7 Enticing Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

Pixel Stories/Stocksy United

Welcome to Fresh Food Fast, your source for creative, accessible recipes and nutrition tips to make eating healthier just a little bit easier — and more fun! Chia seeds may be small, but they’re incredibly rich in nutrients. A staple in the ancient Aztec and Maya diets, these seeds have been touted for their health benefits for centuries.

The antioxidants, minerals, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids in chia seeds may promote heart health, support strong bones, and improve blood sugar management (1Trusted Source).

What’s more, chia seeds are versatile and can be used in many recipes. Personally, I embrace their gel-like consistency by mixing them with liquid and making chia pudding. Here are 7 health benefits of chia seeds, all supported by science.

1. Highly nutritious

Chia seeds are tiny black or white seeds from the plant Salvia hispanica L. They’re believed to be native to Central America (1Trusted Source).

Historically, Aztec and Mayan civilizations used the seeds in their diets, as well as for medicinal purposes, religious rituals, and cosmetics. Today, people all over the world enjoy chia seeds (2Trusted Source).

Ancient civilizations viewed chia seeds as highly nutritious — a belief that’s backed by modern science. In fact, just 1 ounce (28 grams or 2 tablespoons) of chia seeds contains (3Trusted Source):

  • calories: 138
  • protein: 4.7 grams
  • fat: 8.7 grams
  • alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): 5 grams
  • carbs: 11.9 grams
  • fiber: 9.8 grams
  • calcium: 14% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • iron: 12% of the DV
  • magnesium: 23% of the DV
  • phosphorus: 20% of the DV
  • zinc: 12% of the DV
  • vitamin B1 (thiamine): 15% of the DV
  • vitamin B3 (niacin): 16% of the DV

This nutritional profile is particularly impressive considering that it’s for just a single serving of about two tablespoons.Despite their tiny size, chia seeds are highly nutritious. They’re packed with fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and various micronutrients.

2. Loaded with antioxidants

Chia seeds are also an excellent source of antioxidants (1Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).

Antioxidants not only protect the sensitive fats in chia seeds from going rancid but also benefit human health by neutralizing reactive molecules known as free radicals, which can damage cell compounds if they build up in your body (1Trusted Source).

For example, free radical damage contributes to aging and diseases like cancer (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).

The specific antioxidants in chia seeds include chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, myricetin, quercetin, and kaempferol. These may all have protective effects on your heart and liver, as well as anticancer properties (1Trusted Source).

For example, chlorogenic acid may help lower blood pressure, while caffeic acid has anti-inflammatory effects (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).Chia seeds are high in antioxidants. These compounds help protect the seed’s delicate fats while also offering health benefits to humans.

3. May support weight loss

The fiber and protein in chia seeds may benefit those trying to lose weight. One ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds has close to 10 grams of dietary fiber. That means they’re a whopping 35% fiber by weight (3Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).

Although research on this topic is mixed, some studies suggest that eating fiber may play a role in preventing overweight and obesity (11).Additionally, the protein in chia seeds could help reduce appetite and food intake.

One study in 24 participants found that eating 0.33 ounces (7 grams) or 0.5 ounces (14 grams) of chia seeds mixed with yogurt for breakfast increased feelings of fullness and reduced food intake in the short term compared with eating chia-free yogurt (12Trusted Source).

Even so, studies examining the effectiveness of chia seeds for weight loss have observed mixed results.

In an older study from 2009 involving 90 people with overweight, consuming 50 grams of chia seed supplements per day for 12 weeks did not affect body weight or health markers like blood pressure and inflammation markers (13Trusted Source).

In contrast, a 6-month study involving 77 people with overweight or obesity and type 2 diabetes eating a reduced-calorie diet found that those who took chia seeds daily experienced significantly greater weight loss than those who received a placebo (14Trusted Source).

Though adding chia seeds to your diet is unlikely to cause weight loss on its own, it may be a useful addition to a balanced, nutritious diet if you’re trying to lose weight.Chia seeds are high in protein and fiber, both of which have been shown to aid weight loss. However, studies on chia seeds and weight loss have provided mixed results.

4. May lower your risk of heart disease

Given that chia seeds are high in fiber and omega-3s, consuming them may reduce your risk of heart disease.Soluble fiber, the kind primarily found in chia seeds, can help lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood. In turn, this can reduce your risk of heart disease (15Trusted Source).

