Chia seeds are one of nature’s superfoods – high in essential fatty acids, protein, soluble fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They are easy to use, taste good, and can become a valuable addition to your diet. Read on to learn more.
Chia seeds contain 32 to 39 percent oil, and this oil has the highest natural percentage of alpha-linolenic acid or omega 3 – up to 64 percent. The oil also contains omega 6 essential fatty acids, and has an omega 3 to omega 6 ratio of 3:2. Chia seeds are also rich in long-chain triglycerides which help to maintain the proper wall flexibility of the cells and also restore the correct cholesterol to triglycerides ratio. The omega 3 found in chia seeds is converted by the body into DHA and EPA fatty acids – the same kinds that are found in fish oil.
Essential fatty acids are vital in the body, helping muscles to recover after exercise or other physical exertion. They also help to increase the metabolism, thus helping in fat burning and weight loss. Essential fatty acids also play a part in generating the electrical currents that make the heart beat correctly. As well, they govern food absorption, mental health, and the process of oxidation and growth.
As well as essential fatty acids, chia seeds contain up to 23 percent protein. This protein is a complete protein and can be very effectively utilised by the body. It is also gluten free. Chia seeds are also rich in B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, boron, and copper. In actual fact, chia seeds contain six times more calcium than milk does by weight, and the calcium in chia seeds is more easily absorbable by the body than the calcium in milk is. Chia seeds have three times more iron than spinach, and fifteen times more magnesium than broccoli.
Chia seeds are also rich in antioxidants, especially chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and flavanol glycosides. They also contain myricetin, quercetin, and kaempferol flavonols that protect the fatty acids from oxidation. These natural antioxidants mean that the chia seeds do not require refrigeration or added natural antioxidants to remain fresh.
The seeds are able to absorb over nine times their weight in water and actually form a gel. This gel causes carbohydrates to be released slowly into the body, and the carbohydrates are slowly converted into glucose which is then used for energy. This keeps the body feeling fuller for longer. Chia seeds are also rich in soluble fibre (five percent). The mucilaginous properties of chia seeds act as both a bulking agent and a fibre source, and this helps to cleanse and soothe the colon. Chia seeds are able to act as a sort of sponge, absorbing toxins, whilst also lubricating the colon, and strengthening the peristaltic action of the intestines.
Chia seeds can be used in any recipe that uses flax seeds. Ground or whole chia seeds can be sprinkled on cereals or salads, or you can simply eat them as a snack. They can also be used in dressings, sauces, and smoothies. Alternatively, you can stir a tablespoon of chia seeds into a glass of water or juice, stirring to remove any lumps, and letting sit for about five minutes before drinking.
Another option is to make a gel with the chia seeds, which can then be used in all kinds of foods.