Learn all about the superfood called chia seeds and their nutritional powerhouse of health benefits.
Featured on popular daytime TV shows like The Doctors and Dr. Oz recently, these tiny little seeds have been making the news with their superb health benefits and nutritional value, we have compiled information for you to learn more about this amazing superfood. Learn how and why you would want to add chia to your pantry and the many ways you can use it! Don’t forget to check out our chia seeds recipes, where you can include them in great snacks and even desserts.
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- Chia Seeds vs. Flax Seeds
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More About Superfoods and Super Health
What are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds are quickly becoming a superfood, as they provide a number of health benefits. The seed comes from the Salvia hispanica plant, which is part of the mint family and growth exclusively in the desert. The plant is normally found in southern Mexico and Guatemala, making it an increasingly important crop in these areas. Many know the word chia from the famous Chia Pets, which produce spouts. The chia seeds, however, are far more important than these sprouts because of what they can add to the human diet.
Before Europeans made their way to the western hemisphere, chia seeds were a very important part of the Mayan and Aztec diet. When warriors would travel long distances when conquering new lands, they were given chia seeds for sustenance. This is largely because of the belief that one tablespoon of chia seed could provide each person without enough nutrients to last for 24 hours. As a result, these warriors could be gone for a significant amount of time with only a small amount of seed. These ancient tribes used the seeds for medicinal purposes as well, since they could provide relief from skin irritations and joint pain.
During this ancient time, this was a major crop in what is now Mexico because of it health benefits. It was still grown in Mexico until the 1500s, at which time it was banned by European conquerors because it was used in many religious ceremonies and, therefore was viewed as a threat. While this ban has since been lifted, the seeds were not mass-produced in Mexico until recently, which explains why their usefulness has been a secret for so long. It is now possible to purchase these seeds from nearly anywhere in the world, so these benefits will likely be widely known in the coming years.
Perhaps one reason why chia is able to sustain people for so long is that it is so rich in omega-3 fatty acids. While flax seed has gained a reputation of being a highly nutritious seed, chia contains even more nutrients. Chia is also highly durable, as it does not break down and become rancid over long periods. The high quantity of antioxidants in the seed is the reason why, as it is able to fight off most of the elements that attack other seeds. The seeds contain high amounts of nutrients like calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, niacin, copper, and fiber, all of which provide benefits for the body.
Chia also sustains people for lengthy periods because of how it reacts to water. If you place the seeds in water, they turn into a gel after about half an hour. This gel is significantly thicker than water and, therefore, takes up more space. This reaction occurs in the stomach, as the seeds react with the moisture in your stomach to create a paste. This paste is slower to digest than the seeds would be, which makes you feel full for longer. They also slow down the digestive process of other foods that you have consumed, leaves you with more energy from the carbohydrates that you eat.
Consuming chia is different for everyone, since it largely depends on your taste preferences. It tastes similar to a nut, so many people eat these seeds without mixing them with anything. Others mix them with water and add some flavoring, such as lime or lemon, to create a drink. If you grind the seeds up, you can sprinkle them on your cereal or put them into a bowl of yogurt. They can also be mixed with some flour if you wish to include them in baked goods. They keep their nutritional properies when cooked, so you do not have to worry about losing enzymes if you use chia seeds in your baking.
We are also seeing chia seeds being added to chicken feed, as this makes the eggs richer in omega-3 fatty acids, which provides benefits for humans. It also adds to the omega 3s in the chicken meat or in beef when it is fed to cattle. Because of this diversity, it is very likely that we will begin seeking chia in a wide variety of settings and it will become much more of a household product that it is currently. Once an item achieves superfood status, you begin seeing it everywhere and that is the path that chia is currently taking and will continue to take for the foreseeable future.