Chia seeds – beneficial power hidden in the tiny seeds.
These tiny and inconspicuous seeds hide mighty healing power and energy dose that strengthens and nourishes the body. They are extremely nutritious and a source of invaluable health benefits.
Salvia hispanica is a plant native to Mexico and Guatemala with wide leaves and small, either purple or white flowers. Its fruit contains large amounts of oval seeds, called chia seeds.
In South America, chia seeds have been used for ages as a basis of the regional diet. The word “chia” originates from a word “chian”, which in Aztec language Nahuatl means “oily”. Chia seeds are still in common use in Mexico and Guatemala. Currently, chia is farmed mostly in Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Australia, and Guatemala, and its popularity is the biggest in these countries.
Due to its health benefits, Aztecs and Maya included chia in the five most crucial foods. They considered chia seeds to be helpful with maintaining good physical, psychological, and mental condition. For ages, chia was basic food and third, after beans and corn, most important crop for Indians in the south-west part of today’s Mexico. Aztec warriors ate chia seeds before fight to gain strength and durability. A chia seed can absorb twelve times its own weight of moisture. The warriors would keep a few chia seeds in their mouths, the seeds would increase their volume due to saliva or water, and thus the warriors stayed sedated for a long time and didn’t need more food. Legend has it that only 1 spoon of the seeds per day was enough to march for 24 hours without stopping. Today, chia seeds are called “runner’s food”, since they can increase durability during long and exhausting running competitions.
Aztecs consumed chia seeds every day – in bread, oatmeal, and drinks. They applied chia seeds oil to their skin and added it to the medicine. They ground chia seeds and mixed the received flour with other kinds of grain, such as corn and amarantus. Then they boiled it with water to receive nutritious mash called “atolli”. During holidays, they enjoyed chia seeds oatmeal sweetened with agave syrup and seasoned with chili. Chia seeds flour was also used for drinks: it was mixed with water and lemon juice, and seasoned with chili or sweetened with syrup. Today, this sweet drink is known and popular in south Mexico under the name of “chia fresca”.
Chia played crucial role in Aztec medicine. Chia seeds oil was applied to red, irritated eyes, and in inflammation conditions. Aztecs used chia to lower the fever and protect the body from dehydration during diarrhoea. The seeds were also used in the case of gastrointestinal problems, as well as skin problems, such as dryness, cuts, burns, and infections. Raw ground chia seeds were used as a diuretic and supportive medicine during childbirth. Many of Aztec medicinal uses of chia seeds have been proven by current scientific research.
Chia seeds properties
Chia seeds are currently counted among so-called world super food – super food that is a rich source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in optimal ratio. There are numerous products that contain fatty acids, but many of them consist of mostly Omega-6, while the most beneficial for the health of body and mind is proper ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6. Chia seeds oil contains 30% of Omega-3 acids and 40% of Omega-6 ones. They contain beneficial for health long-chain triglycerides in a proper ration, thus decreasing cholesterol concernments in the walls of blood vessels. ALA, DHA, EPA, and other Omega-3 acids are crucial for focus, memory, mood, and creativity. They prevent depression and dementia, and cause the feeling of happiness. Chia seeds are a rich source of Omega-3 acids.
Chia is also a source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It contains vitamins E, B1, B3, as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, and niacin. Chia is characterised by its high content of easily absorbed protein (about 20%), mostly water-solvent protein of high molecular mass. Due to its high content of fibre (about 25%, two teaspoons of chia contains as much as 7g of fibre), which is beneficial for digestive system, chia is recommended for overweight and obese people. It ensures feeling of satiety for a long time and supports digestion process. Chia improves nutrients absorption and hydration of the body, which in turn improves metabolic toxins removal and results in a fast metabolic utilisation in the body cells. This extremely effective assimilation makes chia an effective diet supplement, especially during the period of growth and development of children and youth. It also ensures proper growth and regeneration of tissues during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
Chia is a rich source of calcium and contains boron – a mineral crucial for calcium metabolism in the system. It is recommended for diabetics, since it slows sugar absorption and regulates its level in the blood.
