Time for a couple of questions from readers:

A reader in Monterey, Calif., asks: “I heard that chia seeds are higher in omega-3 fatty acids than flaxseeds. Is this correct?”

Dear Reader,

Omega-3 fatty acid content of chia and flax seeds is fairly similar, according to data from the USDA National Agricultural Research Service. One ounce (a little over 2 tablespoons) of chia seeds contains 5 grams of alpha-linolenic acid — the form of omega-3 fat found in plant foods. One ounce of flaxseed (about 2 ½ tablespoons) contains 6.3 grams of the acid.

In the old days, chia was mostly known as a cute little plant you could grow into the shape of a pet to give someone for Christmas. Today chia (botanical name “Salvia hispanica L.”) appears to meet criteria as a “functional food” — one that provides additional health benefits beyond its basic nutrient content.

Case in point: A small study of men and women with type 2 diabetes found that adding about 3 tablespoons of chia seeds to their usual diabetic diet for 3 months helped control their blood sugars and blood pressures. Another small study found that a diet rich in high fiber foods including chia seeds helped reduce the risk for developing heart disease and diabetes.

One caution: Beware of claims that chia seeds contain “8 times more omega-3s than salmon.” This is like saying that a team of horses contains more “horse” power than a diesel engine. Good to understand that there are two types of omega-3 fatty acids in our food and they differ in action.

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in plants (including flax, walnuts, and chia). EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are the more active (and probably most beneficial) omega 3 fatty acids found in salmon and other fatty fish.

Bottom line: We would do well to include healthful omega-3 fatty acids in our diets from a variety of sources including nuts, seeds, and fish. Good evidence shows that these fats help guard our hearts and other body cells from the process of inflammation and premature aging.

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A reader in Oregon asks: “I have a question about the vitamin C content of prepared juice from frozen orange juice cans. After preparation, I keep the juice in my refrigerator. Before I drink it, I warm it in my microwave. Do you think I am reducing the Vitamin C content by warming it?”

Dear Reader,

Vitamin C is a sensitive nutrient. It tends to disappear when it comes in contact with air or heat. So experts recommend you store reconstituted orange juice in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container to protect it from oxygen. And if you use it within 6 days, it can retain up to 80 percent of its vitamin C content.

And a bit of warming should not harm the vitamin C in your orange juice, as long as you don’t heat it above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, say experts.

(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Email her at bquinn@chomp.org.)

©2013 Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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