I was in Whole Foods this week oogling organics and buying wine when.. I got to the healthfood section. I love how it’s strategically placed front and center in the store rather than tucked back near the pharmacy. I mean, it’s not like you want to find foot cream next to the flax seed you intend on sprinkling in your oats tomorrow morning. So as usual when I’m in Whole Foods, my curiosity got the best of me. Before I knew it, 30 minutes had gone by and I had handled just about every acai, chai and hemp product on the shelf. My question, what’s the novelty here? Even as a nutrition and dietetic student I really haven’t heard too much about these super nutrients. So while I was educating myself on what nutrition professionals and the American Dietetic Association say about these products, allow me to pass along my new found knowledge..
Acai Berries come from acai palm trees grown in Central and South America. They are rich in antioxidants and other healthy nutrients, but according to the ADA there is no scientific research supporting claims that they are a “superfood”. Their health benefits are comparable to those from other fruits and vegetables. Nutrition professionals recommend consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables to benefit from natural antioxidants and good nutrition, but not necessarily acai. Personally, if I’m going to splurge on antioxidant superfoods I’d rather buy local, organic produce than berry juice, but to each their own. If you are consuming acai, it’s important to still be getting plenty of other fruits and veggies in each day.
Chia Seeds, another South American native, have recently become popular because of their Omega-3 fatty acids. They also have fiber, protein, and antioxidants. Some studies have shown chia seeds to lower heart disease factors like cholesterol, blood pressure. However there has not been extensive research. The truth is, ALA is a form of Omega-3 that the body is not very efficient at converting (like flax and other plant sources). So most of it gets flushed, but still the fiber is still beneficial. If your primary interest in chia is Omega-3’s it would be better to eat fish twice a week, which meets USDA recommendations for Omega-3 fatty acids. Fish contains the EPA and DHA type omega-3 fatty acids which are ready for absorption. Omegas are a great antiinflammatory, good for brain function, heart health, blood pressure, depression… so many reasons to meet your needs. If you just really like chia seeds. Great! Keep at it. With fiber, protein and antioxidant power you can’t go wrong, but eat your fish too. 🙂
Hemp Seeds are actually a nut I discovered. They contain all the essential amino acids and are a great source of healthy fats. That’s good news for anyone living by a vegetarian/vegan diet. They are also high in fiber, tons of vitamins, minerals. Everything I read was positive. This is definitely something everyone could add to thier diet, but like nuts, you don’t want to get carried away. Just a sprinkle a day..
I hope that information was helpful. Getting sound nutrition advice can be complicated. There is so much conflicting information out there, and everyone who has the internet claims to be the expert. That’s why I find it so important to go to the American Dietetic Association for solid facts. If you don’t know, ask a dietitian! Well have a happy Thursday..