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.

LMC to Offer Free Heart-Health Screenings

Lexington Medical Center will offer free heart-health screenings on Thursday, February 19, 2015 on the hospital campus in West Columbia as part of the inaugural Statewide Screening Day, organized by the Heart2Heart Foundation. The screenings will include lipid profile, blood glucose, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and a heart health risk assessment.

cardiology3The screenings are open to men and women and will take place inside the Lexington Medical Park 1 Auditorium located at 2728 Sunset Boulevard in West Columbia from 7:30 – 10:30 a.m. Fasting is required. All participants must make an appointment for a screening. You can do that by calling Lexington Medical Center’s Community Outreach department at (803) 936-8850 or by visiting and looking for the screening information there.

“Lexington Medical Center is committed to helping members of our community be heart healthy, teaching them about their risk factors for heart disease and working with them to prevent heart attacks,” said Barbara Willm, Vice President of Community Relations at Lexington Medical Center. “These important screenings have the ability to save lives, and we’re pleased to offer them.”

The goal of Statewide Screening Day by the Heart2Heart Foundation is to cover the entire state of South Carolina with heart screenings on February 19. Organizers want to bring more attention to heart disease, educate communities about prevention, and show participants how to talk to their doctor about symptoms or risk factors.

shutterstock_200040200Heart disease is an epidemic in South Carolina. One out of every three deaths in our state is related to cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is also the #1 killer of men and women. Lexington Medical Center offers a comprehensive cardiovascular care program that includes open heart surgery and therapeutic cardiac catheterizations. The hospital’s heart program is affiliated with Duke Medicine.

Lexington Medical Center is also committed to a robust heart-health education program in our community. All this month, the hospital is offering “Take 5 for Heart Health,” a heart disease campaign that’s part of Heart Disease Awareness Month. This screening is part of the campaign. With “Take 5 for Heart Health,” community members can sign up for free classes and events with heart-healthy activities from fitness to relaxation, and attend free educational events. For more information, visit