Chia Seeds : Nutrition, Health Benefits and Recipes

When it comes to super food there are very few which are worthy of the title. Apart from being rich in nutrients, omega 3 fat, antioxidants and fibre, Chia seeds are extremely easy to prepare. Studies suggest that Chia seeds have innumerable health benefits. This article gives an insight into the various health benefits of Chia seeds.

Super Food !

Chia seeds in the same quantity are known to have the following :-

  1. 5 times more Calcium than milk
  2. 6 times more Iron than spinach
  3. 64% more Potassium than banana
  4. 8 times more Omega 3 than salmon
  5. 3 times more Antioxidants than blue berries
  6. 30 % more fibre than flax seeds
  7. 15 times more Magnesium than broccoli

Contents

These seeds in the last few years have exploded in popularity. Health conscious people all over the world are consuming this power packed super food. 2 tbsp or 28 grams Chia seeds contain the following ingredients :-

  1. Fibre : 11 grams
  2. Protein : 4 grams
  3. Fat : 9 grams (5 of which are Omega 3)
  4. Calcium : 18 % of daily requirement
  5. Manganese : 30 % of daily requirement
  6. Magnesium : 30 % of daily requirement
  7. Phosphorous : 27 % of daily requirement

Apart from this, 2 tbsp of Chia seeds also contains Zinc, Vitamin B3, Potassium, Vitamin B1, and Vitamin B2. Chia seeds with all these ingredients only gives about 101 calories every 28 grams. All these ingredients make Chia seed one of the world’s best sources of several important nutrients.

History

There is evidence that Chia seeds were cultivated by the Aztec in pre Columbian times. Historians also suggest that Chia seeds may have been as important as Maize as a food crop. Today Chia is cultivated on a small scale in its ancestral homeland of Central Mexico and Guatemala and commercially in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico.

Benefits

  1. Easy to include in your diet : The seeds themselves are quite tasteless, so you can add them to pretty much anything. They can be eaten raw, added to porridge, pudding, smoothies or added to baked food. Chia seeds absorb water so they can be mixed with water to turn into a gel. Adding Chia seeds to recipes tremendously increases the nutritional value.
  2. Loaded with Antioxidants : Getting antioxidants from food can have positive health effects. Antioxidants also fight the production of free radicals which can damage cell molecules and contribute to aging and diseases like cancer. Chia seeds have tremendous quantity of natural Antioxidants.
  3. Most carbs in Chia seeds are Fibre : 28 grams of Chia seeds has 12 grams of carbs. Out of which 11 grams are Fibre. Fibre neither raises blood sugar nor requires insulin to be disposed of. Its health effects are very different from digestible carbs like starch and sugar. This makes Chia seeds a low carb food which increases fullness and helps you eat less calories.
  4. High in Protein : By weight, Chia seeds are 14% Protein, which is very high. They also have good balance of essential amino acids. Protein by far is the most weight loss friendly dietary nutrient. High protein intake lowers appetite and reduces the desire for night time snacking.
  5. Weight Loss : Chia seeds can help aid weight loss. Its soluble fibre absorbs large amount of water and expands in the stomach increasing fullness. Though adding Chia seeds to your diet is less effective in causing weight loss on its own, Chia seeds can be a useful addition to a weight loss diet. When combined with a real food based diet and healthy lifestyle, Chia seeds definitely help promote weight loss.
  6. Chia seeds may lower the risk of heart disease : Given that Chia seeds are high in fibre, protein and omega 3, they may reduce risk of heart diseases. Chia seeds lower risk factors like triglycerides, inflammation, insulin resistance and belly fat. Studies have also shown that Chia seeds significantly reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension which is a strong risk factor for heart diseases.
  7. High in many important Bone nutrients : Chia seeds have several nutrients that are important for bone health. This includes Calcium, Phosphorous, Magnesium and Protein. The content of Calcium particularly is more than most diary products.
  8. May reduce blood sugar levels : Chia seeds may improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, stabilising blood sugar levels after meals. A few study reports also show that eating bread that contains chia seeds lowers the post meal rise in blood sugar compared to bread that doesn’t contain Chia seeds.
  9. May reduce chronic inflammation : Inflammaetion is the body’s response to infection or injury. Although inflammation helps the body heal and fight off bacteria, viruses and other infectious agents, it can sometimes cause harm. This is also associated with increased risk of heart diseases and cancer. Chia seeds intake reduces chronic inflammation by almost 40%.
  10. Apart from this, Chia seeds have a tremendously good effect on skin and dental health.

Which Brand to use

Although there are a number of brands available in the market, adulteration in Chia seeds is not uncommon. It is highly recommended to buy Chia seeds from a good grocery store and the brand should be a recognised one. I use the black and white USDA certified Chia seeds from True Herbs. The True Herb Chia seeds are certified organic, non-GMO, unrefined, raw and are not processed with hexane or any other dangerous material.

Recipes

Chia seeds are extremely versatile to use. They can be used with simple water, lemon and honey or can be added to smoothies, overnight oats, jams, pan cakes etc.
Chia seeds with water, lemon and honey : Add 1 tbsp Chia seeds to some water and mix well. Add some more water, 1 tbsp honey and fresh juice of ½ lemon. Mix the contents well and leave for 15-35 mins. Your Chia seeds with water, lemon and honey are ready!

Quantity – How much should you take

Although Chia seeds are well tolerated, but if you are not used to eating a lot of fibre, then there is a possibility of digestive side effects if you eat too much at one go. A common dosage recommendation is 20 grams or 1.5 tbsp of Chia seeds twice a day. Make sure you have adequate intake of water while consuming Chia seeds.

Who should avoid Chia seeds

While an allergic reaction to Chia seeds is rare. It is important to remember that each individual is different and may experience a different result while consuming Chia seeds. For those who have a nut or seed allergy, it is advised to get tested by a doctor before adding Chia seeds to your diet. Common symptoms include rashes, hives wheezing and in severe cases, vomiting.
Chia seeds are extremely high in fibre and too much fibre doesn’t work with all body types. Chia seeds will be gentler on the stomach if soaked in water before being consumed. Apart from this individuals on blood thinning medicines, bp medication and any other special medicine should avoid having Chia seeds without consulting the doctors. Pregnant women can have Chia seeds in moderation.

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