Ch-ch-ch-chia! Yes, these are the same little seeds we fell in love with years ago that grew ”green hair” on the various clay animals. Remember Chia Pets? Who knew they were one of the most powerful, versatile, and nutritious superfoods in the world?
Chia seeds are one of my most favorite superfoods! They don’t have much of a taste, but that is one of their strong points because you can add them to anything and you won’t even know they are there… a huge advantage with kids! A superfood that tastes like anything you want? Sounds like a winner to me!
Chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. The reason I mention the scientific name, Salvia hispanica L, is so you know what to look for when reading ingredient labels. Remember to always read labels regardless of how simple the food may seem. So when you buy chia seeds, the ingredient label will usually read: chia (Salvia hispanica L). This is what you are looking for.
So what makes chia seeds a true superfood that you just can’t live without? For starters, lets take a look at these impressive stats. Chia seeds contain:
- 8 times more omega 3’s than salmon
- 30% more antioxidants than blueberries
- 25% more fiber than flax seeds
- 3 times more iron than spinach
- 15 times more magnesium than broccoli
- 6 times more calcium than milk
- 2 times more potassium than a banana
This data is what first peaked my interest in chia seeds, but how do these nutrients really affect our body and health? Here are a few of the many exciting reasons to add chia to your everyday diet:
Energizing for Your Mind & Body
We all could use a little pep in our step these days with our busy, over-scheduled pace. Chia outperforms all seeds and grains for providing increased energy to both the mind and body. Chia seeds not only give you energy, but energy that lasts! The ancient Aztecs and Mayans prized chia seeds as a high-energy endurance food to sustain warriors during battle. Warriors would eat them just before battle and drink them in water before running long distances. Due to its high fiber content, Chia seeds absorb more than nine times its weight in water, making it an excellent source of hydration. A single tablespoon could sustain the warriors for an entire day, helping them to not only feel energized, but to be mentally sharp and alert!
Chia’s ability to significantly boost your brainpower and brighten your mood with its strong anti-depressive effects is due to the perfectly balanced concentration of essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6). Essential fats are fats the body does not make but needs to function properly. Chia seeds are the richest vegetable source for omega-3 fatty acids. Unsaturated fatty acids are essential for normal glandular activity; helping to combat adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems and reproductive issues (such as infertility). They also help nourish the skin, hair, and nails and combat those itchy skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema that so many of us battle with.
Fungus produces inflammation within the body. In randomized clinical studies, chia’s extraordinary profile of antioxidants, vitamins, calcium, magnesium, other important minerals and its rich levels of omega-3 fatty acids proved to reduce dangerous inflammation within the body by up to 21%! Decreasing inflammation helps protect the body against heart attacks, strokes and alleviates joint pain.
Supports Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Another fabulous benefit of chia is that it slows the conversion of carbohydrates into sugars, thereby regulating and sustaining healthy blood sugar levels in the body. Chia seeds supply fiber in 2 forms: insoluble (won’t dissolve in water) from its outer coat and soluble fiber (will dissolve in water) from its inner shell. Chia’s soluble fiber provides a stabilizing effect on high blood glucose levels by regulating the rate at which complex carbohydrates from the food consumed are digested and assimilated in the body. This creates steady, stable blood sugar levels, which contributes to a positive mood and energy throughout the day. Soluble fiber is not only helpful for diabetics, but has also been found to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Reduces Cravings for Sweets and Junk Foods
This is a continuation benefit of maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. When carbohydrates are released into the bloodstream in a slow steady flow, this banishes cravings! It also gives us a constant, even energy level instead of high spikes and low valleys, which happens when we consume foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates.
The way we can use chia to help with our sugar cravings is to add some to baked goods, pancakes, yogurt and other sweet treats. It displaces calories and fat without diluting flavor. And since it is full of fiber you eat less and still feel satisfied.
Helps Promote Weight Loss & Weight Maintenance
Another benefit of the essential fatty acids in chia is that they boost metabolism and contribute to optimal metabolic function, helping to build and maintain lean muscle mass.
Besides the fact that chia is nutrient dense and high in fiber they grow 9 times their size when they are added to any type of liquid or moist, wet food! Some examples are: water, coconut milk, coconut water, yogurt, smoothies, sauces, dips, almond butter, and batter for baked goods. When you add chia gel to these foods you can add 50% or more volume to the original food and displace calories and fat by incorporating an ingredient that is ninety percent water, without compromising the flavor! Since our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs, chia helps to create the illusion that we are eating more than we actually are by bulking up the food and since it’s full of fiber it really fills you up fast! So you are satisfied and nourished, making it a win-win for your body and taste buds!
