Chia seeds, also known as Salvia Hispanica, is a seed grown primarily in southern Mexico. These miniature powerhouses are extremely nutritious, readily available, inexpensive, and versatile. They are made up of 22% of protein, 35% of healthy fats, and abundant amounts of dietary fiber. With 10-11 grams of fiber per ounce, chia seeds deliver over 40% of the recommended daily value of fiber with a single serving. The fiber helps slow digestion and makes you feel fuller by soaking up fluid and expanding in your digestive tract. A unique characteristic of chia is its nutritional content:
3-5 times more calcium than milk.
3 times more iron than spinach.
8 times more omega 3s than salmon.
15 times more magnesium than broccoli.
3 times more antioxidants than blueberries.
Among the numerous benefits of chia is their high omega 3 content, higher than even flaxseed. Another benefit of chia over flaxseed is that due to their high antioxidant content, their storage life is extremely long. Chia seeds do not have the rancidity issues that affect other sources of fatty acids. Also, unlike flax seeds, they are very bioavailable and do not need to be ground or crushed before eaten for optimal absorption. They´re also a great source of fiber, and chock full of minerals including magnesium, calcium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, iron, and zinc as well as B vitamins.
Their versatility and unique nutritional content makes chia seeds a great choice for those suffering from numerous health conditions. Chia helps control blood sugar, as well as lowers cholesterol and blood pressure. It helps improve memory and mood, and also improves the overall health of skin, teeth, and nails. Yet another advantage unique to chia seeds: when added to water and allowed to sit for 30 minutes, chia seeds form a gel. Researchers suggest that a similar reaction takes place in the stomach, slowing the process by which digestive enzymes break down carbohydrates and convert them into sugar. This can prove as a great benefit in weight management endeavors. Also, chia gel can replace eggs in vegan versions of various types of baked goods. If making chia gel, use 1 part chia to 9 parts liquid. Mix well, and allow 10 minutes for the seeds to fully hydrate.
In the culinary world, chia seeds also have unique characteristics that are making them a more popular choice in ethnic foods from around the world. Their mild nutlike flavor and solid consistency provide them with a versatility that makes them a great addition to yogurt, smoothies, salads, baked goods, and almost anything you can imagine. Their consistency and internal properties allow them to be a healthy substitute for butter and/or eggs while baking, which makes chia a favorite among vegetarians and vegans alike. Until recently, chia was produced by only a few small growers, but commercial production has resumed in Latin America, and you can now buy the seeds online and in health food stores. Because of their unique nutritional value and stability, chia is already being added to a range of foods. Another bonus: insects don’t like the chia plant so it is easier to find organically grown varieties. Although already featured on many health blogs, magazines, articles, and even The Dr. Oz TV Show, be on the look out as we´ll undoubtedly be hearing much more about chia and its health benefits in the near future.