Depressed by dieting?  Cheer up with chia! Too many high-fat foods, and too little time, make it hard to eat healthy — but chia products can provide a simple, delicious and nutritious solution to diet challenges. Gone are the days when “chia” conjured visions of clay figurines sprouting chia “hair.” This ancient Aztec staple has gained increasing recognition as a nutrition powerhouse — and just-published research points to chia’s potential as an anti-obesity ally.

A basic study from the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that chia significantly restrained unhealthy effects of obesity. Researchers fed rats the equivalent of the American diet — high-sugar, high-fat feed — mixing chia into the chow of a chosen few. After eight weeks, the chia group had 39% lower blood sugar, 25% less stomach fat, 50% less liver fat, and 46% less inflammation than those on the obesity diet alone. Why might this be?  Chia is loaded with certain omega-3 fatty acids which may have prompted metabolic enzymes to redistribute fat away from the abdominal area, where it does the most harm.  Moreover, previous preliminary research found that omega-3 prevented the development of fat cells in lab cultures.

In addition to omega-3s, chia’s concentrated nutrition might curb cravings associated with nutrient deficiencies.  Indeed, chia seeds (3 tablespoons) have as much protein as an egg and 21% more fiber than flax!  Chia seeds are great blended into smoothies, tossed with salads, or incorporated into recipes.

Published July 1, 2012