They may be tiny, but chia seeds are a superfood that can help you fight heart disease, lower blood pressure, increase energy levels, and promote weight loss. Chia seeds are rich in essential fats, are a good source of protein and potassium, and work as an antioxidant.
A study by the University of Toronto, published in the journal Diabetes Care, shows that adding chia seeds to the diet of a group of type 2 diabetics over a period of three months lowered their blood pressure and dramatically reduced certain inflammation markers that indicate a risk of heart disease.
What did these seeds come from?
Chia seed comes from the chia herb, a member of the mint family that is also known as salvia hispanica. Grown by the Aztecs, it is still a valuable part of the Mexican and South American diet. Chia seed is grown in Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Australia. The seeds are a mottled combination of brown, grey, white and black, and they are only around a millimeter in size.
They also contain protein, oil, soluble dietary fiber, and antioxidants such as chlorogenic and caffeic acids, myricetin, quercetin, and kaempferol flavonols. The oil made from chia seed contains a high concentration of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. The seeds are gluten-free and contain very little salt.
Nine health benefits of chia seeds
Dr. Vuksan, Associate Director of the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Centre at St. Michaels’ Hospital in Toronto states, “You simply don’t see many other ingredients that can do what this seed can. You add them to any food, even bad food, and it will improve your health.” Here are nine of the health benefits of chia seed:
- Its soluble fiber lowers cholesterol and reduces belly fat, decreasing the risk of heart disease.
- It contains omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in a ratio that helps normalize cholesterol.
- The high protein content of chia makes them ideal for building muscle, which becomes more important as we get older.
- The soluble fiber in chia can reduce cravings for sugar and high glycemic carbs, and can regulate blood sugar.
- The healthy fats and fiber in chia seeds release energy, slowly providing consistent vigor rather than ups and downs.
- Chia can absorb ten times its weight in water so fluid stays in your body longer improving hydration.
- Eating chia seeds creates a full feeling, meaning you can eat smaller portions and lose weight without feeling hungry.
- The insoluble fiber in chia seeds helps to bulk up stools and clear out the digestive tract.
- The soluble fiber in chia seeds is a prebiotic, meaning that it feeds good bacteria, allowing them to destroy dangerous pathogens in your body.
In addition, these seeds can assist the body’s absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. They include vital minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.
How should I use chia seeds?
These seeds are simple to eat because they do not need to be ground or toasted in order to be digested. They can be eaten in their raw state and are perfect sprinkled over a salad or an egg or vegetable dish. They are stable and long-lasting, so they don’t need complex packaging or storage to prevent them from going bad.
Because a large percentage of the seed is soluble, they are also ideal for adding to soups, stews, or breakfast cereals. When added to water, chia seeds form a gel, which can be used in smoothies, frappes, or various other types of drinks. In Mexico, they are combined with water, lemon or lime juice, and sugar to make a healthy drink called chia fresca.
Are there any side effects of chia seeds?
There are very few known side effects of eating chia seeds. Because they improve digestion, you may notice some gas or bloating until your body adjusts to their effects. People with very low blood pressure should exercise caution with chia seeds, as they may lower their blood pressure excessively.