Chia seeds are native to South America and have been part of the Aztec and Mayan diet for hundreds of years. In recent years, the natural health foods community has become very much interested in this ancient superfood for its powerful health benefits.
Chia seeds are very rich in nutrients and antioxidants, and provide energy, strength, and endurance, making them a favored health food among runners and other athletes. They’re naturally gluten-free, cholesterol-free, and very easy to digest – even in raw, whole form. Chia is also a complete source of protein, containing twice the amount of any other seed or grain.
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds are one of the richest plant-based sources of these fatty acids, making them great for reducing inflammation and enhancing cognitive performance. They’re also very high in fiber – 2 tablespoons contain 10 grams of fiber, which is one-third of the daily recommended fiber intake!
Chia seeds not only provide energy and strength, but they also curb appetite due to the high protein and fiber content. The seeds’ soluble fiber also allows them to absorb water and expand to become gel-like, increasing the size and weight of the seeds, and therefore making you feel fuller, longer.
This gel-like consistency that chia seeds obtain may also occur in the stomach, slowing down the body’s conversion of starches into sugars, and stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Since chia seeds can absorb large amounts of water quickly, making them hydrophilic, they can hold 10 times their weight in water. This makes them a great tool for hydrating our bodies, which can be very useful for athletes or anyone looking to improve their day to day endurance.
The balance of high essential fatty acids in chia seeds means they can reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure. The can also lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels while increasing HDL or “good” cholesterol, making them a great way to reduce the risk of heart disease.
The soluble fibre in chia, giving it that gelatinous coating, keeps the colon hydrated, helps to eliminate accumulated waste and helps to regulate bowel movements.
Because chia seeds expand when mixed with liquids, they can be used in place of eggs in various foods and baked goods, making them a great substitute for vegans and those with egg allergies. You can make the egg replacement by mixing 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and letting it sit for 15 minutes, then use in your recipe.
How to Use Chia Seeds
Because chia seeds have a neutral flavor, they can be added to just about anything without altering the flavor of the food. Keep in mind that heat destroys essential fatty acids, so using chia seeds in anything that will be cooked will kill the EFAs, although there are still many other health benefits that can be achieved. Some ideas for incorporating chia seeds into your diet include:
- Eat them raw
- Add to smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt.
- Add to baked goods
- Sprinkle on salads
- Add to stir fries
- Stir it into juice
Where to Buy Chia Seeds
Chia seeds come in both black and white variety, although there is no known difference between the two. Right now until May 1, 2013, Healthy Planet has the Ecoideas Organic Black Chia Seed on sale for $12.99 – that’s 13% off!
We also carry a wide variety of other chia seeds and chia seed products, including milled chia, chia powder, sprouted chia, and chia cereals.
About the Author:
Sarah UmmYousef is a former school teacher turned stay-at-home wife and mama with a passion for all things simple, natural, and homemade. She loves the natural world, and believes the solutions to many of the world’s ailments lie in nature. Her blog, Nature’s Nurture, began as a way to document her family’s journey to a greener home, but has since become a thriving community and resource for those wishing to take small steps towards a more eco-friendly, natural and sustainable lifestyle. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.