Each week, our own fitness fanatics Leah Polakoff and Caitlyn Kronket will explore the latest workout crazes, diet fads and dish out tips for healthy living. Managing your schoolwork is tough enough- let us take care of your health.
Food expert Michael Pollan has a rule: “Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.
Generally, we’re told to avoid any kind of additive or preservative for fear of any ambiguous effects they might have on our long-term health. Besides, how much nutrition can really come from anything “grown” in a factory?
However, as with most rules, there are exceptions…and in this case, there are four.
According to Shape magazine, chia seeds are nothing new. Originally flourishing in Mexico thousands of years ago, chia seeds were actually an essential part of Mayan and Aztec diets. In fact, the word chia comes from the Mayan language and means “strength”!
With five grams of fiber in just one tablespoon, they’re a great way to boost the nutritional value – and satiety – of smoothies, oatmeal, cereal, even yogurt. In addition to all that fiber, chia seeds also contain omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is found in plants (versus other omega-3s found in fish oils) and is an essential fatty acid that helps combat health foes such as heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and asthma.
Mayans may have been wrong about the end of the world, but were definitely onto something with chia seeds!
According to The World’s Healthiest Foods (whfoods.org), researches consider flaxseed to be one of nature’s best sources of lignans, which are phytoestrogens (plant-derived estrogen) that provide antioxidants and fiber. Like chia seeds, flaxseeds are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids that (in addition to the benefits already noted) have anti-inflammatory benefits and also nourish skin cells.
Toss it into baked goods (pancakes, muffins, even cookies) or use it as an egg substitute (three tablespoons of seeds for every ¼ cup of water).
Hemp seeds have an edge on chia and flaxseeds as they provide a hefty dose of protein. These tiny superstars provide about 11 grams of protein per three-tablespoon serving versus chia seeds that have just four!
Not only are they high in protein, but the specific protein found in hemp seems is of exceptional quality, containing all of the essential amino acids. This means that the protein provided by hemp is similar to that found in high protein sources like meat, milk and eggs.
Okay – so it’s not technically a seed. However, wheat germ is another additive that has exceptional health benefits, so we just had to mention it.
Wheat consists of three components: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. The endosperm is the part of the kernel that’s used to make refined flour and (because it omits both the bran and the germ) offers very little nutritional value. On the contrary, wheat germ – the innermost part of the kernel – is packed with nutrients.
Specifically, wheat germ is a great source of vitamin E, which protects cells from free radical damage (which can lead to plaque build-up in the arteries. Additionally, vitamin E can help improve the immune system as well as regulate blood sugar levels.
If you’re wondering where to find these guys, head to Wegman’s or Trader Joe’s. Just remember, stay away from those additives and preservatives that might as well be in a foreign language and stick with these all-natural enhancers instead. We guarantee you’ll feel and “seed” a difference in no time.