Consuming ALA, the omega-3 fatty acid in chia seeds, has also been linked to decreased heart disease risk (16Trusted Source).Still, studies specifically examining the connection between chia seeds and heart health have had inconclusive results.Some rat studies have shown that chia seeds can lower certain heart disease risk factors, including high triglyceride and oxidative stress levels (17, 18).

A few human studies found that chia seed supplements significantly reduced blood pressure in people with hypertension, or high blood pressure, which is a strong risk factor for heart disease (19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).Overall, chia seeds may benefit heart health, but more research is needed.Chia seeds may reduce the risk of heart disease, likely due to the fiber and ALA they contain. However, more human research is needed.

5. Contain many important bone nutrients

Chia seeds are high in several nutrients that are important for bone health, including:

Many observational studies suggest that getting enough of these nutrients is important for maintaining good bone mineral density, an indicator of bone strength (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).

In addition, ALA in chia seeds may play a role in bone health. Observational studies have found that consuming this nutrient could also be associated with increased bone mineral density (23Trusted Source).Therefore, it’s possible that regularly eating chia seeds could help keep your bones strong.

One animal study found that rats who received chia seeds daily for about 13 months had increased bone mineral content compared with a control group. The authors concluded that ALA may have contributed to this benefit (24Trusted Source).

However, besides animal studies, a limited number of studies have explored this topic, specifically. Ultimately, more human research is needed.Chia seeds are high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and ALA. All of these nutrients have been linked to improved bone mineral density.

6. May reduce blood sugar levels

Consuming chia seeds may help with blood sugar regulation, possibly due to their fiber content and other beneficial compounds.People with diabetes may experience high blood sugar levels. Consistently high fasting blood sugar levels are associated with an increased risk of several complications, including heart disease (25Trusted Source).

Promisingly, animal studies have found that chia seeds may improve insulin sensitivity. This might help stabilize blood sugar levels after meals (26, 1Trusted Source).Research in humans is sparse, but some older studies have shown promising results.

In particular, older research from 2010 and 2013 suggests that eating bread containing chia seeds helps lower post-meal rises in blood sugar among healthy adults, compared with eating bread without chia seeds (27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source). Nevertheless, more research is needed to learn more about the connection between these nutritious seeds and blood sugar regulation.Animal studies suggest that chia seeds may help with blood sugar management, but more human research is needed.

7. Easy to incorporate into your diet

Chia seeds are incredibly easy to incorporate into your diet. They taste rather bland, so you can add them to pretty much anything.You don’t need to grind, cook, or otherwise prepare them, making them a handy addition to recipes.

They can be eaten raw, soaked in juice, or added to oatmeal, pudding, smoothies, and baked goods. You can also sprinkle them on top of cereal, yogurt, vegetables, or rice dishes. Plus, they work wonders in homemade fritters as a binding agent.

Given their ability to absorb water and fat, you can use them to thicken sauces and as an egg substitute. They can also be mixed with water and turned into a gel.

The seeds appear to be well tolerated. Still, if you’re not used to eating a lot of fiber, you might experience digestive side effects like bloating or diarrhea if you eat too many seeds in one sitting.

A common dosage recommendation is 0.7 ounces (20 grams or about 1.5 tablespoons) of chia seeds twice per day. Remember to drink plenty of water to prevent any digestive side effects.Chia seeds are easy to prepare and often used as an egg substitute and added to oatmeal or smoothies.

The bottom line

Chia seeds are not only rich in minerals, omega-3 fat, antioxidants, and fiber but also easy to prepare.Studies suggest that they have various health benefits, ranging from weight loss to a reduced risk of heart disease. However, more research involving humans is needed before any firm conclusions can be made.

If you want to reap the possible benefits of chia seeds, consider incorporating them into your diet. They’re a great addition to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, baked goods, and more.

By Kris Gunnars, BSc and Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD — Medically reviewed by Jared Meacham, Ph.D., RD, PMP, MBA, CSCS — Updated on April 12, 2022

Source: Chia Seeds: 7 Health Benefits

Related contents:

Dunn C (25 May 2015). “Is chia the next quinoa?”. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 February 2016.Cheryl Kaiser, Matt Ernst (February 2016). “Chia” (PDF). University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Center for Crop Diversification Crop Profile. Retrieved 13 February 2016.

Coates, Wayne; Ayerza, Ricardo (1998). “Commercial production of chia in Northwestern Argentina”. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society. 75 (10): 1417–1420. doi:10.1007/s11746-998-0192-7. S2CID 95974159.Coates, Wayne; Ricardo Ayerza (1996). “Production potential of chia in northwestern Argentina”. Industrial Crops and Products. 5 (3): 229–233. doi:10.1016/0926-6690(96)89454-4.

Ayerza (h), Ricardo; Wayne Coates (2009). “Influence of environment on growing period and yield, protein, oil and α-linolenic content of three chia (Salvia hispanica L.) selections”. Industrial Crops and Products. 30 (2): 321–324. doi:10.1016/j.indcrop.2009.03.009. ISSN 0926-6690.Cahill, Joseph P. (2003). “Ethnobotany of Chia, Salvia hispanica L. (Lamiaceae)”. Economic Botany. 57 (4): 604–618.

doi:10.1663/0013-0001(2003)057[0604:EOCSHL]2.0.CO;2. S2CID 35611803.Kintzios, Spiridon E. (2000). Sage: The Genus Salvia. CRC Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-90-5823-005-8.Stephanie Strom (23 November 2012). “30 Years After Chia Pets, Seeds Hit Food Aisles”. The New York Times. Retrieved 26 November 2012. Whole and ground chia seeds are being added to fruit drinks, snack foods and cereals and sold on their own to be baked into cookies and sprinkled on yogurt. …

(h), Ricardo Ayerza (1 September 1995). “Oil content and fatty acid composition of chia (Salvia hispanica L.) from five northwestern locations in Argentina”. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society. 72 (9): 1079–1081. doi:10.1007/BF02660727. ISSN 0003-021X. S2CID 84621038.USDA SR-21 Nutrient Data (2010). “Nutrition facts for dried chia seeds, one ounce”. Conde Nast, Nutrition Data.

“Chewing Chia Packs A Super Punch”. NPR. Retrieved 18 October 2012.Costantini, Lara; Lea Lukšič; Romina Molinari; Ivan Kreft; Giovanni Bonafaccia; Laura Manzi; Nicolò Merendino (2014). “Development of gluten-free bread using tartary buckwheat and chia flour rich in flavonoids and omega-3 fatty acids as ingredients”. Food Chemistry. 165: 232–240. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.05.095. ISSN 0308-8146. PMID 25038671.

Borneo R, Aguirre A, León AE (2010). “Chia (Salvia hispanica L) gel can be used as egg or oil replacer in cake formulations”. J Am Diet Assoc. 110 (6): 946–9. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2010.03.011. PMID 20497788.“Chia Seeds”. The Nutrition Source. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 19 March 2018. Retrieved 10 November 2020.

“Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/2470 of 20 December 2017 establishing the Union list of novel foods in accordance with Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 of the European Parliament and of the Council on Novel Foods”. Eur-Lex. 20 December 2017. Retrieved 16 August 2021.“Entering the European market for chia seeds”. Centre for the Promotion of Imports, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands. 18 January 2021.

Ulbricht C, et al. (2009). “Chia (Salvia hispanica): a systematic review by the natural standard research collaboration”. Rev Recent Clin Trials. 4 (3): 168–74. doi:10.2174/157488709789957709. PMID 20028328.de Souza Ferreira C, et al. (2015). “Effect of chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) consumption on cardiovascular risk factors in humans: a systematic review”. Nutr Hosp. 32 (5): 1909–18. doi:10.3305/nh.2015.32.5.9394. PMID 26545644.

“A second apparently pre-Columbian cultivation area is known in southern Honduras and Nicaragua.”Jamboonsri, Watchareewan; Phillips, Timothy D.; Geneve, Robert L.; Cahill, Joseph P.; Hildebrand, David F. (2011). “Extending the range of an ancient crop, Salvia hispanica L.—a new ω3 source”. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution. 59 (2): 171–178. doi:10.1007/s10722-011-9673-x. S2CID 14751137.

Owen Edwards (December 2007). “Chia pet”. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 30 July 2018.“About Chia Pets, Joe Pedot, Joseph Enterprises, Chia Pet”. 25 June 2020. Archived from the original on 25 June 2020. Retrieved 4 September 2021.

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Stress Eating? Here’s How To Train Your Brain To Crave Healthy Foods

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: Stress can make us eat more and gain belly fat. But you can also retrain your brain to crave healthier food when you're stressed.(Linnea Bullion For The Washington Post)

Concerns about inflation, the economy, the lingering effects of the pandemic and other global crises have caused stress levels in the United States to surge to new highs. For some people, that stress is showing up on the scale.

There are many biological mechanisms that explain why stress and anxiety can cause people to pack on unwanted pounds. In some cases, gaining weight can itself become a source of stress and stigma that fuels further weight gain.

While we can’t eliminate every major source of stress in our lives, we can control — to some extent — the impact it has on our bodies. Scientists have found that there are ways to alleviate stress and retrain your brain to improve your diet and prevent stress-induced weight gain.

How stress promotes belly fat

Our bodies evolved to secrete the stress hormone cortisol when our brain senses danger. Cortisol elevates your heart rate, blood pressure and blood-sugar levels. In the short term, cortisol protects you from immediate threats by sending your body into fight-or-flight mode. But when your job, finances and other circumstances ratchet up your stress levels on a regular basis, it can lead to chronic cortisol elevation.

One side effect of cortisol is that it promotes body fat, especially belly and visceral fat, which is a particularly toxic kind of fat that surrounds internal organs. Studies show that people with higher cortisol levels tend to have a higher body mass index.

If you constantly grapple with stress, it can send signals to your body to accumulate fat, said A. Janet Tomiyama, the head of the Dieting, Stress and Health Lab at the University of California at Los Angeles.

“Even if you don’t change a single thing that you eat, the fact that you are stressed is going to promote fat deposition,” said Tomiyama, who has studied the mechanisms behind stress and obesity.

Why a stressed brain makes you eat more

In laboratory studies, scientists have found that administering synthetic versions of cortisol to people causes them to eat substantially more calories than people who are given a placebo. That’s in part because cortisol reduces your brain’s sensitivity to leptin, also known as the satiety hormone, which regulates your appetite and makes you feel full.

In one study of department store workers, people ate more sugar, saturated fat and overall calories when they had to work long, demanding shifts compared with when they worked less stressful shifts with lighter workloads.

Even stress from activities we enjoy can lead to overeating. In one study, researchers followed ardent football fans in different cities. They found that fans whose NFL teams lost on Sunday consumed more calories and saturated fat the next day. Fans whose teams won ate less food and saturated fat the following day. The scientists found similar results when they looked at the dietary patterns of French soccer fans.

Chocolate, candy, ice cream and other comfort foods alleviate stress in part through their effects on the brain. They activate reward regions such as the nucleus accumbens, flooding them with dopamine, the hormone that promotes pleasure, and other neurotransmitters.

Some people find that in stressful situations their appetites plummet. Scientists are not quite sure why stress leads some people to the cookie jar and not others, but weight appears to play a role. Some studies suggest that insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes, which is more common in people with obesity, may spur changes in brain activity that intensify food cravings in response to stress.

How to retrain your brain to combat stress eating

While you can’t always reduce the stress in your life, you can retrain your brain to want better foods when you’re stress eating.

In a study published last year, Tomiyama and her colleagues recruited 100 adults with elevated stress levels and split them into two groups. Everyone was trained to do a daily, six-minute stress reduction exercise called progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing your muscles from toes to head. You can find an example of it here. This deep relaxation technique has been shown in studies to reduce stress and anxiety.

But members of one group were assigned to eat a serving of fresh fruit such as sliced pineapple, honeydew and pears, about five minutes into each of their daily progressive muscle relaxation sessions. After one week of this, the researchers found that eating just the fruit alone made the participants feel less stressed and put them in a better mood. By pairing the fruit with a relaxation exercise, their brains began to view the fruit as something that reduced their stress levels — essentially turning the fruit into comfort food.

“Anytime two things happen at the same time your mind creates a connection between them,” Tomiyama said. “By pairing relaxation and fruit together, your mind starts to see them as the same thing. After a while, you won’t even need to do the six minutes of relaxation: All you’ll need to do is eat the fruit, and you’ll get that same relaxation benefit.”

Tomiyama offered a few tips for those who want to try this.

