: Beth Manos Brickey/Tasty-Yummies.com)

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