Chia Seeds ... Who knew?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Chia Seeds ... Who Knew?

Chia Seeds

But what exactly are Chia Seeds?
Remember the terracotta figurines of people’s heads, or various animals such as turtles, frogs or alligators, along with seeds that grew green sprouts resembling hair or fur.

Chia pets were introduced as holiday gag gifts, but chia seeds are no joke. They are seriously healthy foods, and once I learned about their health benefits, they became one of my favorite superfoods.

Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, grown in Mexico dating back to Mayan and Aztec cultures. "Chia" means strength, and folklore has it that these cultures used the tiny black and white seeds as an energy booster. 

We’ve now learned that there are so many other health benefits:

Omega-3 fatty acids: Chia seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fats, especially Omega-3 fatty acids, and even contain more Omega-3’s than flax seeds. Chia seeds' lipid profile is composed of 60 percent Omega-3s, making them one of the richest plant-based sources of these fatty acids -- specifically, of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, which can help reduce inflammation, enhance cognitive performance and reduce high cholesterol.

Fiber: With 10 grams of fiber in only 2 tablespoons, Chia seeds provide an excellent source of fiber, which is associated with reducing inflammation, lowering cholesterol and regulating bowel function.

Antioxidants: Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants that help protect the body from free radicals, aging and cancer. The high antioxidant profile also gives them a long shelf life. They last up to two years without refrigeration.

Minerals: Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 18 percent of the daily recommended intake for calcium, 35 percent for phosphorus, 24 percent for magnesium and about 50 percent for manganese. These nutrients help prevent hypertension and help you maintain a healthy weight. They are important for energy metabolism and part of DNA synthesis.

Satiety:  Satiety is the feeling of being full and satisfied, which helps lower food cravings between meals. The combination of protein, fiber and the gelling action of chia seeds when mixed with liquids all contribute to their satiating effects.

Gluten-free: Chia seeds naturally contain no gluten or grains, so anyone avoiding gluten can enjoy all the nutritional benefits.

Dyslipidemia: A study published in the "British Journal of Nutrition" showed that chia seeds as a dietary fat source can lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels while increasing HDL or "good" cholesterol. The study also found that when substituting chia seeds for other fat sources, such as corn oil, the ALA was able to prevent high triglyceride levels and reduce obesity.

Blood sugar regulation:  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.

How to Use Chia Seeds

1. Chia seeds have a slight nutty flavor that works with savory or sweet foods. You can eat them as is, or toast them.

2. Sprinkle chia seeds on your favorite foods such as yogurt, oatmeal, eggs, salad or sautéed vegetables.

3. Stir them into liquids such as a smoothie or soup. They will keep you filled up for longer.

4. Use them as a thickener in place of corn starch or flour, or incorporate them into breading to add a whole new dimension to breaded salmon or chicken.

5. Add them to burgers with the organic protein of your choice, from veggie to chicken or bison burgers.

6. Replace eggs with chia seeds. When chia seeds are mixed with liquids, the outer layer swells and forms a gel. You can use chia seeds in place of eggs or to increase the nutrient content of foods and baked goods.

To make the egg replacement, mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and let it sit for 15 minutes.