Chia seeds don’t come from China and they don’t have anything to do with one’s chi, but you’ll be surprised that these tiny seeds do carry with them a nutritional dosage rivaled by few. In fact, they are classified as one of the top superfoods available to supplement your everyday diet.
For a quick look at Chia Seeds and their health benefits, watch the Superfoods 101 series video below.
What Are Chia Seeds?
Chia is a type of flowering plant that is classified under the mint family. Known scientifically as Salvia hispanica, its name chia came from the word chian, which means oily. Chia is an annual herb that can grow up to 3.3 feet tall. Its flowers bloom in white or purple shades.
Its seeds are usually small and shaped as ovals. They have a diameter of roughly 1 mm and have an irregular color combination of brown, black, gray, and white.
Chia is cultivated for commercial purposes because of its amazing seed (as you read further down this article, you’ll find out why it’s such a powerful superfood!).
Where Do They Come From?
Chia seeds are said to have originated in the central valley of Mexico. This plant is indigenous to Mexico (particularly the central and southern regions) and Guatemala. Historical accounts report that chia seeds were eaten as staple food by the Aztecs in Central Mexico in pre-Columbian times. In fact, Jesuit historians reported chia as the third most important crop to the Aztecs, next only to maize and beans.
Nowadays, the chia plant is cultivated not only in Mexico and Guatemala, but also in Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru and Australia.
By now you must be curious about what exactly is in this chia seed that made so many countries cultivate it.
The credit goes to a man named Wayne Coates, Ph.D. and chia seeds got the attention it deserved in the past few decades thanks to this man. Before retiring, Coates worked as a research professor in the Office of Arid Lands Studies at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Dr. Coates co-authored an authoritative book about chia (together with Richardo Ayerza Jr.), entitled Chia: Rediscovering a Forgotten Crop of the Aztecs (The University of Arizona Press, 2005). This led to an increased understanding and interest of the public in these small seeds.
What Are the Nutritional Benefits of chia seeds?
Did you know that 2 tablespoons of chia seeds provide roughly 7 grams of fiber, 5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, 4 grams of protein, and 205 milligrams of calcium? Read more to find out exactly what chia seeds have to offer.
Healthy Fats - Chia seeds actually produce a lot of extractable oil, the majority of which is in the form of the essential omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Omega-3 fatty acids are good for cardiovascular health, which means that they benefit people who suffer from heart problems. ALA has been shown to cut down a person’s risks of inflammation as well as heart disease by reducing the levels of total cholesterol, particularly LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad cholesterol’). ALA also lowers blood pressure and blood triglyceride level. It could likewise prevent platelets from sticking together, again lowering the risk of a heart attack. It is said that chia seed contains more omega-3 fatty acids than Atlantic salmon! Even renowned nutrition expert Dr. Weil reports that chia seeds have more omega-3 fatty acids than flaxseed (another superfood!).
Antioxidants – If you’re an avid fan of the Oprah show, you would be familiar with Dr. Oz. Well, this health expert states that besides being packed with omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds contain a lot of antioxidants, in fact even more than fresh blueberries have! For the unaware, antioxidants are touted as “free radical scavengers”. These substances prevent and patch up the harm done by free radicals to the body. By doing so, antioxidants not only prevent the effects of aging from manifesting, but they also help prevent cancer, heart diseases, stroke, diabetes, infection, and many other illnesses.
Protein – If you think only meats and beans have protein, think again! Each chia seed has roughly 20% protein. Energize yourself with these tiny seeds! Chia seeds provide not only energy but also endurance and stamina. In fact, reports claim that just one tablespoon of chia seeds served as sufficient fuel for Aztec soldiers for one whole day.
Fiber – A chia seed contains 25% dietary fiber (mostly soluble). You can digest these seeds easily because they do not need to be ground before you can eat them (unlike flaxseed). The human body can easily digest chia seeds. Each serving (about 2 tablespoons) of chia seeds contains roughly 7 grams of fiber. That’s more fiber than bran flakes have!
