Seeds are nutrient dense and great to have in your diet. Two of them are particularly healthy seeds and favourites of mine for keeping your hormones happy – CHIA and FLAXSEEDS.
1. CHIA SEEDS have seen an explosion recently in sales (and marketing).and seem to be the latest trendy superfood. They originate in Mexico and were an ancient Aztec superfood. The word chia means ‘strength’ in the Aztec language, and they used them for energy and endurance. They come in black or white varieties.
2. FLAXSEEDS, also called linseeds, are one of the oldest known crops in the world. The ancient Egyptians used it as food and for making linen.
What’s so good about them?
FIBRE – they have a high content of soluble fibre – this is the type that absorbs water to form a gel. This can help slow the release of sugar from foods which helps control insulin levels. The gel helps you feel full, controlling your cravings and keeping blood sugars stable. It also feeds your beneficial bacteria which help your immune system and have also been shown to help with weight loss.Fibre also helps to get rid of old oestrogen, reducing our risk of too much oestrogen in the body.
OMEGA 3 FATS – Chia and flax seeds are high in alpha linoleic acid (ALA), a plant based Omega 3 fat. Omega 3’s are essential for our cell membranes, which control the traffic of nutrients (and hormones) in and waste out. Unlike flaxseeds, which can go rancid if exposed to light or heat, the antioxidants in chia seeds help to protect these fats from oxidizing, so you can store them happily for long periods.
MINERALS –These seeds are high in important minerals including calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, copper, zinc and iron. These all help to keep hormones balanced.
PROTEIN – they are two of the top sources of plant based protein. 2 tablespoons of chia contain around 4g protein, and the same amount of flaxseeds contain 5g. More than an egg by weight. Chia is also a complete source of protein, rare in the plant world, as it contains all of the 9 essential amino acids the body needs (very handy for vegetarians).
Which one wins the nutritional race?
Chia seeds win on fibre, complete protein, antioxidants and durability, but flaxseeds have the edge when it comes to hormone health. They contain compounds called LIGNANS, which have been shown to help regulate oestrogen levels. Several studies have shown that consuming lignans reduces the risk of oestrogen dependent cancers such as breast, prostate and ovarian cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
They are both nutritional powerhouses though, so a good idea to include them both in your diet.
Note that flaxseed oil does not contain the lignans, so use the seeds if you want those benefits. Crushing or grinding them also makes them more absorbable in the body, but once crushed, make sure you keep in the fridge as they are more vulnerable to oxidation.
What do you do with them?
If you want to try adding these amazing healthy seeds to your diet, there are lots of ways to do it.
1/ Add them to smoothies – a tablespoon of each tossed in to your smoothie will do the job.
2/ Bake with them – they are both tasteless so adding a spoonful into the batter will add a bit of crunch and a whole load of nutrients that will help to balance out the sugar.
3/ Add to soups and stews – they will thicken as they absorb the liquid – great alternative to flour thickeners.
4/ Add to breakfast porridge, yoghurt, granola, desserts. And if you haven’t tried my Choc Chia Pud yet, you’re in for a treat.
Choc Chia pud (Serves 2)
2 tbsp chia seeds
250ml almond milk
½ can of coconut milk
1 tbsp raw cacao
1 tsp vanilla paste
Sweetener – honey or stevia
Blend all ingredients together until smooth and pour into a suitable container (I use a jam jar or glass container).
Pop into fridge for a few hours (great to do overnight for a delicious breakfast).
So grab yourself some tiny healthy seeds next time you’re in the supermarket (most of them sell them now) and sprinkle liberally!
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