With so many processed foods being sold today and fast food taking over western diet, there is a food revolution happening. People are trying to go back to eating real, healthy and organic food. Since the late 60s when most western countries, specifically the US, turned to processed food, obesity, cancer, diabetes, depression, heart disease and other illnesses have become more commonplace. Foods that are rich in sugar and salt have clearly affected the health of many people. Add to that the sedentary lifestyle that has become popular over the past few years, and our overall health and wellbeing is even worse.
Because of this, people are going back to buying produce from farmers markets and organic groceries. Kale, quinoa and chia seeds are some of the organic foods that are being marketed as super foods which have health benefits. When reading health articles, vegan recipes or any other health recipes, you’ll notice chia seeds are often one of the main ingredients. But what are chia seeds? Let’s find out!
Chia Seeds Defined
Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) are a species of flowering plant in the mint family native to Central America, Guatemala and Southern Mexico. The chia plant is commercially grown for its seeds, a food that contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. The seed yields about 25-30% extractable ALA oil. Chia seeds are small ovals with a diameter of about 1mm. The seeds are mottled-colour of grey, brown, black or white. The seeds can absorb up to twelve times their weight in liquid when the seeds are soaked. When soaked, the seeds developed a mucilaginous gel-like coating that gives any chia-based drink or beverage a distinctive taste and texture.
Chia seeds are a whole-grain, unprocessed food that can be eaten as seeds or as an addition to other foods. The mild nutty flavor of these seeds makes them easy to add to food and drinks. Most often, chia seeds are sprinkled over cereals, vegetables and sauces, yogurt, rice dishes and baked goods. It can also be made into a gel by simply mixing it with water. Chia seeds are also high in soluble fiber and are an excellent source of minerals like manganese, sodium, phosphorus and potassium. It’s also rich in protein and other antioxidants.
8 Health Benefits Of Chia Seeds
1. Large Amount Of Nutrients With Few Calories
Chia seeds were one of the most important foods for the Mayans and the Aztecs. The seeds provided energy for these ancient people to farm and build civilizations. A serving of 28 grams of Chia seeds contains 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat, 18% RDA of calcium, 30% RDA of manganese, 30% RDA of magnesium and 27% RDA of phosphorus. They also contain Vit B2, Vit B1, Potassium, Zinc and Vit B3. Chia seeds are grown organically and are naturally gluten-free.
2. Rich In Fiber
When you check the seeds nutritional facts, you’ll see that there are about 12 grams of carbohydrates, but the truth is 11 grams of those are fiber and the remaining 1 gram is carbohydrate-based. Fiber helps in lowering blood sugar, easing digestion and making you eat less because it expands in the stomach and makes you feel full. Fiber also helps in maintaining the healthy bacteria in the intestines. These seeds are 40% fiber by weight, thus its one of the best sources of natural fiber.
3. High In Protein
Based on its weight, 14% of a chia seed is made up of protein. It also contains a good amount of amino acids. Having a high protein intake reduces appetite and has been proven to reduce obsessive thoughts or cravings of food by about 60% and the urge to eat late at night by 60%.
4. Help in Losing Weight
Many health and medical experts believe that chia seeds can help in reducing weight. Because fiber absorbs large amounts of water and expands in the gut, it increases fullness and slows down food absorption. Protein also reduces a person’s appetite and food intake. However, there are two studies that show no changes in weight despite adding chia seeds to a diet; 90 overweight people were served 12 grams of chia seeds for 12 weeks and it showed no effects to the body. Another 10 week study of 62 healthy women showed no effect on their body weight, but there was an increase in omega-3 fatty acids in their blood. When combined with other foods, exercise and a healthy lifestyle, it surely helps with weight loss.
5. Good Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Just like flax seeds, chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids. But take note that the omega-3s in chia seeds are mostly plant based Alpha Linolenic Acid or ALA. ALA needs to be converted to other essential fatty acids EPA and DHA to be useful to the body. Chis seeds can increase the levels of ALA, but the body requires EPA and DHA for normal brain function, thus animal sources like fatty fish and calamari are better sources of omega-3s.
6. Lower Chances of Diabetes and Heart Disease
The seeds should help lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease. There have been several studies to prove this, but the conclusions or results are still inconclusive. Animal studies have shown that chia seeds can lower triglycerides, raise good cholesterol or HDL levels and reduce belly fat, inflammation and insulin resistance. However, another study showed no improvements.
7. Contain Essential Bone Nutrients
The seeds contain essential bone nutrients that include protein, magnesium and phosphorus. Chia seeds are a good alternative for people who are lactose intolerant or for anyone who doesn’t eat dairy.
8. Easily Incorporate Into Your Diet
Although not a health benefit, this is important nonetheless. The seeds are quite bland, so it is easy to add them to any food or drink you want to have. Unlike flax seeds, you don’t need to grind them, thus it makes them easy to prepare. You can add them to baked goods, smoothies, porridge, cereal, yogurt, salads and vegetable dishes. They can also be used to thicken sauces and as egg substitutes in other recipes.
There’s no harm in trying out something new. So-called ‘fad’ foods may not be so bad for you!