Chia Seeds Are Blowing Up

Literally – these little suckers expand like nobody’s business. They’ve even been featured recently in the New York Times... the true measure of whether or not a seed has ‘made it’. 

So what’s up with their explosion on the health food scene?  Here’s a crash course on why these little powerhouses are good for you (+ my favorite chia seed recipe).

1. Oodles of Fiber

These incredible ‘super seeds’ contain 11 grams of fiber per ounce (2 tablespoons) – which is 42% of your recommended daily value of fiber in a single serving.  

Bonus tip: Since fiber slows digestion and makes you feel fuller by soaking up fluid and expanding in your digestive tract, it can be a great way to start your day, especially if you’re trying to lose weight! 

2. Rich in Omegas

Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are essential and most of us are not getting enough of them.   Chia seeds give you a boost of both.

Bonus tip: Omegas can also help you clear away that nasty brain fog that sets in every afternoon.  Add 2 tablespoons of chia seeds to a glass of water to get your fill.

 3. Healthy Fats

We’ve been down this road together before, but let’s go there again.  Fats are absolutely necessary in a healthy diet.  Chia seeds pack 9 grams of fat per ounce, which can be as much 15-20% of your daily required value.

Bonus tip:  If you want to get the skinny on fats, check out What’s Fat Got To Do With It from the archives.

4. Fill’er Up

Have you ever had a chia pet?  You know how it plumps right up when you add water?  That’s all because of the chia seeds.   When mixed with water, chia forms a gel. Why do you care?  Research suggests:

When this happens in your stomach, the gel may keep you feeling fuller longer.

The gel acts as a natural detoxifier, by grabbing and flushing out toxins in your system.

Bonus tip: The chia gel also allows you to make a super healthy & yummy dessert that satisfies in under 2 minutes prep time.

Chai Chia Seed Pudding

chia seed pudding
chia seed pudding

Prep Time: 2 minutes Wait Time: 2 hours Serves: 2-4 people

1 cup cooled decaf Chai tea (brewed strong) (sub: ½ cup Vanilla Unsweetened Almond Milk for a creamier texture) ½ cup chia seeds 1.5-2 teaspoons maple syrup (to taste) 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Dash Himalayan sea salt (to taste) 1 cup of your favorite fruits and nuts (optional).  I like: -Mixed berries & pistachios -Diced pears & cashews -Mashed banana & peanuts

Mix chai, chia seeds, 1.5 teaspoons maple syrup, and vanilla and refrigerate for 1 hour.  At 1 hour mark, stir the mixture and add in any additional maple syrup (taste first).  Refrigerate an additional 1 hr+, top with sea salt, fruits and nuts & enjoy!

Olive Oil vs. Vegetable Oil: What's better?

“What's your take on olive oil vs. vegetable oil?”

Last week this question was asked on my Facebook page.  I put together a quick response then, but felt that the question really warranted something more detailed. 

Oils (and fats) are a touchy subject in the health world.  There’s lots of conflicting information and misnomers due to “low fat” and “fat free” food labeling.  Your body absolutely needs some fat sources, the trick is incorporating healthy sources.  This week, I’m comparing olive oil and vegetable oil.  Spoiler alert: olive oil is the clear winner in my book.


Olive Oil

The Source:Olive oil comes guess it: Olives.  High quality olive oils (virgin and extra virgin) come from pressing olives, while some lower quality olive oils can include chemical processing.

The Content: Olive oil has the highest percentage of monounsaturated fat of any edible oil.  You cou gan think of monounsaturated fats as a mix between polyunsaturated fats (unstable) and saturated fats (stable); monosaturated fats oxidize quickly, but not as quickly as polyunsaturated fats.

Quality olive oil also contains lots of antioxidants, substances that have provide cardiovascular and anti-cancer benefits, including Vitamin E, carotenoids, and phenolic compounds.

Body Benefits: Olive oil’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects promote heart health and protect against cancer.   

Since monounsaturated fat is more stable than polyunsaturated fat, it is less likely to generate the free radicals that create “bad” cholesterol, aka LDL. LDL damages blood vessels and can create changes in genes that may lead to cancer. Olive oil does not contain omega-3 fatty acids, but it does help to strengthen omega-3’s anti-inflammatory effects.  Research suggests monounsaturated oils cause less production of the bile acids in the digestive tract that promote colon cancer development and may help to control insulin and blood sugar levels, which is beneficial for diabetics.

Vegetable Oil

The Source: Vegetable oils are extracted from seeds like the rapeseed (canola oil), soybean, corn, sunflower, safflower, etc.  Vegetable oils can’t be extracted by pressing or naturally separating; they must be chemically removed, deodorized, and altered.  It should also be noted that commercial vegetable oils may be a hybrid of multiple oil sources.

