Chia seeds truly deserve the grand title of “superfood”. Chia seeds are a nutrient power house as they are packed with omega three fatty acids, fibre, complete protein, vitamins and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These little gems were named after the ancient Mayan word meaning “strength”; it was known by indigenous people to promote endurance.
Chia seeds are biologically known as Salvia Hispanica, and are categorised under the mint family, Labiatae. These crops were traditionally grown by the indigenous people in the valleys of Mexico dating back to 2 700 BC and then spread to the southwestern parts of the United States. It was often the only source of nutrition for the ancient powerful Aztec men while travelling long distances in pursuit of conquest or to trade. For various indigenous people such as the Mayan, for the Aztec and the lncan, chia seeds served as a primary staple food. They were also offered to gods as a token of gratitude during religious ceremonies. This tradition has carried through to modern times as many athletes rely on chia seeds to help increase stamina and performance.
These mighty seeds contain a high percentage of essential nutrients which include omega three fatty acids, protein, antioxidants, dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals vital for optimal growth and development. Chia seeds have a low glycaemic index that keeps you fuller for longer. This may assist in the regulation of blood glucose levels, thereby reducing the risk of diabetes. Being an oil seed, chia seeds, are rich in kilojoules which supplies a high proportion of omega three and omega six fatty acids. Omega three fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, strokes and various cancers.
This seed is also an ideal gluten-free grain.Chia seeds contain essential minerals that may assist in bone mineralisation, blood cell production, enzyme synthesis as well as the regulation of muscle activity; these minerals include calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium and manganese. It is also a great source of niacin which may help reduce low-density lipoproteins (LDL) “bad” cholesterol in the blood. One tablespoon of chia seeds is recommended a day. These seeds can also be used to replace other grains such as rice.
Chia seeds have multiple uses in many dishes, either as whole seeds, ground flour or chi oil. Chia seeds have the ability to swell in liquid and form a gel. Ground chia seeds can be used as an egg substitute when mixed with water The chia flour could be used as gluten-free flour in baked goods, and it can also be used as thickener in sauces and liquids, such as fruit smoothies. The whole seed is used to make healthy snacks, chia pudding, crackers or could be sprinkled over salads, yogurts, or used as a garnish. Chia seeds could also be used to grow sprouts for salads and stir fries; this adds texture and colour.
For those always in search for new diets health and super foods, this mighty seed could be the answer for you. Many health experts believe that chia seeds may assist in weight loss. The large amount of fibre and protein increase satiety and slows down food absorption. Chia seeds may lower the risk of heart disease any type two diabetes, because of the protein, omega three fatty acids and fibre content which is able to improve metabolic health. Chia seed contain many nutrients that are important for bone health. These include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and protein.
The mighty chia seed is truly dynamite in a small package that packs a punch. It is easy to incorporate into a healthy diet and may help in the prevention of multiple lifestyle disease It brings true meaning to nature’s “superfood.
Did You Know?
- The Mexican state named Chiapas originally called Chiapan translated loosely to the “the river where the chia sage grows”.
- In Aztec methodology chia seeds came from the nose of maize God, Cinteoti.
- A popular Mexican drink called Chia Fresca is made using Chia seeds which is allowed to swell in water. Sugar and Lemon or lime juice is then added.
Pictured: Chia seeds
Article: The Witness North West – Bridget Napier.
Bridget Napier is a student in the Department of Food and Nutrition.