Chia, or salvia hispanica, seeds are small black and white seeds that are high in antioxidants. They were a staple of the Aztecs, who named them chian, meaning oily. They are high in Omega 3, but their high level of antioxidants make them superior to flax seeds. This antioxidant level keeps the seeds from spoiling, so they are extremely shelf-stable and aren't adversely affected by the heat, like flax seeds are.
Chia seeds can be eaten straight with no grinding required. They have a mild taste, so they can be added to cereal or smoothies without affecting the flavor. In water, they quickly become soft and form a gel. This can be eaten on its own or used in recipes to replace eggs.
Chia seeds are low in sodium and are cholesterol free. An ounce serving has 139 calories and a 1GI for diabetics. It's a suitable food source for vegetarians and vegans. It's a raw food and is gluten-free.
Chia Seeds Nutritional Value
Chia seeds are a nutritional powerhouse, especially in regards to essential fatty acids (EFAs). Chia seeds are 30% oil. This oil is in a 3:1 ratio of omega 3 to omega 6. This makes it one of the richest plant sources of EFAs, especially alpha-linolenic acid. The body is unable to manufacture this and must get it from dietary sources. Alpha-linolenic acid's tasks include nourishing nerves, skin cells, and mucus membranes, regulating blood coagulation, and helping with respiration of the vital organs. The essential fatty acids in chia seeds are protected from oxidation by the antioxidants which prevent the seed from becoming rancid.
The antioxidants in chia seeds include caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, quercetin, myricetin, and kaempferol flavonols. These antioxidants have other functions beyond protecting the EFAs. Caffeic acid functions as a carcinogenic inhibitor and has tumor-shrinking properties. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. Chlorogenic acid is also a tumor inhibitor and appears to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal effects.
Chia seeds are also a good source of both protein and fiber. They are 20% protein and provide superior quality protein compared to oats, soy, wheat, amaranth, corn, barley, or rice. Two tablespoons provide four grams of protein and seven grams of fiber. The high fiber content makes them appealing to dieters because it helps in maintaining a full feeling.
Other nutrients found in chia seeds are B vitamins, calcium, potassium, zinc copper, phosphorus, and boron. It has six times more calcium than milk and the boron aids in transferring that calcium to the bones. It's a better source of potassium than bananas and has three times the iron as spinach. Additionally, it has more antioxidants than blueberries.
How to Prepare Chia Seeds
With so many ways to prepare, is is easy to add chia seeds to any diet. They can be eaten straight from the container, though this is bland and will require a lot of chewing. Since they aren't flavorful, they can be sprinkled on salads, cereal, or added to smoothies.
A traditional method of preparation is the chia fresca. This is a popular drink in Mexico. Simply add two teaspoons to 8 ounces of water and flavor with sugar, lemon or lime juice. Stir it together and you'll have a refreshing, slightly gelled liquid.
Chia seeds absorb water and other liquids rapidly, and can absorb nine times their weight in water. Because of this, one of the easiest ways to consume this superfood is in gel form. Start with two cups of water (or juice) and add 1/3 cup of seeds. Stir it so that it won't clump, then seal it and place it in the fridge. It will form a gel in about ten minutes, though some seeds may still be crunchy. This mixture can be stored for three weeks and can be eaten straight or added to salad dressings and smoothies.
Chia Seeds for Running Endurance
Chia seeds for running endurance is one of the most popular usages. After all, it's one of the main foods that was used by the Tarahumara long-distance runners of Mexico. It gives you protein that your body needs and it will keep you hydrated. Both of these things are vital to running endurance. Start by incorporating some chia seeds with your breakfast in the morning. A nice mixture is a bowl of three to four tablespoons of chia seeds along with some buckwheat groats and goji berries. Sweeten it with cinnamon and honey. Pour whatever milk or milk substitute you use over it. I like hemp seed milk for its nutritional value. If you are going to be running for a long time, prepare some chia seed paste the day before that you'll be able to carry with you. This will help keep you energized and hydrated during the run.
Chia Seeds and Weight Loss
Now, this isn't a miracle food for weight loss. Those don't exist. But chia seeds can help you lose weight for a couple of different reasons. The main reason is that they are very filling. Have a tablespoon of chia seeds and water a couple of hours before your meals. You won't be as hungry so you won't eat as much. They are also a good snack to have during the day if you find yourself hungry and without energy. Having these instead of an unhealthy snack will give you the energy you need to get through the day. And on very few calories.
Chia seeds are also good because they help clear you out. Over-the-counter colon cleanses are often unhealthy or even dangerous. Here is a natural food that will bulk up and help clear you out without being an extreme measure.
More Benefits of Chia Seeds
Although chia has been around since the Aztecs, only a few studies have been done on the healthy benefits of this food. So far it seems to be beneficial in many aspects, and has been reported to help with diabetes, thyroid problems, celiac disease, IBS, and cholesterol. Diabetics find it beneficial due to is blood thinning and anti-inflammatory properties.
Though chia seeds aren't extremely well-known, they are one of the best sources of antioxidants on the market. They are easy to store, easy to digest, and a favorite food source of a growing number of people.