Looking back in time, we can trace chia seeds back to their origin in Central America, where they were a staple food for the ancient Aztecs. Not all that long ago what that came to mind when people heard the name chia seed was the “Chia Pet” clay figurine. Today we have a large body of research on the health promoting benefits of chia seeds. Today the word chia is synonymous with the word superfood!
Here is a quick overview of the nutritional profile of chia seeds. The data comes from the USDA Nutrient Data Library:
- The protein content of chia seeds is impressive. They are composed of approximately 20% protein containing all the essential amino acids.
- The following vitamins are found in chia seeds: vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin E.
- Chia seeds are a very good source of important minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, manganese, phosphorus, and boron. By weight, chia has more calcium than cow’s milk and about six times the iron of spinach. The line-up of bone building minerals in these super seeds is outstanding
- They are also a great source of fiber. Just two tablespoons contain about ten grams.
- These little seeds are extremely high in antioxidants. Especially the dark colored ones. Some sources show them to be around the same level as blueberries. The high level of antioxidants preserve the nutritional value of this superfood, even if it has been ground up!
- Chia seeds are a very good source of omega 3 essential fatty acids. Among the long list of benefits of omega 3 fatty acids are their anti-inflammatory and mind boosting effects. Chia seeds also contain most of the nutrients that our bodies need to convert the omega 3 fats to EPA and DHA!
The ‘no worries’ list for chia seeds is also impressive!
- No need to worry about chia going rancid on you; at room temperature they will stay fresh for over two years!
- It is said that insects don’t colonise chia plants and there is no need for farmers to spray them with pesticides.
- Nor do we have to worry about genetic modification as, for now, chia seeds are non GMO!
- Chia seeds do not need to be ground up to have the nutrients digest and absorb, unlike flaxseeds that need to be ground to gain access to their nutrients.
- With growing awareness of the damaging effects of gluten, it is great to know that chia seeds are gluten free!
- And of course, chia seeds are cholesterol free!
- Add them to a child’s diet for extra nutrition. Chia seeds make a great pudding! Just soak for a while, mix in sweetener, and eat!
- They can be added to soups, smoothies, dressings, and much more to increase the nutrient profile. Try adding them to drinking water!
- They can even be used as a cholesterol-free egg replacer! Chia seeds swell when coming in contact with liquids and form a gel. For each egg called for in a recipe, simply mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and wait for about 15 minutes. Then use the mixture in your recipe just as you would use an egg. The gelatinous chia seeds will increase the nutrient profile of whatever you are preparing!
My personal experiences with chia seeds have always been amazing! For many years I have been adding them to my smoothies and I also make chia pudding every so often. If you haven’t tried them yet, you’re missing out on a precious gift from nature!Learn more about Dr. Craig Sommers
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