Today, chia seeds are known as a vegetable source of omega-3 and fiber, and their positive health effects include increasing energy, stabilizing blood sugar, aiding digestion, and lowering cholesterol.
What are chia seeds?
Chia is an edible seed of the Salvia hispanica plant of the mint family that grows in abundance in southern Mexico, extending its cultivation to many other parts of the world such as Australia, currently one of the main producers. Despite recent popularity, the small black and white seeds were a major component of Aztec and Mayan diets in pre-Columbian times and were the basic survival ration of Aztec warriors.
The existence of chia seeds dates back to 3500 BC in Central America and the name comes from the Mayan word “Chia” which means strength. It is believed that chia seeds were used by Mayan messengers, who could carry in a small bag a sufficient amount to maintain energy during long journeys by increasing their stamina.
For the Aztecs chia was also considered a medicine and was used in many ways such as stimulating the flow of saliva, relieving pain in the joints and soothing irritated skin.
In Mexico it was an important crop but after the Spanish conquest the authorities banned it because the Indians used the seeds as offerings in Aztec rituals. The chia seeds were later replaced by other seeds more popular today such as corn, until in 1991 a project was started to recover lost food where the chia seeds were included.
In 100 grams of chia seeds there is typically 20.7 g of protein, 32.8 g of oil of which 64% is omega 3 fatty acids, 41.8g in carbohydrates of which fiber is 41.2g, 714mg of calcium, 16.4mg of iron, 613mg of niacin (B3), 0.18mg of thiamine (B1), 0.04mg of riboflavin (B2).
There are plenty of reasons to add chia seeds to your diet. Small but with a great nutritional profile, they are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, contain calcium, manganese and phosphorus, and are a great source of healthy omega-3 oils.
How do you take chia seeds?
Chia seeds can be consumed in juices and soups or simply in a glass of water; or ground, which is an advantage with other types of seeds. You can also sprinkle them on salads, or add them to bread dough if you bake it, you can even eat the chia sprouts that are just as healthy.
Chia seeds are now available in many health food stores, herbalists and supermarkets and are an easy food to add to your diet. The best chia is black and white. The light brown one is usually of poorer quality.
Chia seed properties
Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants that help protect us from free radicals, aging and cancer. But perhaps why chia seeds are so popular recently is because they help you lose weight. Because of the combined action of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and protein, they reduce cravings for other foods by making us feel fuller faster.
But there are many more benefits associated with regular chia consumption. For example, it helps digestive health by regulating intestinal function as a natural source of fiber, absorbing up to 10 times its weight in water, forming a bulky gel. They also do not contain gluten so they can be consumed by people with coeliac disease.
It is a natural vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for the health of the brain and protect against inflammation, such as arthritis and heart disease.
It helps prevent blood sugar rises by slowing down the rate at which our body converts carbohydrates into simple sugars, thus lowering abnormally high levels of insulin, which is why it is of great help to diabetic patients.
It is a natural source of calcium, phosphorus and manganese, vital for bone and oral health, and preventing osteoporosis. These nutrients also help maintain a healthy weight and prevent hypertension, and are important for energy metabolism.
Chia seeds are also a great source of protein for vegetarians, rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that helps regulate appetite, sleep and improve mood.
The Cleveland Clinic claims that chia seeds improve heart health by reducing cholesterol, triglycerides and increasing good HDL cholesterol. They also lower blood pressure and C-reactive protein (a sign of inflammation) in type 2 diabetics.
Note: Chia seeds contain the least assimilable type of omega-3
While the omega-3s found in chia seeds are still beneficial, they do not provide DHA. There are three main types of omega-3s: ALA, EPA and DHA.
EPA and DHA are the active forms most needed by humans, while ALA is an inactive form that must be transformed before our bodies can use it. Because of this, plant sources of omega-3s are often considered inferior compared to animal sources.
Chia seeds are packed with essential vitamins and nutrients that our bodies need to stay healthy
While the scope of their benefits varies and will not be the same for everyone, chia seeds are a great way to give our bodies some extra nutrients without a lot of extra calories, adding vitamins and nutrients to any meal.
Whether sprinkled on a salad or in a shake, adding chia seeds to your dishes is easy and will increase the nutritional value. And their ability to satisfy cravings and keep appetites at bay has been shown to help you lose weight and promote healthy eating habits.
Superfood available on Amazon: