I love reading about “superfoods” and nutrition – mostly I get reminders to eat more things I already like (did you know watermelon has sky-high levels of lycopene?). Recently, learning about the importance of the essential fatty acid Omega 3 for joint mobility, heart health and cancer prevention, I was even convinced to take fish oil supplements. These are tough pills to swallow, having been a vegetarian for 20 years, so I started looking beyond flax for other vegetarian sources of Omega 3s. I found three powerhouses:
There are many great attributes to the hemp plant…including the incredible nutrition found in its seed. I was already thrilled to find delicious chocolate hemp milk (Tempt), but now I’m convinced consuming the oil directly is the way to go. Turns out hemp oil contains Omega 6s and Omega 3s in the ideal proportion that the human body should have them (roughly 3:1). Most Westerners have much higher levels of Omega 6 in their diet (upwards of a 10:1 ratio), which causes more harm than good, which is why nutrition experts keep urging us to increase our consumption/proportion of Omega 3s. You can get all the essential fatty acids you need in a day by swallowing a tablespoon or so of raw hemp oil, or, make salad dressing with it — for inspiration, try one of the yummy concoctions by Foods Alive.
Yes, those same chia seeds that you planted on a Chia Pet in the 70s have come back in fashion as a superfood. It’s not new news: they were in fashion in the Aztec empire half a millennium ago, too, where the warriors ate them for stamina and nutrition. It’s compelling enough that chia has more calcium than milk, is an excellent source of iron and slows down glucose uptake (great for diabetics). But best of all, consider that the Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio in chia is actually 3:1 which means there is three times more Omega 3…making it the perfect food to balance out excess Omega 6 intake.
I first tasted “Chia Goodness” cereal at a Ruth’s booth at Expo East a few years ago, then found Dr. Weil’s Chia Razz bar, and now I buy chia seeds in bulk to thicken my fruit pies, make coconut milk pudding, and add nutrition and fiber to my smoothies, oatmeal, granola, you name it. I haven’t tried actually sprouting them but my kids would love it if I did…I guess that’s next.
The one certified organic farmer at our local farmers’ market turned me on to this Omega-3 weed. That’s right, weed. You might already be growing purslane in your yard; you might even have been ripping this succulent up without knowing that it’s one of the best green vegetable sources of Omega 3. It also is a “very good source” of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese! I like it mixed up with other salad greens or added to a stir fry.
For more reasons to hunt down hemp oil, chia and purslane, check out Dr. Greene’s perspective on why it’s important for kids to get enough Omega 3s, and why pregnant moms should get enough, too. Then, take a deep breath to feel that heart of yours beating, thank it, and go figure out how to get more Omega 3s in your diet to protect it.