Weight reduction – Though not commonly used as a marketing strategy, chia seeds have been used to help reduce weight! This is because, in addition to having high levels of soluble fiber, they also cut down a person’s cravings for sweets and junk food. These seeds also keep a person feeling full longer.
Calcium – Chia seeds are reported to contain more calcium than 2% milk. See, these little seeds can make big changes for your bones too!
Pain Relief – Health expert Dr. Weil reports that the Aztecs in old times used chia to relieve their joint aches. Additionally, they used it to treat their various skin conditions.
Mood Booster – Small as they are, these seeds can make a huge difference in your day because of their antidepressant effects. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself grinning ear to ear while chewing chia seeds.
No Gluten and Very Little Sodium – If you are allergic to gluten (many people are), you may still indulge in as many chia seeds as you wish! This is because these seeds contain practically no gluten and only trace levels of sodium.
Lots of Nutrients – Besides all of the benefits listed above, chia seeds contain vitamin B and a handful of important nutrients, including copper, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, and zinc. Now you know why it’s a superfood!
Chia Seeds Supplements-
Given all the benefits to health that chia seeds provide, it’s not surprising that interest in this superfood has grown steadily in the past few years. In fact, while the Salvia hispanica seed is promoted most frequently under the common name “Chia,” it is also becoming more accessible under various trademark names, such as Anutra, Cheela Brand, Chia Sage, Mila, Purisalv, Sachia, Salba, Tresalbio, and many others.
Many individuals enjoy the nutty flavor of chia seeds. They often dash either whole or ground chia seeds on cereal, salads, yogurt, eggs, and even drinks. Some enjoy consuming whole chia seeds as a snack. Others crush them and combine them with flour to produce tasty bakery products such as muffins. You can also enjoy chia seeds with your soups, oatmeal, cookies, pancakes, cottage cheese, smoothies, as well as salsa and dips. In 2009, the European Union has allowed bakers to add chia seeds to bread products for a maximum ratio of 1:20 (5% of the bread product).
The nice thing with chia seeds is that you can eat them directly from the can (or wherever it’s packaged). Unlike flaxseed (which is very difficult to chew and absorb), you can eat whole chia seeds without grinding them. And again, unlike flaxseed, chia seeds can be stocked for a long period of time without going stale or rotten. So pile up!
By the way, another nice thing about chia seeds is that insects don’t like the plant, so most seeds are grown and sold in organic form. That makes them even healthier!
Chia Seed Supplements-
One can generally buy chia seeds in the 3 main forms listed below and as you will see used specifically for different uses in each form.
Whole Seed Form-
By far the most popular way to consume the seed in in its whole form. The seeds can be added to a variety of baking products, used in jams and substituted for any other type of seed. In its whole form you can assume that it has lost little to none of its nutritional vibrancy.
More popular with bakers, chia seed powder can be substituted for flour and other baking mediums as a way to increase the nutritional content of the dish.
Not as easy to find, but chia seed sprouts are starting to spring up and are used in the same way alfalfa sprouts are used, in salads on sandwiches…etc..etc
How to Buy The Best Chia Seeds-
As with any type of superfood, to make sure you buy the best version, you will need to go to the source and ask a variety of questions to make sure it contains the highest levels of nutrition available.
- How is it grown and where is it grown? Is it organically grown or grown using conventional methods?
- How is it processed? High Heat or Low Heat? Spray Dried or Freeze dried? Freeze dried and low heat are much better, but cost more, so be sure to clarify or you might be losing some nutrition.
- Does the company have a quality reputation for providing good product or are they just out to make a buck.
Theses questions will help put you on the right track to buying quality chia seeds to supplement your diet with.
Of course we here at Holistik Health are big proponents of Chia and carry what we consider to be the best Organic Chia Seeds available today, so if you’re in the market, click on the link to check them out.