What are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds are currently one of the most popular ‘superfoods’ that are readily available on the market, and they are spreading around the healthcare community like wildfire due to their stance as a must have product. These tiny, black seeds come from a type of plant called Salvia Hispanica, a member of the mint family that grows as a native plant in South America.
They are completely edible seeds, which are a type of unprocessed, whole-grain food that can actually be absorbed by the body in their natural form (unlike flaxseeds), which means that they can easily be used as part of a healthy diet to promote a healthy lifestyle. This is mostly because they contain an enormous amount of nutrients, packaged in the form of an incredibly small number of calories.
Natural chia seeds are also high in essential vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants. They also contain a high amount of fibre, which helps your digestion, while also helping your body absorb vital nutrients from certain types of food. Chia seeds can easily be added to a variety of different meals, making them a versatile product.
The Origin of Chia Seeds
Salvia Hispanica, the plant on which chia seeds can be found, was originally grown across Mexico. It is believed that these plants were cultivated between 1500 and 900BC. Chia seeds were highly valued by communities across South America, mostly due to their supposed medicinal properties and their high nutritional value, they were also used as a type of currency for a number of years.
After the Spanish conquest, the use of chia seeds was completely banned. This is because chia seeds were frequently used in religious ceremonies as offerings, which led to the Spanish banning the crop because of its association with religion. The Spanish went on to replace native crops with foreign species that were in demand across Europe, like wheat and barley.
The word ‘chia’ actually means ‘strength’ in the Mayan language, and chia seeds have an impressive legendary history that perfectly matches that translation. It is believed that Aztec warriors would actually eat them to gain both high energy and high endurance and that they believed that a single mouthful of chia seeds could keep them going for an entire day.
Chia seeds were also known as ‘runner’s food’ to ancient communities because they would be eaten by people who needed additional levels of endurance. Runners would use them as a type of fuel if they had to cover long distances, and warriors would use them during vigorous battles.
Despite this intense history, chia seeds have actually only recently become the superfood that the modern world recognizes them as.
Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds have actually been linked to an impressive number of different health benefits, ranging from their ability to reduce the natural signs of aging, to the way that they can be used to promote healthy weight loss. It is worth noting that only a few studies have been done that show the health benefits that can come with the consumption of chia seeds, but more studies are being done on a frequent basis.
It is highly advisable that pregnant women consume chia seeds. This is because pregnancy can deplete the body of important nutrients, and nutrient-rich chia seeds can be used on a regular basis to replace them. It is also easy to add chia seeds to a normal diet, making them desirable. Chia seeds are also incredibly high in plant protein, making them a useful source of protein for people who follow strict vegetarian and vegan diets.
The seeds themselves can also be used as a weight loss aid because they have the ability to make people feel much fuller than they actually are. This is because chia seeds absorb water to the point where they can grow up to 15x bigger than their standard size. Some people soak them in water before consuming them, which is generally advisable. You would have to drink a lot of water to eat them raw. Otherwise, the chia seeds would expand from within you using water from your own body, which would have the potential to leave you dehydrated.
Chia seeds also have the ability to enhance both brain and heart health, simply because they contain a large amount of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which is a plant form of standard omega-3 fatty acids. Some companies do use marketing to insist that chia seeds contain a higher amount of omega-3 fatty acids than marine sources do, but they neglect to explain that your body finds it easier to absorb these from marine sources.
The Downside of Chia Seeds
One excellent thing about chia seeds is that it seems as though there are very few side effects that can occur upon consumption. Some people do experience slight stomach discomfort, especially if they eat a lot of chia seeds in one sitting. This is just due to the high fiber content that can be found in chia seeds. As a rule of thumb, you should always eat chia seeds in moderation, and make sure that you drink a lot of water.
There has been a small amount of conflicting research when it comes to the effect that the consumption of chia seeds has on cancer, specifically prostate cancer. It was found that alpha linolenic acid (ALA) could actually increase the risk of prostate cancer (1), but the study was later shown to have a little bit of bias. A study published in 2010 found that alpha linolenic acid had a weak preventative measure against prostate cancer, but it concluded that further research would need to be done (2).
It should be noted that chia seeds should always be eaten slowly, especially if you are eating them raw. One man ate a tablespoon of completely raw chia seeds, following them immediately with a glass of water. The chia seeds then absorbed this water and completely blocked the man’s esophagus. It took doctors several hours to remove the seeds (3). By letting the seeds fully expand in liquid first, you get rid of this risk. Due to this risk, you should never let small children consume raw chia seeds.
Nutritional Value of Chia Seeds
In approximately 28g of chia seeds, you will find:
Chia seeds also contain omega-3 fatty acids, in the form of alpha linolenic acid (ALA). You can also find Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E in the seeds. As well as a number of minerals, including sulfur, iron, iodine, magnesium, and thiamine.
5 Best Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
1. Chia seeds can help fight breast and cervical cancer.
There will always be someone that promises you a miracle cure when it comes to specific types of cancer, but chia seeds really can help fight breast and cervical cancer. In 2013 a study was published in the Journal of Molecular Biochemistry (4). It found that the alpha linolenic acid within chia seeds limited the actual growth of cancer cells in both types of cancer. It also found that the cell death of the cancerous cells did not affect the healthy cells surrounding them and that more research should be done immediately.