  • Choose a type of fruit that you don’t eat often, such as star fruit, kiwi or mango. If fresh versions of these fruits are too expensive or inconvenient, use frozen fruit.
  • Try this exercise at different times of day and at different locations in your home or office. If you always do this at your kitchen table, it will only work at your kitchen table.
  • At times when you are feeling stressed or anxious, reach for your “comfort fruit” instead of a bag of potato chips.

“This is a way to hack your comfort eating habit for good,” Tomiyama said.

Source: Stress eating? Here’s how to train your brain to crave healthy foods. – The Washington Post

Critics by:  Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

Foods can help tame stress in several ways. Comfort foods, like a bowl of warm oatmeal, boost levels of serotonin, a calming brain chemical. Other foods can cut levels of cortisol and adrenaline, stress hormones that take a toll on the body over time. A healthy diet can help counter the impact of stress by shoring up the immune system and lowering blood pressure. Do you know which foods are stress busters?

All carbs prompt the brain to make more serotonin. For a steady supply of this feel-good chemical, it’s best to eat complex carbs, which take longer to digest. Good choices include whole-grain breads, pastas, and breakfast cereals, including old-fashioned oatmeal. Complex carbs can also help you feel balanced by stabilizing blood sugar levels.

Dietitians usually recommend steering clear of simple carbs, which include sweets and soda. But in a pinch, these foods can hit the spot. They’re digested quickly, leading to a spike in serotonin. Still, it doesn’t last long, and simple carbs can also spike blood sugar, There are better options. So don’t make these a stress-relieving habit; you should limit them.

Oranges make the list for their wealth of vitamin C. Studies suggest this vitamin can curb levels of stress hormones while strengthening the immune system. In one study of people with high blood pressure, blood pressure and levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) returned to normal more quickly when people took vitamin C before a stressful task.

Too little magnesium may trigger headaches and fatigue, compounding the effects of stress. One cup of spinach helps you stock back up on magnesium. Don’t like spinach? Other green, leafy vegetables are good magnesium sources. Or try some cooked soybeans or a fillet of salmon, also high in magnesium.

To keep stress in check, make friends with naturally fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish such as salmon and tuna, can prevent surges in stress hormones and may help protect against heart disease, depression, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). For a healthysupply of feel-good omega-3s, aim to eat at least 3.5 ounces of fatty fish at least twice a week.

Drinking black tea may help you recover from stressful events more quickly. One study compared people who drank 4 cups of tea daily for 6 weeks with people who drank another beverage. The tea drinkers reported feeling calmer and had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol after stressful situations.

Pistachios, as well as other nuts and seeds, are good sources of healthy fats. Eating a handful of pistachios, walnuts, or almonds every day may help lower your cholesterol, ease inflammation in your heart’s arteries, make diabetes less likely, and protect you against the effects of stress. Don’t overdo it, though: Nuts are rich in calories.

One of the best ways to reduce high blood pressure is to get enough potassium, and half an avocado has more potassium than a medium-sized banana. A little bit of guacamole, made from avocado, might be a good choice when stress has you craving a high-fat treat. Avocados are high in fat and calories, though, so watch your portion size.

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Diet For a Hotter Climate: Five Plants That Could Help Feed The World

Over the course of human history, scientists believe that humans have cultivated more than 6,000 different plant species. But over time, farmers gravitated toward planting those with the largest yields. Today, just three crops – rice, wheat and corn – provide nearly half of the world’s calories.

That reliance on a small number of crops has made agriculture vulnerable to pests, plant-borne diseases and soil erosion, which thrive on monoculture – the practice of growing only one crop at a time. It has also meant losing out on the resilience other crops show in surviving drought and other natural disasters.

As the impacts of the climate crisis become starker, farmers across the world are rediscovering ancient crops and developing new hybrids that might prove more hardy in the face of drought or epidemics, while also offering important nutrients.

“You hear all the statistics like, ‘We’ve lost 90% of our varieties’. It’s only recently that I realized the greatest sadness isn’t that we’ve lost that diversity. It’s that we don’t even know that we’ve lost that diversity,” says Chris Smith, founder of the Utopian Seed Project.

Here’s a look at five crops, beyond rice, wheat and corn, that farmers across the world are now growing in hopes of feeding the planet as it warms:

Amaranth: the plant that survived colonization

From leaf to seed, the entirety of the amaranth plant is edible. Standing up to eight feet tall, amaranth stalks are topped off with red, orange or green seed-filled plumes. Across Africa and Asia, amaranth has long been eaten as a vegetable – whereas Indigenous Americans also ate the plant’s seed: a pseudocereal like buckwheat or quinoa.

