I will completely confess to borrowing an article today from Joanna Douglass - senior editor from Yahoo, whose information I thought was helpful and interesting (despite the repetition with smoothies and salads). I have added a few comments (in green) of my own and will share them with you below:
Spirulina, chia seeds, hemp powder—until recently those were things you found at crunchy health stores, or in murky-looking smoothies consumed by serious fitness buffs. Now they’re everywhere—in your muffin, on your salad (power bars, cereal, cookies, supplement aisle). It might sound like a fad, but even small bits of these ingredients do big things. The new condiments, as we’ve taken to calling them, can improve your appearance and health, both short- and long-term. Yahoo Beauty reached out to Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN, a Los Angeles-based nutrition expert and author of Eat Right When Time is Tight, to get the scoop on which items are worth sprinkling on your foods and drinks.
Chia Seeds What are they? Chia comes from a desert plant in Mexico called Salvia hispanica and is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and calcium. They’re a joy to eat, thanks to their mild, nutty flavor.
What do they do? Mayans and Aztecs ate the black and white seeds to boost energy. If you put them in water, the mixture turns gel-like (vegans use them as a substitute to egg in many dishes and mixed with milk make a great pudding) and many tout its hunger-controlling qualities (but there’s no scientific proof of that). How do you eat them? Sprinkle them on top of your oatmeal, smoothie, cereal, salad, rice, or baked goods for an added boost of nutrition and flavor.
Flaxseeds What are they? Flaxseeds have been providing medicinal benefits since around 3000 BC, thanks to their omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, and lignans.
What do they do? Recent studies suggest they reduce belly fat and lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. How do you eat them? First of all, you absorb more of the nutrients when the seeds are ground (you can do that in a coffee grinder). Then stir them into oatmeal, smoothies, soups, or yogurt by the tablespoon or two. If you’re baking, substitute ground flaxseeds for part of the flour. (They are also good as a coating to baked chicken)
Hemp Seeds What are they? Hemp seeds are the edible part of the hemp plant. They’re a bit bigger than a sesame seed, with a similar nut-like flavor.
What do they do? They’re stuffed with easy to digest protein, as well as all nine essential amino acids. They’re low in carbs, with both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. How do you eat them? Toss them into a smoothie, salad, cereal, and any kind of baked good. They come raw, but try roasting them with spices, or even sprinkling them on a pasta dish for a nice texture without too much crunch. (There is now hemp milk available too)
Wheat Germ What is it? When people talk about whole grains, they mean that the grain has all its parts. In refined grains—white flour, bread, packaged snack foods—you’re getting a stripped down version of the grain that doesn’t include the wheat germ, which is the part that’s actually good for you. What does it do? The germ (which exists to feed the new plant) is a highly concentrated source of nutrients, including niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, and zinc. Wheat germ also provides dietary fiber and healthy fats to help balance blood sugar levels, control cholesterol levels, and promote intestinal health. How do you eat it? Add it to anything that could benefit from a healthy crunch, including pancakes (replace up to 1/2 c of the flour with wheat germ), baked goods, yogurt, oatmeal, and smoothies. (Again good mixed in coatings for baked chicken or instead of bread crumbs for any recipe)
Pistachios What are they? Pistachios are the healthiest nut you’re not eating regularly—and we’re not just saying so because of Stephen Colbert’s ringing endorsement. What do they do? Pistachios boast protein, fiber, and antioxidants and they’re nearly 90-percent healthy fats, a boon for glowing skin. How do you eat them? By the handful. But also, in yogurt, oatmeal, salads, and smoothies. (Salmon cakes are delicious covered in crushed pistachios, dried cherries pair beautifully with pistachios as a colorful snack, and and in pestos - lot's of ideas at Bon Appetit too!)
Tumeric What is it? The plant that gives curry its kick (well maybe it's color . Its root has medicinal properties, too (it is a member of the ginger family and 90% is produced in India).
What does it do? Studies show that turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, may help fight infections and some cancers, diabetes and Alzheimer’s, reduce inflammation, and treat digestive problems. How do you eat it? Mixed into nearly any recipe (pairs well with ginger, cilantro and cloves eggplant, beans, spinach, poultry rices, eggs and fish), or in shot form from your local health food store. Add black pepper to any recipe that calls for turmeric to can increase the body’s absorption of curcumin by 1,000 times.