Some health fads, like coconut water and the fraudulent hCG system, probably won’t be making nearly as visible of an appearance in 2012…mostly because they have little to offer to those who want to be healthier in the New Year. But one heavy-hitting superfood that scored some spotlight time last year is showing no signs of stopping. If you’ve some how managed to miss this boat, write it down now: buy chia seeds, because you’ll be hearing a lot about them in the coming months.
These little seeds–yes, the ones you smothered on a terra cotta pot shaped like a scientist when you were a kid–have been a household name for ages, thanks to their infection commercials. But before they were made into pets, chia seeds were a well-known health supplement. The Mayans have been eating them since practically the beginning of time, and, more recently, health advocates like Dr. Weil have been spreaking their praise the better half of a decade. But 2011 was definitely the year when these nutritionally-dense little pods picked up some serious steam.
In January of last year, the New York Times declared that there was no evidence to support that chia seeds could aid in weight loss, citing several studies which indicated that chia was as effective as a placebo when administered to overweight or obese people. But the lack of proof was no match for the eyebrow-raising factor…or the other nutritional benefits. And by the end of 2011, the little seeds had received praise from the likes of Dr. Oz and Oprah, and were an official darling of health blogs and women’s magazines.
A native herb to parts of Mexico and South America, they’ve been a dietary staple for the indigenous people there for ages. But they’re just as healthy for the Western set, because they’re basically a vegetarian’s dream vitamin. A rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, calcium, and potassium, the tiny, oily grey seeds pack a powerful nutrient punch, and offer many of the vitamins and minerals often missing from a meat (and dairy)-free diet.
And while they don’t explicitly help you lost weight, chia seeds are high in fiber, which can help you feel fuller, longer–which is one of the pillars of weight loss. But perhaps the coolest thing about chia seeds is how easy they are incorporate into your diet. You don’t have to choke them down like a supplement–just treat them like you would flax, poppy, or any other health seeds, by adding them to smoothies, breakfast cereal, breads, cookies, salad dressings, and just about anywhere that a little sprinkling of seeds would go unnoticed.
Incorporating chia seeds, which you can pick up at just about any health food store, or order online from any of the number of suppliers that have cropped up online, probably won’t help you reach your New Year’s weight loss goals–but they can deliver a nutrient-boost, which is a welcome addition to any diet. And if your resolution is simply to eat healthier, last year’s superfood is a good way to get there.
Images: Thinkstock and Chia Pet