Categories:Herbs, Spices and Seasoning Hints & Tips
Health Benefits of the Ancient Chia Seed
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.
Chia (Salvia hispanica) – 10 Health Benefits of This Superfood:
Supports Heart Health – 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.
Energizing – 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 time.
Anti-Inflammatory Properties – 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 anti-inflammatory effects.
Weight Loss – 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 peristaltic action.
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.
Antioxidants – 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
Brain Power – 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:
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.
Recipes Using Chia Seeds:
Banana Chia Seed Muffins
Chia seeds have been shown to suppress appetites while providing protein, calcium, and omega-3s. These very tasty Banana Chia Seed Muffins are a delicious and easy-to-make way to incorporate chia seeds in your diet. These muffins make a great breakfast meal as they only contain 190 calories each.
Chai Seed Cookies
These cookies make a great healthy treat for your family. They are nutritious as well as delicious!
Nutty Grain Bread
This bread can either be baked in your bread machine or baked in the oven. Directions below are for oven baking. Also feel free to experiment with using different seeds and nuts.
Rebecca’s Crustless Custard Pie
Remember the Impossible Pies of the 1970s? The flour settles to the bottom and makes it’s own crust. This is healthy, wholesome, and nourishing dessert with a smooth custard filling and a crunchy golden top. Your family will definitely love this gluten-free pie!
Charlotte Bradley is the publisher of YogaFlavoredLife.com 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.