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While amaranth leaves can be sautéed or cooked into a stir-fry, the seed is commonly toasted and then eaten with honey or milk. A complete protein with all nine essential amino acids, amaranth is a good source of vitamins and antioxidants.

In the Americas, Spanish colonizers banned the Aztecs and Maya from growing amaranth when they arrived on the continent. However, the plant continued to grow as a weed and many farmers saved amaranth seeds, passing them down for generations, until their descendants were allowed to grow it again.

Today, Indigenous farmers in Guatemala, Mexico and the US are collaborating to grow this drought-resistant crop. Like fonio, an African grain, amaranth is not a new crop, but one that is experiencing a resurgence as communities adapt to the climate crisis. “Everything that’s new was old once,” said Matthew Blair, a professor at Tennessee State University and co-president of the Amaranth Institute.

Amaranth has found its way into European kitchens, with Ukraine coming in as the crop’s largest producer on the continent.

Fonio: the drought-resistant traditional grain

For thousands of years, farmers across west Africa have cultivated fonio – a kind of millet that tastes like a slightly nuttier couscous or quinoa. Historically, fonio is considered to be Africa’s oldest cultivated cereal and was regarded by some as the food of chiefs and kings. In countries such as Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali, fonio would be served on holy days, like at weddings and during the month of Ramadan.

Today, attention is increasingly focused on fonio for its resilience and health benefits. As the climate continues to change, fonio’s drought resistance and ability to grow in poor soil has made it a standout crop in water-scarce regions. It also has important nutritional value as a low glycemic, gluten-free grain – making it a good source of amino acids for people with diabetes or gluten intolerance.

While Europeans once called fonio “hungry rice”, European companies are now manufacturing their own fonio. The Italian company Obà Food helped introduce fonio to the EU in December 2018. And in the US, the Senegalese chef Pierre Thiam sources fonio from the aid organization SOS Sahel for his brand Yolélé, also the name of his cookbook celebrating west African cuisine.

Cowpeas: the fully edible plant

In the 1940s, more than 5m acres of cowpeas were grown in the US – the majority, as their name suggests, for hay to feed livestock. But long before cowpeas – also called southern peas or black-eyed peas – came to the Americas, they were grown for human consumption in west Africa. Although cowpea production has declined in the US in recent decades, the crop is hugely important in much of Africa. Nigeria is the world’s largest cowpea producer.

As scientists look for alternative crops, Blair said it was important to identify ones where the entire plant is edible. Although historically people have mostly eaten cowpeas’ seeds, the leaves and pods are also a good source of protein.

Because cowpeas are highly drought tolerant, they’re also a good candidate as the climate changes. At Tennessee State University, Blair is part of a team studying the introduction of cowpeas to Latin America, as an alternative to beans, like pinto and black beans, with similar flavor profiles that may soon become more difficult to grow.

Taro: adapting the tropical crop for colder climes

In the tropics of south-east Asia and Polynesia, taro has long been grown as a root vegetable, not unlike the potato. But as rising temperatures threaten cultivation of the crop in its natural habitat, farmers in the continental US are trying to adapt the tropical perennial to grow as a temperate annual, because it cannot survive the cold of US winters.

At the Utopian Seed Project in North Carolina, founder Chris Smith and his team have been experimenting with tropical crops, looking for ways to help the plants survive the winter. Today, they’re growing eight varieties of taro, including ones sourced from Korea, the Philippines, Hawaii, China and Puerto Rico.

“We want to introduce taro because we truly believe that that will give us a more secure food system,” Smith says. “But the beautiful byproduct is that that also allows us to engage with foods that are traditionally from either Indigenous or peasant farming communities. And I think it really gives those traditionally underserved populations an opportunity to engage with the food system that they don’t usually get.”

Like fonio, amaranth and cowpeas, taro isn’t a new crop – it’s just new to the US food system. Which is why the Utopian Seed Project isn’t just learning how to grow taro, but also teaching people how to cook it. “These crops are just foods that are embedded in cultures around the world in a way that they’re not embedded here,” Smith said. “It takes work to build that community and desire for that crop.”

