Are you fond of birds? Do you have pet birds at home? If so, then bird seed would be a regular item in your grocery list, but what if we tell you the same bird seed has the potential of making its way to your dining table, you would be surprised. Well, you will be bowled over for all the correct reasons, because the birdseed milk or more often called the canary/Alpiste seed milk has the eligibility and grades to cater for human health.
The topic is quite new as regards human consumption and many queries surround it
Is it the same as the bird seed marketed for birds or there is a difference between the qualities of the two?
What are its potential health benefits and how do they deliver it?
What are its modes of utilization?
Are there any side effects one should be expecting?
Does the topic have any scientific support?
We will try to present an insight into the whole idea of using canary seed milk as a diet supplement and all the tags associated with it.
What is Alpiste or Canary seed Milk?
Canary seeds belong to grass genus of plants with the scientific term, Phalaris canariensis. Alpiste or Canary seeds are very similar to flax seeds in appearance and are used as ingredients to make milk, a practice prevalent in Mexico and South American countries. Owing to its nutritional value, lactose intolerant individuals can consume it in a variety of recipes besides milk consumption.
Is it the same as ordinary bird seed?
Well, the answer is a definite ‘no’. There are two reasons for it
- The primary difference is of a production facility. The production facilities for human grade seed have strict sanitation standards and protocols, requiring FDA approval. Birdseed may have other products mixed with it and the production facilities come under the authority of agriculture department.
- The second reason is quite significant regarding human health, that is, the traditional Alpiste seed varieties (usually marketed as bird seed) are not harmful to birds but the same poses a potential threat to human health because the hull on the seeds contain silica fibers, which if not removed, are associated with cancer development in humans.
“Studies of the increased rates of esophageal cancer in Southern Africa, Northeastern Iran, and Northern China have indicated consumption of flour contaminated with canary seed may be a contributor. The types of canary seed contaminating these flours have protective hairs (spicules) on the outside of the hull made of 98% silica. The needle-like shape and tiny size of these spicules, similar to asbestos fibers, may contribute to cell damage in the throat that may lead to cancer”.
The consumers must differentiate between the two varieties of canary seeds
“The University of Saskatchewan developed a new “hairless” (glabrous) variety of canary seed, largely with the objective of reducing skin irritation for people who handle it during harvesting and processing”.
Many of the producers are ignorant of the ‘hairless’ variety and they retail the ordinary Alpiste seed for human consumption. With well-informed consumers, the scenario can change for better.
Nutritional value of Alpiste seed milk
A 100 gram of canary seed contain
Carbohydrates 55.8 grams
Proteins 13 grams
Fats 5.2 grams
Fiber 11.8 grams
Minerals as calcium, phosphorus, potassium and folic acid
The proteins found in canary seeds are equal to that found in meat but the kind of amino acids are stable ones, which are digested easily without any toxic residue. In addition to these constituents, canary seeds contain oxalic acids and salicylic acids, which are responsible for regenerating the functions of our organs, particularly liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Canary seeds play an important role in bringing the cholesterol levels down and thus helping in shedding weight. This specific function is attributed to the abundant amount of enzyme lipase that is found these seeds.
Health benefits of Alpiste seed milk
Canary seeds are favorites as far as bird population is concerned but there are diverse arguments regarding the health benefits of canary seeds for human consumption. Alpiste seeds are nutrient dense and they are particularly famed for their paybacks regarding liver, kidneys, and pancreas.
- Reverses diabetes by improving the function of pancreas
- Aids in cases of liver cirrhosis by increasing the number of liver cells
- Acts as a diuretic and accelerates the kidney function, relieves any kidney infection owing to its anti-bacterial properties
Alpiste seed milk removes inflammation from these organs and improves the overall functionality, due to the presence of enzymes in these seeds.
Apart from these measures, canary seed milk is a great fat cutting device because of the enzyme lipase, which helps clear the vascular system of our body of any fat. It helps in maintaining blood pressure and preventing arteriosclerosis. When the unwanted fat is shed, it brings about various positive effects that accompany weight loss. The fat present in canary seeds is of unsaturated type, which contributes to lower fat accumulation in the body.
The anti oxidant activity of canary seeds is comparable to Vitamin C; it helps retard the aging process in by fighting the free radical production in our bodies. Low level of free radicals means low inflammatory reactions and a healthy cellular state. The powerful anti oxidant activity of canary seeds is the primary factor that boosts the functions of liver, pancreas, and kidneys.
Canary seeds are also a rich source of iron in the form of folic acid. Five tablespoon of canary seeds provides an approximate of 3 grams of iron (18% of RDA value).
Canary seeds provide a good amount of fiber and aid digestion and bowel transit.
Scientific back up for Alpiste health benefits and side effects
Rounding up the scientific evidence regarding the health reimbursements revealed that the research process is in its early stages as far as the Alpiste seed milk is concerned but it is significant enough not to be ignored. Though no controlled studies have been undertaken to evaluate the effectiveness of canary seeds or its milk, yet the evidence backing the upshots presented until now is only subjective and anecdotal. On the other hand, reports of esophageal cancer with the use of traditional canary seeds are prevalent.
“A study found that mice fed traditional varieties of canary seed developed tumors around their mouths and noses, the areas that most frequently were exposed to the canary seed’s silica fibers. Several studies have called out physical similarities between silica spicules and asbestos fibers. The sharp, needle-like shape of the silica fibers on traditional canary seed hulls may contribute to cell damage in the throat that may lead to cancer”.
Furthermore, the protein content of canary seeds is not superior to that of meat, though it consists of all plant proteins, which is more palatable for our health as compared to a meat of any kind.
There are genuine concerns about the silica fibers of the canary seeds causing damage to our GIT. These microscopic fibers are about one-fourth the diameter of human hair at their base and even smaller at the tip.
“The inside grain of canary seed is called the “groat” or “caryopsis.” These are covered in a protective hull covered in tiny, tiny silica fibers (spicules). While the hulls with the silica hairs can indeed be separated from the groats, the spicules on traditional canary seed are so tiny that during a mechanical dehulling process it would be impossible to avoid some contamination of the groats. Some researchers have also experimented with removing the spicules using chemical processes, but initial experiments did not remove 100% of the spicules.”
How to make Alpiste seed milk
The making of Alpiste seed milk is the latest fad but made out of traditional seed variety, it is almost impossible to separate the silica fibers from the drink without specialized industrial equipment. There is a special procedure for making the Alpiste seed milk, with the seeds soaked overnight and blended the next morning with specific amounts of water. The husk of the seeds may remain as the top layer of the fluid, which may be consumed as such or strained.
The soaking of the seeds softens the seeds and lowers it phytic content that may hinder the absorption of many nutrients and minerals.
Final word on Alpiste seed milk
According to the latest reports
“Canary seed no longer for the birds, Health Canada says
Ottawa approves hairless variety of seeds for human consumption”
Jan 11, 2016
“It is exciting news for the canary seed producers in Saskatchewan and across Canada,” said Carol Ann Patterson, a food microbiologist who has been working on the research needed to get regulatory approval.
“Right now, the only market allowable for canary seed is bird feed, both pet and wild,” Patterson said.
“This hairless variety allows us to go into the human food market… the opportunities are endless.”
Therefore, the skepticism at the consumer’s end is dealt with, if the hairless varieties are used for dietary purposes. What’s more, the canary bird seed is gluten-free and can replace a whole variety of food items in future.