The Amazing Chia Seed!
by Carolyn Burris
When you think of the word “chia” your first thought is probably a television ad, right? Remember the chia plant pets growing in clay pots? While we are familiar with the plant, most people know very little about the chia seeds’ exceptional nutritional value and medicinal benefits.
Chia, also called Salvia hispanica, is a flowering plant native to Central and South America. These seeds were important to ancient Aztec and Mayan diets and medicine.
For centuries, this tiny little seed was used as a staple food by the Indians. Known as the running food, this high-energy, endurance food was used by the Aztec warriors during their conquests. The Indians of the southwest would subsist on as little as a teaspoon when going on a 24-hour forced march. It was recorded that Indians running from the Colorado River to the California coast to trade turquoise for seashells would only bring the chia seeds for their nourishment.
So what are some of the health benefits of chia seeds? To begin with, these seeds are very high in antioxidants. Nutrition Data also shows that chia seeds are a good source of:
Chia seeds also offer an excellent source of plant protein and contain:
- iron molybedenum
Another health benefit is their high content of omega-3 which helps by keeping inflammation down and providing a healthy ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
A recent study was done on the health benefits of chia by Dr. David Nieman, Director of the Human Performance Research Lab at the Appalachian State University in North Carolina. Dr. Nieman states “chia seeds are the best plant source for omega-3 fatty acids”. According to the American Heart Association, omega-3 fatty acids can stabilize blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels, while helping promote healthy heart and vascular health.
Chia can absorb a whopping 12+ times its weight in water while flaxseed, though a healthy food, only absorbs 6-8 times its weight. The fiber content for one ounce of chia seeds is a whopping 11 grams! This includes both soluble and insoluble fiber which reduces digestive transit time and removes toxins as it passes through the digestive tract. This, in turn, may keep insulin requirements low.
Though there are other benefits, the last I will mention is chia’s high fiber content and its ability to reduce blood sugar levels after meals. This can then inhibit the appetite and make it a regular staple for healthy, effective weight loss.
Chia seeds have a mild, nutty flavor and can be easily added to your diet. Typically, the amount one can consume is from 1 – 3 tablespoons per day. You can add chia seeds to drinks, sprinkle in cereals, or add to stir-fry, salads, baked goods and desserts. They do not have to be ground to be eaten and are more stable with a longer shelf life then flaxseeds. Thus, they can be stored for long periods.
There are various websites with a variety of recipes and specifics on how to add chia seeds into your diet and cooking. To use as an egg replacer combine 1 teaspoon of ground chia seeds (white preferred for color) with 3 tablespoons of water and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes until mixture thickens. This is equivalent to one egg. This is a great egg replacer for egg-sensitive people.
Here is a simple recipe that would be a quick meal or snack. Enjoy!
Banana Nut Butter Roll-Up
- 1 whole wheat or sprouted grain tortilla (Note: can use gluten free tortilla instead)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon nut butter (peanut, almond, sunflower, etc.)
- 1 banana
- ½ tablespoon chia seeds
Note: Can use small amount of raw honey as well.
- Spread tortilla with the nut butter.
- Place banana on one side of the tortilla and sprinkle with chia seeds.
- Roll tortilla and banana until the banana is completely wrapped in the tortilla.
Note: if using honey, spread it on the tortilla after you add the nut but