Kernza: the crop bred for the climate crisis

While many alternative crops are just plants that were grown somewhere else in the world generations ago, others have been cultivated specifically to withstand climate change.

In the 1980s, researchers at the Pennsylvania-based Rodale Institute identified a wheat-like grass called intermediate wheatgrass as a perennial cereal crop that could be developed as a substitute for annual grains like wheat. The goal was to minimize the environmental impacts of grain production.

In 2019, the Kansas-based Land Institute, a non-profit research organization focused on sustainable agriculture, introduced Kernza, a cereal crop developed from intermediate wheatgrass and trademarked to ensure farmers know they’ve bought seeds from the official breeding program. Although researchers are still working to improve the grain’s yield, farmers in Minnesota, Kansas and Montana are today growing nearly 4,000 acres of Kernza.

“Growers immediately understand the benefits of perennials on their landscapes,” said Tessa Peters, director of crop stewardship at the Land Institute, “and for those working in grain-producing areas, Kernza is very appealing.”

After two years of wrangling, false starts and disappointments, it finally happened: America has passed its first-ever climate legislation, moving the country closer to its goal of a decarbonized future and taking a significant step toward helping the planet avert the worst scenarios of climate catastrophe.

But it’s not a time to rest. We have always held power to account – on climate and  every other major issue – from the fossil fuel companies responsible for heating the planet to the politicians representing their interests. The country responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions in history has indicated it will change course; we will relentlessly report on what comes next, who will benefit and the remaining obstacles to progress.

With daily reporting and analysis on the climate emergency, we aim to ensure that even more people are made aware of the dangers – and opportunities – of this moment.

Source: Diet for a hotter climate: five plants that could help feed the world | Environment

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Restricting Calories Leads To Weight Loss, Not Necessarily The Window of Time You Eat Them In

1

Results of a new weight loss study were published this week, leading to headlines proclaiming intermittent fasting “isn’t a magic diet trick after all”.The researchers aimed to test whether adding a restriction on what time of day you were allowed to eat (or not) to the usual low calorie (or kilojoule) diet led to greater weight loss compared to just following a low calorie diet. They recruited 139 adults whose average weight was 88 kilograms and age 32 years.

The participants were randomised to follow either the low calorie diet that had reduced their usual daily energy intake by 25%, or the same low calorie diet with the addition of a time period during which they were allowed to eat in an eight-hour window between 8am and 4pm each day.This approach is called “time-restricted eating” or a “16-hour intermittent fast”. Both groups received support from health coaches to follow their diets for 12 months.

Results showed that after one year, people in both groups lost 7-10% of their baseline body weight. While the low calorie group lost an average of 6.3 kilograms, the low calorie plus time restricted eating group lost 8 kilograms. Although there was a 1.8 kilogram difference between the groups, it was not a statistically significant difference.

Participants in both groups also had better blood sugar and blood fat levels and improved insulin sensitivity, but again there was no significant differences between groups.

1. It wasn’t based in the US

Most intermittent fasting studies have been conducted in the United States. This trial was done in China and recruited people in Guangzhou, so it provides important data using a culturally sensitive, prescribed calorie restriction over 12 months.

2. It showed small extra time restrictions on eating don’t make much difference

In their normal lives, the participants in Guangzhou had a usual window for daily eating of about 10.5 hours. Studies in other populations, particularly the US, show about 90% of adults have an eating window of 12 hours, with only 10% of adults having an overnight fasting period greater than 12 hours.

For more than 50% of people in countries like the US, the overnight fast is less than nine hours, meaning they eat over a 15 hour time period each day. So in the current study, the time restriction on eating was only minor – at about two hours less per day than what’s usual for people in China. This would not have been too big a difference from usual.

The researchers also reported that in China, the biggest meal is usually eaten in the middle of the day, so that was not influenced by the time restriction. In countries where the evening meal is the biggest or people snack all evening, then time restriction may still be a beneficial way to reduce intake.

A 2020 review of 19 studies that used time-restricted intermittent fasting found it was an effective treatment for adults with obesity, leading to greater loss of body weight and body fat, with significantly lower systolic blood pressure and blood glucose.

3. It showed support is imperative

Both groups in this trial were given a lot of support to adhere to the kilojoule-restricted diet. They were provided with one meal replacement shake per day for the first six months, to make it easier to follow the kilojoule restriction and help improve adherence to the diet.

