Spoonful of chia

These little chia seeds are one of my favorite superfoods because they are packed with nutrients and are so versatile and fun to eat! Lots of people still have never heard of them..or only associate them with chia pets (those collectible clay figurines that grow green hair when the seeds sprout – yes, I used to have one). But recently chia seeds have become increasingly popular for EATING and they are so easy to add to your daily diet with amazing health benefits.

Where do they come from?

Chia seeds come from the desert plant called Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. They originate in Central America and supposedly were used by the Aztecs for a variety of purposes: as a staple food in their diet, as nourishment to sustain warriors in battle, as valuable currency and tribute, and even as treatment for joint pain and skin conditions.

Why should you eat chia seeds?

»Nutritional Boost

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Chia seeds are one of the richest plant sources of omega-3s (in the ALA form, not DHA or EPA which are found in fish). Everyone needs more of this essential healthy fat (for brain, heart, skin health, prevention of disease, a better mood, less inflammation, and many other benefits). Chia seeds have an even higher omega-3 content than flaxseeds and you can eat them whole and still absorb all the nutrients (unlike flax, which has to be ground up and goes rancid more quickly).

    Chia seeds after soaking

    Chia seeds after soaking

  • Dietary fiber: Chia seeds are high in fiber and are great for digestion. They contain soluble fiber, allowing them to absorb water – up to 10x their weight! This ability to expand and retain water makes them turn into a cool jelly-like substance when they are soaked. It also means they will make you feel fuller and stay hydrated. They slow down digestion of complex carbohydrates, stabilizing blood sugar and allowing for sustained energy.
  • Antioxidants: Chia seeds have a high antioxidant content – similar to that of fresh blueberries. This also keeps the fatty acids from oxidizing and going rancid.
  • Protein: Chia seeds are about 20% protein, and are a good way for vegetarians and vegans to obtain some high quality plant-based protein with all the essential amino acids (except for taurine).
  • Gluten free
  • Vitamins and minerals: Chia seeds contain a range of important nutrients, most notably calcium (5X as much as milk), potassium (2X as much as bananas), magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, B vitamins, and vitamin C

»Health benefits

  • Energizing and sustaining
  • Heart-healthy
  • Improves brain function
  • Stabilizes blood sugar
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Good for digestion
  • Pre-workout fuel
  • Maintaining hunger/weight
  • Nourishes skin and hair
  • Detoxifying

I discovered chia seeds about 1 year ago – I add them to my breakfast almost every day and they help me feel full until lunch. I also feel more energized for long runs if I eat chia a couple hours beforehand. Whenever I eat the little seeds I know I’m doing my body a favor :)

How can you add chia to your diet?

Chia seeds on Greek yogurt Chia seeds in overnight oats Chia pudding

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vegan veggie bean burgers

BEANS•QUINOA•VEGETABLES•FLAX. These healthy veggie burgers are delicious and packed with vitamins, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids (good fats!), and high quality plant-based protein. They are vegan and gluten-free (besides the buns) and have almost 0 saturated fat (unlike normal greasy hamburgers). These are a wholesome, heart-healthy substitute for meat!

legumes

I used black beans, kidney beans, and lentils because they are some of my favorite legumes and are at the top of the list of healthiest beans. Everyone should consume legumes daily and reap the benefits of these little superfoods.

quinoaQuinoa is a “pseudocereal” (not a grain) grown at the tops of the Andes Mountains of South America for more than 5,000 years, consumed by the Incas as a vital nutritional staple. Known as “mother grain,” quinoa is gluten-free, easily digestible and a complete protein, and also provides iron, fiber, magnesium, riboflavin, and phosphorus. Did you know that 2013 is officially the “International Year of the Quinoa”?mushrooms_bellpepper_onion_garlic

Mushrooms are low in calories and provide some amazing nutritional benefits, including vitamin D, potassium, selenium, and other disease-fighting phytonutrients. Bell pepper is also one of my favorite vegetables because of its abundance of vitamins and phytonutrients. Red bell peppers have more beta-carotene and vitamin C than other colors of bell pepper (2X the vitamin C of oranges), and have a sweeter taste. Garlic and onion not only add flavor, but also have have important health-promoting properties – vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Tahini, a thick paste made from ground sesame seeds, also gives a nutritional boost – in addition to being high in essential fatty acids, it includes B vitamins, calcium, iron, copper, and magnesium.

