When I was growing up…in the days before pretty much anything other than digital watches existed…we used to have to suffer through the ads whenever we wanted to watch whatever one of the three available channels happened to be showing at that time.
Anybody else remember when the only available stations were ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS?!
One of the commercials that you’d hear/watch the most often was for chia pets…
I always begged my parents to buy me one…they looked so adorable…
Yet they never would…
I promised myself that when I grew up, I would buy my own chia…
And now I do…quite often…
But not to watch hair grow and look cute, but to gain their nutritional and health benefits.
Chia seed are valued by health-conscious people and nutritionists for both their health benefits and their nutritional value…as a superfood and an ingredient that can be added to less nutritious items—such as baked pastries and snacks—in order to label them as healthy and nutritious.
But first let’s find out exactly what a chia seeds is…
What is a chia seed?
Chia seeds are the tiny seeds of the chia plant, a flowering plant belonging to the mint family, that is native to Mexico and Guatemala…flat ovals with a shiny and smooth texture that can range in color from white to brown or black.
Chia seeds were a staple food for the ancient Aztecs and Mayans…making up an important part of their regular diets…used for medical benefits, especially for their ability to provide sustainable energy…(after all, the word “chia” is actually the ancient Mayan word for “strength”….and treasured to much that the seeds were often offered to Aztec gods in religious ceremonies as far back as 3500 BC.
Today the seeds are grown in Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Argentina, Australia, and the United States…and the chia seed market is projected to reach more than two billion dollars in sales by 2022.
Since the days of chia pets, chia has been declared a “superfood”…making it a popular treat for health-conscious people all over the world…added to porridge, salads or yogurt….used to thicken sauces…as a replacement for eggs… made into pudding…used in baked goods…and so forth.
And touted for their health benefits—such as lowering cholesterol, improving gut health, reducing appetite and weight, lowering triglycerides, and improving blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics.
Let’s take a closer look….
Chia seeds…1/2C…Despite their small size, chia seeds are chock full of important nutrients…including iron, calcium, antioxidants, fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and various micronutrients.
One ounce of chia seeds contains…
- Fiber: 11 grams.
- Protein: 4 grams.
- Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are omega-3s).
- Calcium: 18% of the RDI.
- Manganese: 30% of the RDI.
- Magnesium: 30% of the RDI.
- Phosphorus: 27% of the RDI.
Chia seeds are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet…because these tiny seeds deliver such a powerful nutritional punch for very few calories.
Not only do chia seeds offer these important nutrients at a higher amount calorie for calorie than most other foods, they are also a whole-grain food…usually grown organically…non-GMO…and naturally free of gluten.
Antioxidants…Chia seeds contain high levels of the antioxidants that your body needs to protect you from the free radicals, which can damage your cells and contribute to aging and diseases like cancer. These antioxidants keep the seeds from getting rancid.
Calcium…Chia seeds contain high levels of calcium…18%RDI per ounce…which is more than most dairy products.
Fiber…Chia seeds contain twelve grams of carbs per ounce…eleven of which are soluble fiber, fiber which doesn’t raise your blood sugar or require insulin to be disposed of. as opposed to “digestible” carbs like starch and sugar.
Protein...Chia seeds are an excellent source of protein…14% protein…which is very high compared to most plants and is very important, especially for people who eat little or no animal products.
Protein is important for many reasons, but for me personally perhaps the best benefit is the fact that protein is by far the most weight loss friendly dietary nutrient because protein lowers your appetite and obsessive thoughts about food by as much as sixty percent.
Not only do chia seeds contain large amounts of protein, they also contain many of the essential amino acids that help your body use this protein more efficiently.
Chia seeds have become a more and more popular “staple food” in the last few years not only because of their nutritional value, but also their alleged health benefits…which include…
Blood Sugar Control…Chia seeds are high in fiber…fiber that not only lowers your risk of developing type 2 diabetes…but also metabolic syndrome and heart disease…fiber that is also so important for reducing insulin resistance and improving blood sugar control.
Blood sugar levels often spike temporarily after meals, but eating chia seeds may prevent this, but studies have shown that eating bread made with chia seeds is less likely to affect your blood sugar than more traditional breads.
Bone Health…Chia seeds contain several nutrients—including calcium, magnesium and phosphorus—that are important for keeping your bones healthy. Gram for gram, chia seeds contain more calcium than dairy products. One ounce of chia seeds contains 18%DV calcium.
Digestion…The fiber contained in chia seeds helps prevent constipation and promote regular bowel movements.
Heart…Chia seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids that help prevent heart disease—including heart attack, stroke, and sudden cardiac death—by lowering LDL, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels…reducing plaque…lowering blood pressure…reducing inflammation, insulin resistance, and belly fat…raising “good “ HDL cholesterol….reducing blood pressure in people with hypertension.
Inflammation…Inflammation, such as red and swollen skin, is your body’s normal response to infection or injury, This inflammation helps your body heal and fight off bacteria, viruses and other infectious agents…but sometimes excessive inflammation can lead to health conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
Inflammation is measured by inflammatory markers. Studies have shown that eating chia seed regularly can reduce these inflammatory marker by as much as 40%.
Chia seeds contain antioxidants that help fight off this inflammation.
Weight Management…Chia seeds can help you maintain a healthy weight because they contain high amounts of fiber…39%DV per ounce….nearly 5g per 1Tbsp…as well as protein. Soluble fiber found in the seeds absorbs water, causing them to expand in your stomach and making you feel fuller faster while eating less. Chia seeds also contain high levels of protein, omega-3-fatty acids and alpha-linoleic acid which may also be useful for weight loss by helping to keep you from feeling so hungry and eating so much.
Chia seeds will “stay good” for up to five years if stored in a cool, dry spot.
Chia seeds can typically be found in any major grocery store, but can also be bought off Amazon.
Chia seeds have a mild, nutty flavor…in fact, they have hardly any distinctive flavor, if any, and will not compete with other flavors in any given dish…making it possible to make a given food softer and more delicious…as well as more nutritious.
Chia seeds are a highly versatile ingredient. They can be used raw—sprinkled into salads, soups, stews, salad dressings, vegetable dishes, rice dishes, marinades, cereal, porridge, pudding, yogurt, oatmeal, or smoothies. They can also be used to cook with—as in baked goods such as crackers, cake, bread and muffins. They are great for thickening sauces and using as an egg substitute in recipes. They can be mixed with water and turned into a gel because of their ability to absorb both water and fat.
In the next few posts, we will take a look at ways that you can actually use those chia seeds you probably bought when you first decided to eat healthier, but still haven’t figured out what to do with…
So keep reading…