They also received dietary counselling from trained health coaches for the 12 months of the trial. They received dietary information booklets that included advice on portion size and sample menus. They were encouraged to weigh foods to improve their accuracy in reporting kilojoule intakes and were required to keep a daily log with photographs of foods eaten and the time, using the study app.

They also received follow-up calls or app messages twice a week and met with the health coach individually every two weeks for the first six months. In the second six months, they continued to fill out their dietary records for three days per week and received weekly follow-up telephone calls and app messages and met with a health coach monthly. They also attended monthly health-education sessions.

This was a lot of support and is very important. Receiving long-term support to achieve health behaviour changes typically achieves a weight loss of 3–5% of body weight, which significantly lowers risk of weight-related health conditions, including a 50% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes over eight years.

4. Even with good adherence, individual weight loss varies

Individual weight loss responses were very variable, even though adherence was high in this trial.

About 84% of participants adhered to the prescribed daily calorie targets and time restricted eating period. Weight loss at 12 months varied from 7.8 to 4.7 kilograms in the low calorie only group, and 9.6 to 6.4 kilograms in the low calorie plus time-restricted eating group.

As we have seen many times previously, this study confirms there is no one best diet for weight loss. It also shows small decreases in the window of time you’re eating probably won’t make a difference to weight loss.

By:

Laureate Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Newcastle

.
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Hydrogel Injected Into Fat Stores Fights Obesity From Within

Next-generation therapies that fight obesity could come in many forms, but one example from Nanyang Technological University that uses a unique combination of light and metabolic function to break down fat has some unique advantages.

The team’s solution consists of a hydrogel that can be injected into fat deposits and subjected to near-infrared light, with obese mice showing up to a 54-percent fat reduction following treatment.

The function of this new technology hinges on a protein called TRPV1, which plays an important role in our metabolism. This protein can trigger the conversion of white fat, the type that stores excess calories in beer bellies and love handles, into brown fat.

This is the type of fat that the body readily burns for energy and warmth, and as such a lot of anti-obesity research focuses on therapies that can initiate this conversion.


TRPV1 activity also promotes the breaking down of fat droplets into fatty acids that can be used by the converted brown fat to burn calories, or be broken down in the bloodstream through a process called lipolysis. Further, the protein stimulates the secretion of a hormone that improves metabolism of glucose and lipids in the liver and muscles, while also improving insulin sensitivity.

Setting out to develop a therapy that targets TRPV1, the researchers created a hydrogel containing copper sulphide nanoparticles that activates the protein in response to light, and a drug approved by the FDA that can stimulate browning of fat tissues.

A biocompatible polymer was also added to keep the hydrogel in a gel-like state after injection, slowly releasing its contents over several days. Obese mice with hallmarks of metabolic disease had the hydrogel injected into their subcutaneous fat, with near-infrared light then shone onto the site of the injection for five minutes.

This took place each day for three days, followed by four days of rest, for a two-week period, leading to a 5.5-percent reduction in the animals’ body weight, compared to a 9.5-percent increase seen among a control group.  The treated mice also showed a 40-percent reduction in subcutaneous fat, a 54-percent drop in visceral fat, a 54-percent reduction in cholesterol and 65-percent drop in insulin resistance.

“Through lab experiments, we found that this approach not only resulted in 40 to 54 per cent fat reduction in obese mice, but also significantly improved their metabolism, which is key to reducing the risk of metabolic conditions such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes,” said study author Chen Peng.

“Though this method makes use of heat converted from near infrared light to burn subcutaneous fat, we found no thermal injury to the skin.” The scientists still have much to do to convert these promising results into therapies to tackle obesity and metabolic dysfunction in humans.

However, the early signs indicate that it could come to fill a gap in existing treatments for these conditions that carry a risk of side effects or are prohibitively expensive. “All FDA-approved medications for obesity indirectly act on the brain to suppress appetite or on the digestive system to reduce fat absorption,” said Peng.

Most of them have been withdrawn from the market due to their serious side effects. Procedures performed in clinics to remove fat in targeted areas have shown to be effective, but they come with risks and high cost, and do not improve body metabolism. In contrast, our therapeutic approach focuses on remodeling white fat tissue, which is the root of the evil.”

Source: Hydrogel injected into fat stores fights obesity from within

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