Ground flaxseed is one of my favorite ingredients- I always add it to baked goods, oatmeal, or anything because of its omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and other beneficial phytonutrients.

As for the cooking oil – extra virgin olive oil is okay for sautéing and does give a healthy dose of monounsaturated fat, but I prefer canola or walnut oil for cooking because they have higher smoke points and higher concentrations of polyunsaturated fats.

There, now you can take a big juicy bite and feel comforted that you are doing your body a favor!

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Overnight oats with persimmon


Jumpstart your day with a bowl filled with superfoods that is easy to prepare, pop in the fridge before bed and enjoy as soon as you wake up…no cooking required! This supercharged oatmeal combination can be eaten raw because the overnight soaking process makes the oatmeal easily digestible and even more nutritious.

~MM healthy tip: Nutrition and overnight soaking

  • Soaking nutsYou should always soak your oatmeal first, especially if you are eating it raw (and I just recently learned it is beneficial to soak oats you intend to cook, too!)
  • Why? Oatmeal, along with other grains, nuts, and seeds, have an outer layer containing phytic acid which binds to vitamins and minerals in our intestines and blocks their absorption. Soaking helps neutralize phytic acid and other enzyme inhibitors and breaks down substances to make them more easily digested.
  • Oats and grains have so many nutritious benefits and vitamins that are maximally gained by soaking in liquid (especially a slightly acidic medium like yogurt)
  • For more information: thenourishinggourmet, nourishedkitchen


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Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Overnight Super-Oats

Ingredients:


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garbanzos con espinacas



“Garbonzos con espinacas” (chickpeas with spinach) is a healthy dish popular in Sevilla, Spain and can be eaten alone or as a side dish or tapa. It uses ingredients commonly found in the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, fish, and uses olive oil as the main source of fat. Lower rates of heart disease and cancer are no-doubt connected to a diet so packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber!

olive oilOlive Oil: While there is no difference in calories from 1 tsp of butter and 1 tsp olive oil, their effects on your body are COMPLETELY different. Butter, solid animal fats, and the fat found in many processed junk foods are saturated fats, which are bad because they will raise your cholesterol, and this effect is heightened in combination with an unhealthy overall diet high in simple sugars. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat which has one double bond and is liquid at room temperature. It is one of the two types of fats (the other is omega-3) that are actually beneficial and heart-healthy. Olive oil also has antioxidants and other beneficial plant-derived compounds. (Read more about choosing healthy fats)

saffron

Saffron: An exotic spice highly valued for its color, flavor, and medicinal properties. It has vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidant properties. Just a pinch can give rich flavor and color to an entire dish. It is used widely in Spanish cuisine in dishes like saffron rice and paellas. Studies suggest saffron combats depression, helps maintain memory and cognitive functioning, protects the liver, reduces risk of cancer, helps prevent/treat macular degeneration, and promotes good eyesight!

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Ingredients

(Serves 4-5 people)

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Oatmeal Protein Powerbars

These are a delicious and wholesome breakfast or snack bar packed with healthiness and high quality protein to keep you full and satisfied – they are super convenient and you can avoid spending money on packaged bars loaded with added sugar and preservatives.

  • Take along while traveling as a go-to snack/meal to avoid stressful never-ending searches for healthy options in unfamiliar locations and skip the questionable airline food
  • Energy bars for road trips, camping, and hiking
  • Everyday convenient breakfast or snack to satisfy munchie cravings
  • Replenishing post-workout snack
  • Add chocolate/carob chips to make ultra-healthy chocolate chip dessert bars

Each ingredient adds a bit more nutrition to this delicious recipe. I basically just combined some of my favorite healthy ingredients and came up with this recipe that I love – feel free to customize and add your own variations!

Recipe: Oatmeal Protein Powerbars

(Makes about 24 circular bars and two mini loaves)

Ingredients

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