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Chia Seeds - How They Can Benefit Your Health
You have probably heard how important it is to
get enough essentials fatty acids (EFAs) in your diet. Some good food sources
containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids include fish, shellfish, flax seeds,
leafy green vegetables and walnuts. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to
obtain enough of these fatty acids on a daily basis. Recently, an ancient seed
has regained popularity due to its high nutritional value.
You may know Chia as
the sprouts that grow on the porous clay figurines called Chia Pets, however
there is much more to it than that! Chia has both nutritional and medicinal
benefits. The seeds are an excellent source of essential fatty acids and are a great addition to a healthy diet.
My introduction to Chia seeds came a few weeks
ago when a friend brought me some Chia seed chocolate pudding form the local
health food store. It had the texture of tapioca and was quite delicious. The
pamphlet touted the many health benefits and curious, I was insired to look further into this interesting seed.
Chia is a member of the mint family. The seeds
are either white or black and both types are highly nutritious. Originally grown
in Mexico and the Southwest between 1500 and 910 B.C., Chia seeds were an
important part of the Aztec and Mayan diet. Aztec warriors used Chia as their
main source of fuel during conquests. Medicinally, they also used it to relieve
joint pain and stimulate saliva. Although once a major crop in Mexico, it was
banned after the Spanish conquest due to its association with Aztec religion
where it was used as an offering during religious ceremonies and ritual.
Commercial production is increasing and you can now find Chia seeds online as well as in many health food stores.
Supports Heart Health
Chia (Salvia hispanica) - 10 Health Benefits of This Superfood
Chia seeds can help reduce blood pressure. The seeds contain one of the highest
known plant sources of essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6). EFAs cannot
be synthesized by our bodies however, it is very important that we get enough to
support our immune, cardiovascular, nervous and reproductive systems. EFA deficiency is quite common in North America.
Stabilizes Blood Sugar
Chia seeds slow down the rate at which complex carbohydrates are digested and
then assimilated into the body. The soluble fiber helps to stabilize blood
glucose levels resulting in steady, sustained energy. In one study on diabetic patients, Dr. Vladamir
Vuksan of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, found that blood was thinner and
less prone to clotting and blood pressure of participants dropped
significantly, after three months of taking Chia seeds daily.
The word “Chia” comes from the Mayan language and means strength. Chia seeds are
a balanced blend of protein, carbohydrates, fats and fiber. It is said that 1
tablespoon of Chia can sustain a person for 24 hours. Athletes have reported
that Chia seeds help them perform at optimal levels for much longer periods of
A number of arthritis sufferers have reported reduced pain and inflammation
after a few weeks of taking Chia seeds. The high concentration of omega-3 helps
to lubricate joints and keep them supple. Additionally, Omega-3s are converted
into prostaglandins which are known to have both pain relieving and
The essential fatty acids contained in Chia seeds helps to boost metabolism and
promote lean muscle mass. The seeds are sometimes added to food to provide bulk
and nutrients while adding very few calories. For these reasons, many people
have found Chia quite useful in weight loss and weight maintenance.
Detoxification and Elimination
Similar to psyllium, the swelling action of Chia in the body helps to cleanse
and soothe the colon, and absorb toxins while lubricating and strengthening
High Quality Protein
Chia seeds contain about 20% protein, a higher percentage than found in many
other grains such as wheat and rice. Chia seeds contain strontium which helps to
assimilate protein and produce high energy.
Chia seeds are an excellent source of antioxidants containing even more
antioxidants than fresh blueberries. The high amounts of antioxidants in Chia
seeds also keeps the oils from going rancid - contributing to a long shelf life.
Provides Fiber and Other Nutrients
Besides EFAs, Chia seeds also provide fiber, iron, calcium, niacin, magnesium,
zinc and phosphorus.
2 tablespoons of Chia = 7 grams of fiber, 2
grams of protein, 205 milligrams of calcium, 5 grams omega-3
EFAs are known to make cell membranes more flexible and efficient making
nutrients more readily available and nerve transmission more efficient. This
helps to improve brain function (including memory and concentration).
How to Use
Chia Seeds have a mild, nut-like flavor. The
seeds are easily digested and do not have to be ground to be used. In Mexico,
the seeds are mixed with water and a little bit of lime or lemon juice to make a
drink called “Chia Fresca.”
Whole Chia seeds can be sprinkled on your
cereal, salads, or yogurt. Seeds can also be ground and mixed into smoothies or
added to baked goods. The seeds can be sprouted and used in salads or
sandwiches. Sometimes Chia seeds are soaked in water (for about 30 minutes) to
form a gel. The seeds soak up to nine times their weight in water. The gel is then added to porridges or used to make puddings.
Charlotte Bradley is the publisher of
and an avid yoga practitioner. She was a student of karate for many
years and took up yoga only tentatively after the birth of her sons
and a knee injury left her looking for a less high-impact form of
exercise. It was love at first pose as Charlotte saw how quickly
yoga sped her rehabilitation along. She also found that yogic
relaxation techniques lent her proper focus, bringing balance into
her life as well as a greater appreciation for how blessed she truly
is. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario with her husband and twin boys,
Charlie and Patty, who keep her on her feet and on the go. Her
golden retriever supervises Charlotte’s yoga workouts from a spare
mat, with his eyes closed.