Cha-cha-cha-chia…. you remember the Chia Pet?? Now, health food stores are making claims that these tiny seeds are packed with nutrients and can help curb hunger. Chia is a type of seed that come from the Mexican desert plant called Salvia hispanica. “Chia” actually means strength. The ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures ate these seeds for energy because they contain carbohydrates, protein, calcium, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. A single ounce, which is about 2 tablespoons, contains 12 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat, as well as other vitamins and minerals that can be absorbed by the body.
Most people consume chia seeds with other foods or in beverages. They have a mild, nutty taste. When mixed with water, they make a gel. Popular uses include on top of yogurt or cereal, with vegetables, in baked goods, or with rice.
The most appealing benefit of chia seeds is the claim that they aid with weight loss. These seeds are supposed to expand the belly upon consumption, which in turn makes a person fuller, meaning they will eat let, and thus weight loss will result. The evidence validating this is limited. Therefore, realistically, it is not the miracle weight loss aid. However, the USDA does claim that chia seeds contain no cholesterol, are a good source of energy, protein, fat, carbohydrates, and fiber. They also contain vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin A, sodium, and zinc. They also contain the following antioxidants which help fight free radicals in the body: flavanol glycosides, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, kaempferol, quercetin, myricetin, and linolenic acid. Chia seeds have also been linked to raising good HDL levels and are a heart healthy food containing omega-3 fatty acids which help lower bad LDL cholesterol levels. They contain more than salmon or flax seeds. These seeds also contain fiber which help with the digestive system. Once the seeds enter the stomach, they become a gel that acts like a probiotic. Chia seeds can also help lower blood sugar levels which is great news for diabetics. The carbohydrates in these seeds are slowly released so they do not cause an insulin spike.
The list of benefits continues. Chia seeds contain more calcium than skimmed milk and boron which helps metabolize calcium. This is important for bone health and can even help your teeth. Chia seeds are known for their energy boosting power, which many athletes utilize for performance improvement. These seeds also contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which helps reduce inflammation in the joints and arteries. Chia seeds also are great for pregnant women because they aid in the baby’s brain development.
Quite the list of benefits for such teeny tiny little seeds. Super foods have the power to benefit the body in so many ways. A little goes a long way. Whole food nutrition is absorbed and utilized by the body to improve functions and help a person perform at their best.