Due to its hydrophilic properties, chia is an effective diet supplement for sportsmen. One of extraordinary qualities of chia seeds are their hydrophilic properties – the seeds may absorb 12 times their own weight of water. This property of maintaining colloidal water prolongs body hydration period. Liquids and electrolytes provide body with an environment which supports life processes of each cell. Electrolytes concentration and composition are regulated to maintain homeostasis as well as possible. Thanks to chia seeds consumption, our system receives a very affective regulation means of nutrients absorption and maintaining homeostasis of body fluids. This effectiveness results in a better utilisation of fluids in the body and ensures maintaining ionic balance of the system.
Nutritional values of chia:
15-23% protein (including necessary amino acids, such as lysine)
It has very low sodium content and is gluten-free.
Interestingly, chia seeds have high content of mineral nutrients, which is rare in the case of grain and oil plants.
This is what 100g of chia seeds contains as compared to other food products:
- 4 times more fibre then flax seeds
- 15 times more fibre then whole grain rice
- 2 times more fibre then wheat bran
- 3 times more fibre then oats
- 7 times more mineral nutrients than white rice
- 7 times more Omega-3 fatty acids than salmon
- 2 times more Omega-3 fatty acids than algae
- 5 times more protein than beans
- 1,6 times more protein than soy beans
- 2 times more potassium than banana
- od 4-6 times more iron than spinach
- 2 times more iron than lentils
- 2,4 times more iron than beef liver
- from 4-5 times more calcium than full milk
- 10 times more phosphorus than milk
- 8 times more magnesium than banana
- 12 times more magnesium than broccoli
- 7 times more vitamin C than oranges
- 2 times more vitamin E than wheatgerm
- 2,5 times more vitamin E than olive oil
- 4 times more folic acid than spinach
- more antioxidants than bilberries
ORAC (Oxygen radical absorbance capacity) value for chia seeds amounts to 7000 µmolTE / 100 g. For comparison, ORAC value for bilberries equals between 2230 to 6550, for broccoli 1263, and for spinach 1515.
Few other perks of chia:
- chia doesn’t have to be kept in the fridge
- it improves and softens taste of the meal
- thanks to the antioxidants content, it can be kept up to three years.
- as opposed to fish, as a source of Omega-3 fatty acids, it has low allergic potential
- chia contains complete amino acid profile, including eight exogenous amino acids which human body can’t synthesise on its own.
- has neutral taste
- stabilizes blood sugar (thanks to its swelling properties, chia causes carbohydrates to be digested slower)
- it ensures efficient digestion and intestines detoxication. It absorbs toxins like a sponge and causes their excretion.
- increases durability and physical efficiency
- unburdens heart and lowers blood pressure
- is gluten-free, so it can be consumed by people suffering from celiac
- prevents inflammation
- is perfect food for brain: Omega-3 acids improve focus, mental spped, and mood
Chia plays crucial role in fight against cancer due to its high content ofalpha-linolenic acid which has anti-inflammatory properties. Seeds are extremely rich in antioxidants (even more than bilberries) and thus support cells protection. Antioxidants support the immune system by catching free radicals and thus protect the body from cancer. A healthy lifestyle is one of the prime recommendations for cancer patients: consumption of a lot of fruit and vegetables from ecological farms which contain phytochemicals (ellagic acid, catechins, lycopene), a lot of sport on fresh air, and as little stress as possible. Another often recommendation is a consumption of “super foods”, such as moringa, papaya, chia seeds, AFA algae, or young barley juice, since they contain natural substances such as salvestrols, enzymes, food colourings, and other antioxidants, which can lead cancerous cells to apoptosis, which is a bit like a suicide. Chia seeds contain antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Beta-carotene, called also provitamin A, protects from carcinogenic results. Chia seeds contain B-group vitamins: thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), and niacin (B3). Thiamine is important for energy production in the cells. Niacin, thanks to produced from it NAD coenzyme, repairs damaged DNA, which is a significant risk factor of cancer. 