There is currently a resurgence in the interest of the health benefits of chia seeds. These seeds were once part of the ration received by fierce Aztec warriors. Today, they are once again being looked at for their amazing health benefits. Even my brother-in-law makes sure to have them on hand when he is running! If you are old enough to remember the Ch-Ch-Chia pets that would grow “hair” from the chia seeds, then you already know what a chia seed is. But this wonderful seed has grown in popularity and is a wonderful way to add some “super” nutrition to your diet, especially for picky eaters who may be lacking in fiber, protein, or Omega-3s.
Nutritionally speaking, these seeds are packed with essential minerals and fatty acids. One serving contains 137 calories, which may seem high at first glance. However, chia seeds are very high in protein and fiber, which makes you feel full. So even though you are not eating a ton of them, you will feel satisfied after a single one ounce serving. These seeds are also low in sodium, and they contain no cholesterol. They contain 18% of your daily value of calcium, and 27% of your needed phosphorous. One of the most important nutritional benefits is the high amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They have higher levels than flax seed, making these seeds perfect for vegetarians and vegans looking for these essential fatty acids.
Chia Seeds and Digestion
Chia seed benefits also extend to the way they are digested. Researchers have noted that when added to water, the seeds turn into a gel. It is believed that the same thing happens in your stomach. This gel formation reduces the rate of the carbohydrates being broken down into sugars.
The powerful benefits of antioxidants are well known. These compounds protect the body from free radicals and diseases. They have been associated with everything from cancer prevention to anti-aging. Chia seeds have more antioxidants than blueberries, and are a super food in their own right. They are so rich in antioxidants that the seeds themselves can be stored for long periods of time without going rancid, since it takes so long for them to break down and deteriorate.
Add Them To Your Diet!
Chia seeds have a nut-like flavor. As whole seeds, they can be added to cereal, yogurt, and salads. Many people enjoy the taste and eat them whole and by themselves for a snack. If you do not like the flavor, there are still ways to incorporate them into your diet. Ground chia seeds can be added to flour and used in baked recipes. They go unnoticed in muffins and breads. Some people suggest letting the seeds sit in water to form a gel before using them, but this is not necessary. They can also be used in smoothies, salad dressing, and added to vegetable stock.
I have the pickiest son and he has come to love chia! I have really encouraged him to eat it and he will add it on his own to yogurt, pancakes, and fruit smoothies. Because my son is partly descended from Aztecs, he thinks this ancient Aztec super food is pretty cool, and it is! It has by far been one of the easiest foods to incorporate into my entire family’s diet. It seems that you can use it almost anywhere. I usually pack a green smoothie for my husband for lunch and will add a couple of tablespoons to it. He takes it to work and puts it in the fridge and the chia seeds give it a nice gelled texture instead of just a runny mess that an otherwise refrigerated smoothie would have.
Mixing the seeds in water and adding a splash of lime and lemon juice, along with some honey for sweetness is the recipe for a drink called “Chia Fresca.” This is a popular drink in Central America and Mexico. It is an interesting and refreshing drink that is perfect on a hot day. We have never tried this, but it could be an interesting way to “eat” it.
Another fun way to use these seeds is as a dessert topping. Sprinkle some chia seeds and some pureed fruit to ice cream or frozen yogurt for a healthy but sweet dessert. The same can be done for cakes and other dessert items. This is a great way for picky or timid eaters to try them.
Choosing the Right Brand
Chia seeds have become readily available almost everywhere. We purchase an organic brand at Sam’s Club and are pretty happy with them and their ease of use. As long as you choose organic, I do not think you can go wrong with you choice. Another place to look would be Amazon if you live in a more rural area.
The health benefits of chia seeds cannot be ignored. They are high in essential fatty acids and antioxidants. These seeds are a great alternative or addition to flax seed. They can be used in a number of different recipes, or eaten whole and raw. If you have not tried the seed, I recommend them wholeheartedly!