The charm of Chia
Chia or Salvia hispanica are tiny nutrient-rich seeds originally native to Guatemala and south Mexico. A small handful of these seeds taken daily makes a concentrated amount of nutrients available to the body. Yet comparatively their calorie content is quite small (139 calories per 2 tablespoons serving).
- The nutrients from chia seeds are absorbed better by the body than other seeds such as flax seed which tend to go through the digestive system undigested unless they are milled or broken down somehow.
- In 28 grams (roughly 2 tablespoons) of chia, 11 grams are fibre. This gives chia the ability to absorb 10 times its weight of water possibly making it a valuable addition both in fibre-rich diets and weight-loss plans. Clearly it is no magic bullet since weight loss requires careful planning rather than just the addition of a single food.
- These little seeds contain all nine amino acids that are the building blocks of protein in the body. It may therefore be useful to incorporate this in meat-less diets. Similarly they have been recommended to those requiring high-energy diets such as athletes.
- Since Chia has the ability to absorb large amounts of water it is a good idea to make sure you’re properly hydrated when consuming them on a regular basis. Another option is to soak them before adding them to your recipe. They are not indicated for persons suffering from dysphagia or those with a poor swallowing reflex and severe asthma, although in reality the only hazards recorded appear to be when the seeds are consumed alone followed by a glass of water. Since they form a gel-like substance they make cause oesophageal obstruction in people who are prone to these conditions.
- Chia contains 9 grams of fat per 28 grams of seed, of which 5 grams are made up of the Omega 3 fatty acids. However 75 % of the Omega-3s are Alpha Linoliec acid. The latter needs to be converted to Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to effectively protect the organism from heart disease. Unfortunately the human body finds it easier to absorb DHA from animal sources. This makes Chia an inefficient source of the all-important DHA found in high quantities in fish oils.
- Nevertheless some studies have shown that Chia could contribute in reducing inflammation and raising good cholesterol levels. Its high antioxidant content is comparable if not higher to that of blueberries, some studies claim.
- Chia seeds are similarly quite rich in Magnesium putting at our disposal 30% of dietary recommendation per 28 grams of seed. There are indications that due to its high fibre content and also to the presence of minerals such as selenium they can help to reduce blood sugar spikes when incorporated in foods such as bread – an important aspect to those effected by type 2 diabetes.
- When soaked chia forms a gelatinous substance which can be used as egg substitute in a number of vegan baked dishes and sauces. Alternatively they can also simply be added to warm or cold desserts, breakfasts as well as smoothies. They are a popular addition to vegan and raw food recipes such as this delicious fruit tart or this berry jam.
- Chia seed oil is starting to appear in skin care products and the seeds themselves can be combined to other natural ingredients in a range of DIY face mask and moisturizing hair masks due to their rich oil and vitamin content.
.….Not bad for a bunch of tiny seeds!