Chia: 10 Good Reasons and 5 Easy Ways to Add it to Your Diet
In Mayan, “chia” means “strength.” This probably has to do with the large amounts of energy provided by chia seeds. However, in the USA, chia spent way too long only being viewed as a novelty plant, I think most of us remember the silly commercials. At the same time, in other parts of the world, people were eating and benefiting from these tiny power packed seeds while Americans sat and watched their chia hair grow.
We now know better and are doing better, but if you haven’t started to rotate it into your household, we will give you some easy tips to make that happen. First off, a things about Chia and why it’s worth getting to know more.
What is Chia and Where Did It Originate?
Chia (Salvia hispanica) is a species of flowering plant in the mint family and native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. It is grown primarily for its seeds. Typically, chia seeds are small ovals and can range in color from brown and black to gray and white. Black is unripened, white is ripened. However, all contain the same health benefits.
The Aztecs boast the first record of chia as early as 3500B.C. It was, in fact, one of the main foods in the Aztec diet. The prevalence of chia continued for quite some time. Later, between 1500 and 900B.C, it was grown in Mexico by the Teotihuacan and Toltec people. These people had some surprising uses for the chia seed.
What’s So Super About This Tiny Seed?
Besides being gluten-free and grain free, the tiny but mighty chia seed is packed full of good for you nutrients. In fact, Just 2 tablespoons of chia seeds give you 10 grams of fiber (that’s 40% of the recommended daily value!) and 6 grams of protein, as well as omega-3s, magnesium, iron, calcium and potassium. A little more detail about the benefits found in chia seeds:
Essential for your body’s ability to balance insulin levels. As stated above, just two tablespoons will give you 40 percent of the daily recommended value of fiber, very impressive!
The protein found in chia is a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids. Essential amino acids can not be produced by the body and must be sourced from food. It is necessary for every metabolic process in the body, including transport and storage of all nutrients (i.e. water, fat, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals and vitamins).
3. Omega 3’s:
Chia is the highest know source of plant based omega-3 fatty acids. Human consumption of omega-3 has been linked to many health benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and possibly stroke, as well as improved brain functions. (however, it’s worth noting that they are a source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) omega 3’s, not docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Two tablespoons contain roughly 50 percent the recommended daily intake of manganese. This essential mineral is needed for absorption of calcium, proper functioning of the thyroid gland, regulation of blood sugar, normal brain function and proper activity of the nervous system. Lowers Blood Pressure: If you already have low blood pressure or if you are already taking prescribed blood thinners, make sure to proceed with caution and ask your doctor if your chia seed intake is OK.
5. Blood Sugar Regulator:
Chia seeds can play an important role in regulating insulin levels. They can reduce insulin resistance and decrease abnormally high levels of insulin in the blood.(Caution: they may also overstimulate drugs for blood sugar. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, make sure to ask for professional advice when eating chia seeds.)
6. Lowers Blood Pressure:
A clinical study concluded using chia flour demonstrated the chia’s ability to reduce ambulatory and clinical BP in both treated and untreated hypertensive individuals. (Caution: If you already have low blood pressure or if you are already taking prescribed blood thinners, make sure to proceed with caution and ask your doctor if your chia seed intake is OK.)
7. Digestive Health:
Promotes a healthy digestive tract and can be effective at relieving constipation, diarrhea, and inflammation. This is due in part to the fiber, but also because the seeds are a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – which can reduce cellular inflammation.
8. Overall Bone Health:
Chia seeds are high in vital nutrients to support bone health. In addition to being a good source of plant based calcium, they also contain significant levels of magnesium, phosphorus and protein. Just two tablespoons provide 18% the recommended daily intake of calcium.
9. Prolonged Energy:
Chia slows the digestion process down when converting sugars and carbohydrates from the seeds into energy. This slowed process, in combination with the high protein content, leads to a sustained energy boost.
10. Keeps You Feeling Full:
The combination of protein, fiber and the gelling action of the seeds when mixed with liquids all contribute to keeping you feeling fuller for longer. In addition, chia can absorb up to ten times its own weight in water, which improves hydration and slows digestion, again keeping you feeling full for a longer time.
Practical and Easy Ways to Use Chia Every Day:
1. Make a Chia Drink:
Simply add chia to water or any other drink at least 30 minutes prior to drinking. (Overnight soaking works very well) An approximate recommended ratio of 10 parts liquid to one part chia, but this can be adjusted to personal preference. Be sure to mix well a couple of times through out the gelling process to give the drink an even texture and avoid clumps.
2. Thicken a Smoothie:
You can add chia seeds to almost any smoothie recipe by soaking them to make chia gel before adding them to your favorite smoothie.
3. Use as an Egg Replacement:
One tablespoon of seed to three tablespoons of water is all it takes. Quick tip: If you are in a hurry to use this egg replacement and don’t have 30 minutes to give it soak time, using warm water seems to help make the seeds gel up much faster!
Use a shallow container (think casserole dish, pie plate, baking sheet, etc.) Add a little water to the seeds, just enough to get them moist.You can use a spray bottle to evenly moisten the seeds without over watering them. Be careful not to add too much.
The seeds will start sprouting as soon as the following day, but might take up to a week to fully grow. They will continue to absorb moisture as they grow, so check on them a couple of times a day and spray or add more water as needed.
For best results, keep the seeds in a warmer place while they are sprouting. (Ideally, 75 to 85 F)
After the sprouts start showing, move them to a well lit place. You can cover the seeds for several hours every day to maintain the moisture, but leave a slight opening to make sure they get plenty of ventilation.
In about a week your sprouts should turn a bright green color and be about 0.5 inches long. This is when they are ready to consume. If you don’t end up eating all the sprouts at once, you can refrigerate them in a sealed container for up to two weeks.
5. Add to Soups:
Experiment with how much you like to add to warm soup at least 30 minutes prior to eating if raw or anytime with a premixed chia gel. (You can use the egg substitute ratio of 3 parts water to one part chia) Chia is nearly tasteless and will not change the flavor of any recipe.
Final Thoughts About Chia and One Word of Caution
Chia certainly lives up to it’s names meaning of ” strength”. Not only are these tiny seeds sturdy and powerful, they also provide fast, steady energy to any one who eats them. They are also known to aid in hydration. However, be sure they have been soaked prior to consuming to avoid them taking fluid from your own body to form a gel!