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Take 5 for Heart Health: Eat Right!

LMC dietitian Donna Quirk, a regular contributor to our “Ask the Dietitian” blog posts, was a guest on WIS-TV last week with a delicious and healthy recipe for chocolate pudding that incorporates chia seeds. She also talked about the health benefits of flax and chia seeds, from antioxidants to fiber. Learn more in the link below.

And here’s the recipe for “Chocolate Chia Pudding.”

6 Tbsp chia seeds
1 1/2 cup Almond Milk
3 Tbsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
6 Tbsp Agave Nectar
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Combine all ingredients, whisking together until cocoa powder absorbs. Refrigerate for four hours, or overnight.

The chia seeds will absorb the liquid from the mixture. The texture of the finished product will be similar to tapioca pudding. You can also put all ingredients in the food processor for a smoother dish, similar to a chocolate mousse.

Take 5 for Heart Health: Get Moving!

Personal trainers from Health Directions, Lexington Medical Center’s fitness and wellness gym, were guests on WIS-TV with Dawndy Mercer Plank this week to talk about ways to “Get Moving” as part of our “Take 5 for Heart Health” campaign.

Thad Werts talked about how exercise helps your heart and about “Boot Camp” exercises. Health Directions trainers Amanda Castles and Lyn Pernell demonstrated some moves you can do anywhere, including in your own home. You can watch the video below.

Here are a few notes from Thad’s comments:

~The heart is a muscle. Just like all of our other muscles, the heart can become more powerful, stronger and more efficient through exercise.

~When it comes to exercises, the “burpee” is a total body movement that incorporates upper body, lower body and cardiovascular exercise all at the same time. It’s a great exercise when you only have a few minutes.

~Jumping rope is a great exercise because it only requires a simple piece of fitness equipment and gets the heart rate up for a short period of time, resulting in a more efficient cardiovascular system.

Learn more about “Boot Camp” classes at Health Directions by visiting the Health Directions website.

Seeds of Change

by Jennifer Benedetto RD,LD,CNSC at LMC

Frozen fruit and protein powder aren’t the only popular ingredients in smoothies. Seeds, which have been promoted as nutritional powerhouses, are frequently added. Two of the most popular seeds, chia and flax, are now easily found on grocery store shelves. What are the benefits of these tiny seeds and is one seed more beneficial than the other?

Chia Seeds

Chia Seeds

Chia is an edible seed from the desert plant Salvia hispanica. Chia seeds contain high concentrations of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Chia seeds are able to be digested as a whole seed with no pre-processing necessary. Two tablespoons of chia seeds (~ 1 ounce) contains 139 calories, 4 g protein, 9 g fat (5 grams of heart healthy omega-3’s) and 11 g of fiber. An effortless and mostly undetectable food additive, chia seeds can simply be sprinkled on yogurt, hot cereals, sauces, vegetables and rice dishes or added to smoothies or baked goods. There are a few preliminary studies suggesting possible health benefits (heart health, cancer prevention) from the consumption of chia seeds, but no benefits have been conclusively established.

Flax Seeds

Flax Seeds

Flaxseeds, unlike chia seeds, can pass through the digestive tract undigested if consumed whole. To absorb the nutrients found in flaxseeds, they should be ground prior to consumption. Pre-ground flaxseeds are available in most grocery stores as “ground flaxseed”, “milled flaxseed”, or “flaxseed meal”. Ground flaxseed is best stored in the freezer to prevent oxidation. One tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains 4 g of fat and 2 grams of fiber. Over half of the fat is alpha-linolenic acid which the body can convert to anti-inflammatory and heart healthy mediators. Flaxseeds also contain 100 to 800 times more lignans than other seeds. Lignans are a type of phytoestrogen that have antioxidant, antitumor, and antiestrogenic properties. Despite their promising nutrient profile, experts on flaxseed point out that none of the proposed health benefits have been conclusively established.

Both chia and flaxseeds have a promising nutrient composition when it comes to promoting health. Unfortunately, conclusive studies are lacking at this time. But be on the look out for more definitive research. For the time being, choose either seed based on your taste preference. But since both contain fiber, introduce them gradually to your diet and be sure to consume adequate fluid daily.