100g of chia seeds contains 29mg of vitamin E – three times more than the same amount of wheatgerm does. Vitamin E stabilises fatty acids and is a strong antioxidant. It also slows the growth rate of cancerous cells, just like Omega-3 fatty acids and simultaneously supports immune system in its fight with cancer by increasing antibodies production rate. Chia seeds oil contains also beta-sitosterol, a strong antioxidant and plant sterol. Beta-sitosterol prevents colorectal cancer. Fibre in chia causes quick gastrointestinal passage and this way, also prevents colorectal cancer. Doctors and scientists recommend a 30g content of the fibre. As American scientists explain in „Journal of Molecular Biochemistryˮ, ALA induces apoptosis (death of cells) of certain cell lines responsible for development of breast and cervix cancer without damaging healthy cells. Thus, they confirm earlier research results published in „European Journal of Cancer” in 2000, which suggested that heightened concentration of ALA in the blood was correlated to lessened risk of breast carcinoma. Moreover, as we already know, chia seeds, besides alpha-linolenic acid contain also a lot of fibre and zinc – substances that also prevent cancer development.
Chia seeds are used in Polish cuisine more and more often. Due to their antioxidants content and research-proven nutritional properties, they are recommended by dieticians and consumed by people with high dietary awareness.
Thus, considering all these beneficial for health properties of chia seeds, one should incorporate them into the everyday diet. Depending on one’s needs and preferences, chia seeds can be prepared and consumed in a variety of ways:
• as an addition to salads, oatmeal, Muesli, boiled grains, potatoes, vegetables
• in smoothies
• ground as an addition to flour used for cakes, bread, and pancakes
• in puddings, sauces, as a soup thickener
• may be also sprouted.
Chia seeds, just like flax seed, create a gel when mixed with water. Consumed in this form, they prevent too fast absorption of carbohydrates (which is crucial for diabetics).
The seeds should be soaked in a clean water before they are used for any recipe. Chia seeds absorb at least 9 times their own weight of water during 10 minutes or less, depending on the temperature of the water.
If you try mixing a teaspoon of chia seeds into a glass of water and leaving it for about 30 minutes, the resulting mixture will look completely different from both seeds and the clear, liquid water – it will become a thick, spongy jelly. This reaction is caused by the fact that fibrin of chia seeds dissolves and gelates quickly and well in the water. The best ratio between water and seeds for most recipes is 9:1 in weight (9 parts of water for 1 part of seeds). Seeds cells which absorber water maintain it even mixed with other products, thus decreasing product calories count by increasing its volume. Moreover, they have no negative impact on the taste of the meal. Recommended daily consumption amount of chia seeds is 1 tablespoon (15-20 g).
We recommend two recipes for delicious and healthy fruit desserts with chia.
• 150g bilberries
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 tablespoon chia seeds or flax oil
• 2 tablespoons apple vinegar
• pinch of salt
• 2 tablespoons chia seeds
Blend all ingredients and leave to thicken.
Apple Banana Smoothie
• half banana
• 400ml apple juice
• 1 teaspoon of chia seeds
• 1-2 teaspoon of honey (to taste)
Soak chia seeds in the apple juice for at least 10 minutes, mix occasionally. Chop the banana, add to the apple juice, blend.
Chia seeds only recently have become available on European markets, although ancient medicine and folk medicine knew of their beneficial properties for ages. Currently, chia seeds become more and more popular in Europe. In 2009, they were approved by European Union as a food product and have been more and more easily found on the Polish market ever since, e.g. in stores and through the website of Kuchnie Świata.
CHIA – 400g of chia seeds,
product available in stores and through the website of Kuchnie Świata.
Power Seeds – 250g mix of seeds with 5% addition of CHIA seeds,
product available in stores of Kuchnie Świata.