2. Chia seeds can help keep your skin looking young and refreshed.
A study done by researchers in Mexico found that the antioxidant concentration that can be found in chia seeds was at least two times higher than was previously believed(5). This means that the antioxidants in chia seeds have the ability to stop up to 70% of free radical activity. Free radical activity is a toxic by-product of oxygen metabolism that can do a lot of damage to living cells and tissues. This cell damage can have a large effect on the way that your body appears to age. The use of antioxidants can also speed up the way that the skin repairs itself, while also helping to prevent any further damage.
3. Chia seeds can be an amazing source of fiber and healthy weight loss.
You can find around 10.6g of fiber in every 28g of chia seeds. This alone means that one single serving of chia seeds can actually offer you your recommended fiber intake for the entire day. Fiber is an essential part of our diet, as it affects everything from our bowel regularity to the way that our body balances our insulin levels.
A study that was published in 2014 found that chia seeds can help to promote healthy weight loss(6). This is because the seeds can naturally curb your hunger and suppress your appetite, due to the way that they swell up with water after they have been consumed. This leaves people feeling full, resulting in a natural weight loss as they eat less.
4. Chia seeds can boost your energy and metabolism.
In 2011, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning published a study that found that chia seeds have the ability to boost both your energy and your metabolism(7). The study used two separate groups of athletes, half of whom consumed Gatorade and half of whom consumed a mixture of both Gatorade and chia seeds.
The study found that both groups were just as effective as each other, meaning that chia seeds have the ability to enhance exercise performance in the same way that a common sports drink would, without the unhealthy sugars that can be found in sports drinks. Other studies have also shown that the addition of chia seeds into a diet can dramatically reduce visceral adipose tissue, a type of belly fat that has a large effect on metabolism.
5. Chia seeds can be used to help treat diverticulosis and diverticulosis disease.
Diverticulosis is horrible, and it can have some incredibly painful complications. People who have either the condition or the disease have to adapt their diets and their lifestyles, and chia seeds can be a worthwhile addition. They help by absorbing water from the colon, making bowel movements easier to pass. They also serve as an excellent way of getting a large amount of fiber into the diet, which is completely necessary for people with either diverticulosis or diverticulosis disease.
How do you use chia seeds?
The way that you have to use chia seeds is probably the best thing about them. You can use chia seeds however you want to, as their use really is limitless. They are a versatile ingredient that can easily be added to a number of recipes. You could have them soaked in your porridge, or raw as an ingredient in your muesli.
Before you start adding them to recipes, you need to decide whether or not you want to eat them raw or soaked. As long as you eat them slowly, it won’t hurt to eat them raw. Soaking them often makes it easier for the body to digest them, and it gives your body access to all of the important nutrients that are inside of the chia seeds.
If you do want to soak your chia seeds, you should do so with a ratio of 1.5 tablespoons of chia seeds to one cup of water, as you want it to form a gel, opposed to using too much water. Chia seeds that have been soaked make a wonderful addition to smoothies and soups, as it can thicken them both up.
Another option that you have would be to grind the chia seeds, something that can be done using a simple coffee grinder. Chia seed flour can be used in a large number of gluten-free recipes, making everything from pancakes and muffins to bread and pasta. It should be noted that chia seed flour needs to be stored in a sealed container, ideally in a refrigerator or a freezer.
What should you think about when you buy chia seeds?
You should start by thinking about the way that you are going to consume chia seeds. You should always start by consuming chia seeds gradually. Otherwise, you may experience stomach cramps due to the sudden amount of fiber. You should make sure that you only have a few chia seeds to start with, with a large amount of water to counteract the water that the chia seeds will absorb from you.
You should always choose an organic brand when you come to purchase your chia seeds. What you are looking for is a high-quality product, opposed to a product that is mass produced by cutting corners. Your chia seeds should be both non-GMO, and non-irradiated. They should also have been produced without the use of pesticides, especially if you plan on eating them raw.
Are Chia Seeds Really a Superfood?
Do chia seeds really deserve their superfood status? In reality, they do. They contain a large amount of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids in a small package, both of which are completely necessary for our bodies to function correctly. They also contain high-quality protein, a handful of essential minerals, and a bucketful of antioxidants. The consumption of chia seeds has been proven to decrease the risk factors that are associated with heart disease and diabetes, while also improving our digestive health.
One thing that really does make chia foods a superfood is the fact that they are so versatile. They can be eaten raw, soaked, or even grounded in a coffee grinder. They have the ability to absorb more than 10x their weight in water, which means that they can easily be used to thicken other things up. Due to their bland flavor, they can be added to a variety of different food types, making them an easy way to access all of the nutrients that are hidden inside.
They can help you achieve joint health, heart health, and even brain health, while also leaving you with longer-lasting energy. Chia seeds really do deserve their superfood status, and everyone should be looking forward to future studies that involve their health benefits.