For example, I love eating berries and organic plain whole milk yogurt with the cream on top, since this is the most unprocessed way to eat yogurt. While I don’t focus on calories and fat to maintain a healthy weight, I love to add in more nutrition to my yogurt and since organic is more expensive I like to try to stretch it out to last me the week, so I put ½ the amount of yogurt I would usually eat into a bowl and add a few tablespoons of chia that I have soaked in water or coconut milk, creating chia gel… and Voila! My yogurt expands to double its size and double the nutrition! Add a few berries, liquid stevia, vanilla and cinnamon and I now have a nutritious complete protein meal that will stick to my ribs for hours! Get recipe (link to breakfast in a hurry)
I know this sounds like an infomercial, but wait it gets better…. not only can you bulk up your favorite foods, but you can replace half the butter or oil in your favorite baked goods without altering the taste or texture by using chia gel! When you mix the seeds with purified water or any other liquid, they hydrate. This means that each seed will form a big bead of gel around the outside; which is made of whatever liquid you hydrated them in. This is called chia gel.
For example, if “Aunt Betty’s Favorite Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie” recipe calls for 6 tablespoons of butter, use 3 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of chia gel. Bake the cookies just as you normally would. The exterior of the chia seed holds on to moisture, ensuring your baked goods don’t dry out while cooking, and stay moist and rich-tasting for longer, an added bonus with the extra nutrition! While Chia seeds can’t turn your cookies into the nutritional equivalent of spinach, they can add extra nutrition to the things you already like to eat!
A Complete, High-Quality Protein
Yes, chia seeds are a complete source of protein, providing all 9 essential amino acids in proper proportions and also including other non-essentials. Chia contains an amazing protein value between 19 – 23% by weight, which is very unusual for a non-animal protein. The protein in chia seeds has a higher bioavailability than meat, and much of the animal protein is often destroyed by cooking and processing. Since chia’s protein is so easily absorbable, it is rapidly transported to the tissues and utilized by the cells. This efficient assimilation makes it a great choice to support growth for children and adolescents as well as during pregnancy and lactation. Athletes and weight lifters also use chia for regeneration of their muscle tissue for training.
High Fiber Content
Chia seed’s high fiber content supports healthy elimination, detoxification and digestion. As we all know, a healthy digestive system is the foundation to good health and key to a strong immune system. Fiber is critical to healthy elimination and regular bowel movements, so chia is a wonderful addition to the diet if you have issues with constipation. The soluble fiber in chia forms a gel that binds to the toxins in the digestive system, such as those nasty mycotoxins, and helps us to properly flush them from the body. For those of us who have been labeled with multiple food allergies, leaky gut or IBS, chia seeds also help to heal the lower gastrointestinal tract. This promotes better digestion of food, which in turn leads to better absorption of nutrients. We need to heal the gut to overcome health challenges. By ridding the body of fungus through Phase 1 and nourishing and repairing the gut with foods like chia, you just might be astounded at how your health starts taking a turn for the better!
Rich Source of Age-Defying Antioxidants
Every ninety days our body regenerates nearly all of its 7-10 trillion cells! When we feed our cells properly, they are regenerated into strong and healthy cells and that puts the brakes on aging! The rich source of antioxidants in chia seeds neutralizes the free radicals that cause premature aging. Anti-oxidants are more than good for your body, they’re nature’s healthy preservative for our body and food!
Did you know that dry chia seeds can be stored for over 2 years at room temperature without becoming rancid or losing nutrition? This is unheard or for other nuts, seeds and grains. This fact alone proves that chia is an antioxidant heavyweight! When foods are baked with chia, the antioxidants act as a natural preservative and keep the food tasting fresh and moist for longer periods.
Chia seeds are also a loaded source of lignans, which are a type of antioxidant that have anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. It’s no wonder lignans have been studied for their cancer preventative properties, especially for breast, colon and prostate cancer. Hopefully one of these days scientists will finally see the link between fungus and cancer; until then use chia as one way to get your dose of antifungal power into your diet!
So there you have it… an in-depth look in to why you don’t want to live without chia seeds! Ok a little dramatic, but you get the point!!