Many people are still unaware of these super seeds and their amazing health benefits. They are easy to add to your diet and are a powerhouse of nutrients.
Chia (Salvia hispánica) is a small flowering plant belonging to the mint family, and native to parts of South America. Aztecs and Mayan people have relied through the centuries on the seeds produced as a rich and filling source of protein in addition to harnessing their intrinsic health benefits. At one stage these ancient peoples also traded them as currency, and offered to the Gods during religious ceremonies, such was their value to society.
Two tablespoons of the seeds contain 138 calories, 9 grams of fat, 10 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein and is also rich in calcium. They are a plentiful source of fiber and omega 3 healthy fats.
Here are some of the reasons why we should consider adding chia seeds to our diets.
1. PROTEIN PACKED
Protein is essential in everyone’s diet. It helps form the structural component of body tissues and is vital for many biological processes. The most common protein sources are dairy, meat, eggs, fish, beans and nuts. Chia seeds are a great source of protein especially for vegetarians and vegans. A serving of 28g (approx 2 tablespoons or 1 ounce) contains around 10% of our recommended intake.
Calcium is vital to grow and maintain health bones and teeth. It is also important to consume enough calcium to help prevent osteoporosis. A serving of these seeds will provide 18% of our adult recommended intake. Gram for gram, this is higher than most dairy products. Chia seeds may be considered an excellent source of calcium for people who don’t eat dairy.
Adequate fiber helps promote healthier bowel function, controls blood sugar and cholesterol levels as well as keeping you fuller for longer. One serving gives you around a third of the recommended daily intake for adults.
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are one of the essential nutrients for health. They are necessary for many normal body functions, including controlling blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids are also associated with many health benefits, including protection against heart disease and possibly stroke. Many experts say they have potential to reduce the risk of conditions including cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and other autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. For optimum health, you should aim to get at least one rich source of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet every day. Chia seeds provide almost 5g in a serving.
Chia seeds are a rich source of antioxidants (i). These are vital to combat the harmful free radicals. Free radicals, formed from a natural process called oxidation, can damage body cells and tissues as well as our actual DNA. It has been widely documented that damage caused by oxidation leads to the onset of a wealth of health problems such as cancer, heart disease, cataracts, arthritis and ageing.
6. HEART DISEASE AND DIABETES
Owing to the high fiber and protein content, these seeds improve metabolic health and slow digestion. Research has shown that chia seeds can lower triglycerides, raise HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and reduce inflammation, insulin resistance and belly fat (ii), (iii). The gelatinous type coating that these seeds develop when exposed to liquids can also prevent blood sugar spikes.
7. FAT AND WEIGHT LOSS
Chia seeds are made up of good fats, which your body needs. A healthy brain consists of two thirds fat. The high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber can help to reduce belly fat. The fiber absorbs large amounts of water and expands in the stomach, which should increase fullness and slow the absorption of food. When the seeds absorb water, they form a sort of gelatin. This gelatin results in a slow release of carbohydrates, meaning a slow conversion into glucose/blood sugar for energy.
8. GLUTEN AND GRAIN FREE
Chia is free from gluten and free from grain. This means it is a healthy addition to people suffering from celiac disease, or to those following strict gluten or grain free diets.
9. OTHER MINERALS
A serving of chia seeds contains 18% of the RDI for calcium, 35% for phosphorus, 24% for magnesium and about 50% for manganese. These vital nutrients can help to prevent hypertension, maintain a healthy weight, keep energy levels up, and boost metabolism.
10. IMPROVING SLEEP
Chia seeds contain tryptophan. This is an amino acid that aids good moods, good sleep patterns and a sense of calm. Tryptophan can invoke a feeling of sleepiness (also in turkey) and can help regulate appetite.
How to include Chia Seeds in your diet:
You can use these versatile seeds in juices, smoothies, salads, yogurts, cereals, sprinkled over oatmeal or to vegetables or rice dishes. They can also be used in baking as flour or egg substitutes.