Chia seeds are typically small ovals, with a diameter of approx 1 mm. and are mottle-colored with brown, gray, black and white. Chia seeds typically contain 20% protein, 34% oil, and 25% dietary fiber. The oil from chia seeds contain a very high concentration of Omega 3 fatty acid - approx. 64% in the oil. Chia seeds contain no gluten.
Currently, chia seed is traditionally consumed in Mexico, the southwestern United States, and South America, but is not widely known in Europe. Jesuit chroniclers referred to chia as the third most important crop to the Aztecs, behind only corn and beans, and ahead of amaranth. Tribute and taxes to the Aztec priesthood and nobility were often paid in chia seed.
When allowed to sit in water for thirty minutes, Chia forms a gel. Researchers suggest the same thing occurs in the stomach, slowing the digestive enzymes which convert carbohydrates into sugar. According to researchers, there are other health benefits of chia seeds such as important antioxidants. Antioxidants reduce the effect of free radicals on the body, which may slow aging and may help prevent cancer. They also give the chia seeds a remarkable shelf life of nearly two years without refrigeration. Research also suggests that chia seeds are a good anti-inflammatory which explains their arthritis relief. Researchers say chia seeds may also provide satiety. Satiety is a feeling of fullness and satisfaction after consuming a meal. This may lead to less cravings for snacks between meals. Doctors say it’s a combination of the fiber, proteins and gelling effect which lead to this satisfied feeling.
Chia SeedsResearchers also say the chia seeds contain no gluten or grains so their benefits may be wielded even on a gluten free diet. It is even suggested by some that chia seeds can replace eggs in recipes. Simply mix one tablespoon of chia seeds with every three tablespoons of water and let it sit for fifteen minutes.
Even the British journal of nutrition (BJN) has published a study on the benefits of chia seeds. Substituting other sources of fats such as corn oil, will reduce triglycerides and increase good cholesterol or HDL and help to reduce central obesity. Research also suggests that chia seeds may play an important role in blood sugar regulation by reducing insulin resistance and decreasing high levels of insulin in the blood.
Grinding chia produces a meal called pinole, which can be made into porridge or cakes. Chia seeds soaked in water or fruit juice is also often consumed and is known in Mexico as chia fresca. The soaked seeds are gelatinous in texture and are used in gruels, porridges and puddings. Ground chia is used in baked goods including breads, cakes and biscuits. Chia sprouts are sometimes grown on porous clay figurines which has led to the popular (U.S.) cultural icon of the chia pet.
Chia seeds can be easily incorporated into ones diet and can be used with many other foods and beverages. Chia's hydrophilic structure holds water, so when mixed with sauces, drinks, yogurt, salad, dressings, cream cheese, jellies and preserves, salsa, hot/cold cereal, dips, puddings, soups, etc., it displaces calories and fat without diluting flavor. In addition to extending foods by 50% - 75% calories and fat have been reduced without compromising flavor, with an ingredient that is 90% water.
Chia Seed. Once valued so much that it was used as currency, this unique little seed has exceptional nutritive and structural benefits.
- Only 9 grams of fat
- No cholesterol
- 18% percent of calcium based on a 2,000 calorie diet
- 4 grams of protein based on a 2,000 calorie diet
- Only 5 grams of sodium
- No gluten
The medical community seems largely in agreement about the benefits of eating chia seeds because of a recognition of their many nutritional advantages, as well as their cholesterol lowering qualities.