Chia Seed: a superfood for the ages
~ L. M. Winborne ~ - February 2014 No.254 ~
While many Americans know the word "chia" primarily from the popular terra cotta figurines featuring sprouts resembling animal fur or hair, the seed of the herbaceous Salvia hispanica plant, a flowering member of the mint family, is loaded with nutritional advantages. (Note: chia should not be confused with "chai", a blend of tea. Native to Mexico and grown in Central and South America, chia is a Mayan word for "strength",and the seed was a staple of ancient Aztec and Mayan diets. While it varies in color from brown to black to white, there is no significant nutritional difference between the shades. The mildly nutty flavor can be enjoyed raw, soaked in fruit juice (known in Mexico as "chia fresco"), in baked goods, oatmeal and puddings, or even as an egg substitute (one tablespoon mixed with three tablespoons of water yields a gel that is the equivalent of one egg). Gluten- and grain-free, chia provides these additional benefits:
Native to Mexico and grown in Central and South America, chia is a Mayan word for "strength," and the seed was a staple of ancient Aztec and Mayan diets. Its mildly nutty flavor can be enjoyed raw, soaked in fruit juice (known in Mexico as "chia fresca"), in baked goods, oatmeal and puddings, or even as an egg substitute (one tablespoon mixed with three tablespoons of water yields a gel that is the equivalent of one egg). Gluten- and grain-free, chia provides these additional benefits:
- Contains more Omega-3 per gram than salmon
- Excellent source of fiber (two tablespoons provide a third of the U.S. Recommended Daily Intake)
- Rich in antioxidants
- High in minerals that help prevent hypertension while aiding energy metabolism (U.S. RDI 18% calcium, 35% phosphorus, 24% magnesium, and about 50% manganese)
- Slows down the conversion of carbohydrates into simple sugars
- Has been shown to lower triglycerides and "bad cholesterol" while increasing HDL ("good") cholesterol
- Easier to digest
One alleged benefit that remains controversial, however, is weight control. While some claim that chia's high soluble fiber content acts as an appetite suppressant, various studies have so far failed to yield conclusive evidence that it actually reduces body fat or weight. Relatively inexpensive and easily obtainable online or at local health food stores and some drugstore chains, chia seed is a valuable addition to almost any diet, but a few words of caution are in order. People with food allergies, especially to mustard and sesame seeds, or who take blood thinner or hypertension medications, should consult their health care provider before adding chia seed to their diet. Pregnant and/or nursing women should also avoid chia, as its effects on infants and the unborn are not really known. Due to its high alpha linolenic acid content, which has in some studies been linked to prostate cancer, males diagnosed with or at high risk for the disease should not consume chia. Finally, those prone to high triglycerides are advised to use the Salba form of chia, which does not significantly increase triglyceride levels.
- Andrews, Jennifer. Recommended Dosage of Chia Seed LiveStrong. Demand Media, Inc., June 26, 2011. Web.
- British Journal of Nutrition, Volume 101, Issue 01, January 2009, pp.41-50
- Hathwell, Jen. Top 10 Health Benefits of Chia Seeds. SF Gate Healthy Eating. Demand Media, Inc. Web
May 06 2015