Chia seeds seem to be in everybody's mouth now, but this fame did not come overnight. There is a 16th century written record that chia, or Salvia Hispanica, was cultivated by Aztecs in the pre-Columbian era. It has been suggested by the historians that chia were as important a crop for the Aztecs as was the corn.
To this day the plant is cultivated in Mexico and Guatemala where it is an important source of nutrition.
Botanically, chia is a member of the mint family. The seeds are either black or white and are easily digested. They do not have to be ground in order to be consumed.
The tiny seeds of the plant Salvia hispanica are one of the most nutritious superfoods known to us. They are an excellent source of
- complete protein
- soluble and insoluble fiber
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- vitamins A, C, E, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, folate, and B12
- minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, boron, strontium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and zinc
Because of their nutrient content chia seeds have many important health benefits:
- Chia seeds support digestion, detoxification and elimination. They are high in fiber and have the ability to swell up in the intestine. They soothe and lubricate the colon and help strengthen peristaltic action thus improving elimination. Mucin in chia also helps reduce inflammation of the digestive tract.
- Chia seeds are great for weight loss and weight maintenance. Improved digestion and elimination are important for anyone who is trying to lose weight. But chia are also rich in essential fatty acids that directly contribute to weight loss as they boost metabolism and help build lean muscles. They are nutrient dense but, at the same time, very law in calories. Chia seeds can also give a prolonged feeling of satiation as they can absorb water nine times their own weight. Simply soak chia seeds in water for 15-20 minutes and drink the mixture between the meals.
- Thanks to their law glycemic index chia seeds help stabilize blood glucose. Research shows that chia has the capacity to slow dawn the rate at which complex carbohydrates are digested and assimilated into the body. The soluble fiber in chia helps stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent glucose spikes.
- Chia seeds can improve cardiovascular health. They help reduce high blood pressure and have slightly blood thinning properties thus preventing dangerous blood clots. They can lower harmful LDL cholesterol and reduce triglycerides in the blood. At the same time they help increase the levels of good HDL cholesterol.
- Chia seeds have strong anti-inflammatory properties. They bring relief to people suffering from inflammation as the highly concentrated Omega-3 fatty acids convert into inflammation-fighting and pain-relieving prostaglandins. Moreover, Omega-3 fatty acids provide lubrication to painful joints. Studies demonstrated that people who consumed ca. 40 grams of chia seeds daily had significantly lower levels of the C-reactive protein - a blood protein that indicates chronic inflammation in the body.
- The essential fatty acids in chia seeds help improve brain health and cognition. They make the cell membranes more flexible which allows better saturation with nutrients and better transmission of impulses between the cells.
- Recent research shows that the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in chia seeds curtailed the growth of cancer cells in both, breast and cervical cancers. ALA causes cancer cell apoptosis (death) without harming the healthy cells.
- Chia seeds are an amazing source of energy. Already the ancient Aztec warriors used chia seeds to build up strength help, sustain energy and maintain hydration for long distance journeys on foot. Now athletes use chia to optimize physical performance, regulate hydration and maintain energy levels during intense workouts.
- Chia seeds, especially the dark variety, are very rich in antioxidants. They contain high levels of chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, quercetin, myricetin, kaempferol, and vitamins C and E. All these compounds are strong free radical scavengers and act both, individually and synergistically, to prevent oxidation.
Chia seeds store very well. High levels of vitamin C and E and the cinnamic acid in chia seeds prevent the seeds from turning rancid.
The seeds have a slightly nutty flavor. They can be sprinkled on salads, added to a morning cereal, yogurt, puddings and smoothies, or used in baking recipes. They are easily digested and do not have to be ground, but you can grind them to a fine meal if you want to.
When buying chia seeds make sure you are buying a superior, organic product.
By Dominique Allmon
*This information is for educational purpose only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.
Health Benefits of Chia Seeds by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.