The Content:Vegetable oils are high in polyunsaturated fats, the least stable of the fats.  Polyunsaturated fats oxidize easily in the body and cause inflammation and mutation in cells

Let’s put oxidation into perspective for a second.  What do you get when iron is exposed to air and oxidizes?  RUST.  When polyunsaturated fats oxidize in your body, they create “internal rust”.   Doesn’t sound good, does it?

Body Benefits: Polyunsaturated fats can help to lower cholesterol, however, due to their unstable nature, monounsaturated fats are preferred.  Vegetable oils, specifically, may contain omega-6 fatty acids.  Maintaining a good omega-3 to omega-6 ratio (approximately 1:1) in the body is important (many people are deficient in omega-3).  Consumption of vegetable oils can lead to too much omega-6 fats, throwing the omega-3:omega-6 ratio off balance, which can cause inflammation and increase cancer risk.

Tips for Selecting, Storing and Using Olive Oil

olive oil
olive oil
  • Virgin is best. Extra virgin means that the oil was not produced through chemical means; only by mechanical (pressing) means.  This makes EVOO the best quality olive oil, since being pressed without heat preserves antioxidants.
  • Go with quality.  Top quality extra-virgin olive oil has a natural peppery finish and a deep aroma of grass and artichoke.
  • Lights Out. Heat, light and air can affect the taste and health-promoting nutrient quality of olive oil.  Purchase oil in a dark bottle and store it in a dark, room-temperature cupboard, or even in the refrigerator.  The fats, nutrients, and taste can degrade over time, so its recommended to use it within a six months to a year once opened.
  • Drop it low.  Olive oil has a low smoke point and is best used over medium to low heat.  For higher temp cooking, like stir frying or pan searing, I recommend using coconut oil.

In the comments, tell me what other questions you have about oils and fats.  Let’s bust through to the truth together.

Pulling It All Together - The Keys to Brain Health

The last four weeks, I’ve been talking about brain health.  I think this topic is hugely important AND interesting and I hope you do, too.  In case you’ve missed out over the last couple weeks (or if you’re type A like me and just want everything in one neat place), here’s what you can do NOW to keep your mind young and spry.

  1. Eat your Vitamins: Eat foods rich in Vitamin E, folate, B6, and B12
  2. Focus on Metals: Ensure you’re in the metals sweet-spot by limiting excess iron, copper, and aluminum
  3. Ditch Bad Fats: Steer clear of hydrogenated oils and trans fats
  4. Hit the Hay: Get 6-8 hours of sleep EVERY night
  5. Get Moving: Get 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week.


And, since you’ve paying such good attention to your brain and keeping it healthy, here’s one last FUN tip to protect your mental capacities.

Studies suggest that anthocyanins, the dark pigments in grapes and some berries, have protective effects.  You can get your fill of anthocyanins from modest amounts of red wine or from grape or blueberry juice.  Cheers!


Red Light, Green Light

Why You Need Both Sleep and Exercise for Optimal Brain Health Opposites attract.  And in this case increased sleep and increased exercise, seeming polar opposites, can help keep you in your cognitive prime.

8 hrs Sleep + 30 min Exercise = A Sharp, Young Brain


Catching Zzzz’s

Ever wake up from a great night of sleep and feel on top of the world?  There’s a reason for that. 

During sleep, neurons in your brain regenerate and help to keep your brain functioning optimally.  Too little or too much sleep and signs of cognitive decline can be exhibited – you can notice this immediately day-to-day but this also effects you long term.  So what's optimal? Six to eight hours… and here’s the important part: Consistently.  (aka every night, even weekends!)

Make it a habit.  Unplug (the internet will be there tomorrow, I promise!) and get to bed on time.  It’ll not only keep you alert and engaged now, but will keep your brain functioning at a high level for years to come.

Feeling the Burn

Several recent studies indicate that increased physical activity also plays a role in supporting optimal brain function as we age.  Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week was enough to shave off years of cognitive decline in test subjects.  Further, the activities and intensity seemed to matter less than the total calories burned.  So, get moving!

The reason for the linkage between brain health and exercise is still unknown, but don’t let that stop you.  Walk instead of drive, make a point to get up from your desk every hour, join a challenge group, or go to the gym.


What keeps you more focused - sleep or exercise?

What’s Fat Got To Do With It? And other cheesy 80s references

Today, we’re talking FATS - “bad fats” to be exact.  These include saturated and trans fats (hydrogenated oils) and can be found in animal products and fast and processed foods.  We all know this stuff is bad for us from a waistline perspective, but its BAD, BAD, REALLY REALLY BAD from a brain health perspective too.As an aside, I’m not sure exactly how this post got tied in with bad 80s music references, but I’m just going to go with it.


“Bad fats” increase cholesterol, which can block arteries and slow the flow of blood to the brain.  No blood = no oxygen = bad for your brain.  Cholesterol has also been linked to the formation of plaque (microscopic protein and cholesterol) on the brain that is a primary characteristic of Alzheimer’s.  No thank you!

Here are the keys to leaving the bad fats behind:


The best way to avoid “bad fats’ is to eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean sources of protein, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.  Steer clear of the packaged or processed.  Cook at home as often as possible.


This is no surprise… we’ve all heard that fast food is bad for your body.  Now you know it’s bad for your brain, too.  My best tip for avoiding this: plan your meals ahead of time so you don’t having to grab something in a pinch.


Here’s a crazy fact for you: In the US, products containing less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving can be labeled as having 0 grams trans fat.  When buying packaged foods, read the labels and ingredients – avoid anything with hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list.


Animal products like meat and dairy are high in saturated fat.  Now, I’m not here to tell you that these are all bad, but you should be aware of the quantity and quality of the animal products you’re eating, especially if you have issues with cholesterol.  Aim for grass or grain-fed and organic when possible.

Not all fats are created equal... fats get a bad rap, but incorporating healthy fats into your diet is essential.  Good sources of fat include avocados, raw nuts, and oils like coconut, olive, and fish.

Now, “who’s bad”?

Feed Your Head. Vitamins for your brain.

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food"

I’m a HUGE proponent of using food as medicine; what we put in to our bodies has a major impact on how we feel and what we’re capable of accomplishing.  So, it should come as no surprise, that the idea that certain foods or dietary additions could keep your mind sharp today and help to prevent diseases in the future GETS ME EXCITED.

For me, this is a topic that hits close to home: I have a family history of Alzheimer’s.  I’ve seen the disease up close and personal and it SCARES THE CRAP OUT OF ME.  But, history or no history, the stats are downright frightening:

According to the 2012 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, women over age 65 have about a 1 in 5 chance of suffering from Alzheimer’s, while men of the same age have about a 1 in 10 chance (note: researchers believe the discrepancy is related to life expectancy, not to gender).

These risks are only expected to INCREASE OVER TIME.

Maybe a future risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s doesn't grab you, so let’s look a little shorter term and closer to homeIn our fast-paced, tech-driven society, our ability to think, comprehend, reason, plan, and execute is what keeps most of us employed.   YOUR BRAIN IS YOUR LIVELIHOOD.  What could be more important than that?

There’s so much great info on this topic that I've decided to give you the goods in a five part series.  Today’s topic: VITAMINS

Vitamins can be overwhelming – there are so many out there.  I’m here to tell you what you need for brain health and how to get it naturally – no pills necessary!

Vitamin E

Why you need it: Good ol’ vitamin E is an antioxidant.  Antioxidants protect cells from free radicals, which are formed as the body converts food to energy.  Vitamin E neutralizes the free radicals, protecting your cells.

Where you’ll find it: Nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, spinach, broccoli, mangoes, sweet potatoes

How much you need for a healthy brain*: 8 milligrams per day (think 1.5 ounces of almonds)


Why you need it: Folate is a key component of the folate cycle (go-figure!).   A folate deficiency can lead to excess homocystein.  High levels of homocystein have been linked to brain atrophy and Alzheimer’s.

Where you’ll find it: Peanuts, beans, lentils, leafy greens, corn, asparagus

How much you need*: 0.8 milligrams per day (think ½ cup cooked spinach)

Vitamin B6

Why you need it: Studies indicate B6 may improve memory and increase attention.  It also regulates mood, prevents mental fatigue, helps the brain produce serotonin, and helps the body make hemoglobin, the part of your blood that carries energy-boosting oxygen to the brain and other organs. Vitamin B-6 may also improve your memory.

Where you’ll find it: Chickpeas, potatoes, fish, beef liver, and non-citrus fruits (like bananas)

How much you need*: 20 milligrams per day (multiple sources needed)

Vitamin B12

Why you need it: Similar to folate, B12 is a key component of the folate cycle and deficiencies cause excess homocysteine.

Where you’ll find it: Animal-derived (fish and shellfish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products) and fermented foods

How much you need*: 0.5 milligrams per day (multiple sources needed)

 *Quantities needed are only those identified as beneficial to brain health; additional may be required as recommended daily value

Stay tuned for parts 2 through 5 of this series on brain health!  Until next week, feed your head!