Digestion, Diets, Nutrition | July 27, 2018 | Author: Naturopath
For a tiny seed, chia seeds pack a hefty nutritious punch! Rich in omega 3, fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals, chia seeds are easily classified as a superfood. Find out how adding chia seeds into your diet can benefit you.
Chia seeds (salvia hispanica) originate from Mexico where they were valued for their medicinal purposes and nutritional value. In fact, ‘chia’ is the ancient Mayan word for ‘strength’ and these seeds were known to provide sustained energy and vitality.
To classify as a superfood, the item must be dense in nutrients. In a western diet, we eat too many foods that are referred to as ‘empty calories’. Hot dogs, lollies and even alcohol are such examples because they contain little in the way of nutrients. Chia seed is the exact opposite and here is a breakdown of what nutrients it contains.
They also contain a decent amount of antioxidants, zinc, potassium and vitamins B1, B2 and B3.
Nearly one third of chia seeds are comprised of omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids. Their composition in chia seeds almost mirrors the amount we should consume in our diet, roughly a 3:1 ratio of omega 3 to omega 6.
One single serve contains only 137 calories, but the real calculation is far below this considering the fibre content is so high.
This is a particularly impressive nutritional breakdown.
Chia seeds have so many amazing properties which can give your health a serious boost.
Most diets are lacking in omega 3. This can easily occur in people who consume poor quality cooking oils, avoid seafood and eat processed foods. The good news is that chia seeds are a rich source of omega 3 and can help bring your consumption of fats back into balance.
Vegetarians and vegans can utilise chia seeds as a plant-based source of omega 3 to ensure all their nutritional needs are being met.
It has been demonstrated that a high concentration of omega 3 is associated with a lower risk of coronary artery disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune disorders, and cancer.
Due to the high level of fibre, chia seeds aid in healthy digestion. Not only is fibre important to get things moving through the digestive tract but it helps feed good bacteria in the colon which in return provides us with an amazing array of health benefits. When combined with water, chia seeds produce a gel which is incredibly soothing and protective to the mucous membranes in the gut.
Due to the nutritional properties of chia seeds they help to protect the cardiovascular system, reduce inflammation, control fat metabolism and enhance athletic performance.
A trial conducted on 67 adults with metabolic syndrome found significant reductions in triglycerides, C-reactive protein concentrations (levels increase with inflammation) and insulin resistance in the group with a chia-based diet. It was observed that ingesting 35 g chia flour for 12 weeks decreased total cholesterol level and increased healthy LDL cholesterol.
Chia seeds are a perfect addition to any healthy diet—especially those wanting to reduce their blood sugars and loose weight. A diet high in fibre helps to release sugars into the blood at a steady pace. They also help to fill you up so that you feel satisfied and don’t crave the wrong foods. Chia seeds are high in healthy fats, contain moderate amounts of protein and are low in carbohydrates—which ticks all the boxes for carb conscious eaters.
Chia seeds have a mild, nutty flavour and can be easily added to most foods such as porridge, breakfast cereals, muffins, cakes, yoghurt, smoothies and bread.
There are even some great recipes for chia puddings circulating on the internet which makes for a perfect breakfast, snack or dessert.
To make it easier for the body to assimilate the nutrients in chia seeds some people recommend soaking or grinding the seeds.
Grinding chia seeds: Use a coffee grinder to break down the chia seeds into a powder and add to pancakes, muffins and breads. Due to the delicate nature of the oils in chia seeds, if you grind the seeds you must then store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Soaking chia seeds: Simply add 2 tablespoons of chia seeds to one cup of water and let it sit for up to two hours. Watch the magic happen as chia seeds can hold up to 12 times their weight in water! Another benefit of soaking chia seeds is that it releases the ‘enzyme inhibitors’ which are used to protect the seed. This increases the seeds digestibility.
If you’re interested in getting even higher amounts of healthy fats in the diet, chia seed oil is a very concentrated source. Chia seed oil is even higher in the essential fatty acids omega 3 and omega 6.
Chia seed oil can be used to:
Most people just consume 1 tablespoon of chia seed oil daily for general health and wellbeing. If you are using the oil for cooking just include as part of a light stir-fry or drizzle onto food after cooking. Surprising chia seed oil has a high smoking point but the longer you cook with the oil the more the nutrients are damaged.
Chia seeds have a good safety profile. However, some people may experience bloating or digestive discomfort because of the high fibre content.