What is Chia Seed?
Chia is native to Central and Southern Mexico. It is a flowering plant from family lamiaceae. Its binomial name is salvia hispanica. Derivation of the word chia was from the Nahuatl word chian which means oily. Chia grows up to 1.75 meter tall. It produces numerous clusters in spike of white or purple flowers at the end of each stem. It is an annual herb and has opposite leaves which are 4-8 cm in length and 3-5 cm in width.
Chia is grown purposely for its seeds. Development of mucilaginous coating on the seed give the chia a gel texture. The seeds yield 25-30% of oil that can be extracted. The seed is very rich in omega 3 fatty acid. Chia seeds are mottle colored with black,white,grey and brown colours. The seeds are tiny with a diameter of 0.039 inches.
The main purpose of growing chia is for commercial purposes in native Mexico, Argentina,Ecuador and Australia. Development of new different of chia has been done in Kentucky for cultivation purposes in the United States (US).
PROVEN BENEFITS OF CHIA SEED
- Chia seed has a lot of nutrients with little calories
Chia seeds were natively grown in South America and the Aztecs and Mayans really loved the food. As a matter of fact, the chia is the Mayan word meaning strength. Chia seeds provided sustainable energy to them. In the past history they were referred to as dietary staple but in the modern days chia seeds are consumed all over the world mostly by the health conscious people.
28 grams (one ounce) of chia seeds contains the following nutrients:
Protein – 4 grams
Fats- 9 grams
Fiber- 11 grams (5 being omega 3s)
Calcium – 18% of RDA
Manganese – 30% of RDA
Phosphorous – 27% of RDA
Magnesium – 30% of RDA
They also have zinc, vitamin B3, potassium, vitamin B1, and vitamin B2.
1 ounce of chia seed contains 137 calories and 1 gram of digestible carbohydrate.
Chia seeds are non-Genetically Modified Organism (non-GMO), free from gluten and they are organically grown. This makes the chia seed whole grain food.
- Chia seeds contains lots of antioxidants
Antioxidants helps in fighting free radicals that can damage molecules in cells which can lead to aging and diseases such as cancer. It is said that chia seeds have more antioxidants than blueberries but it is not yet verified. The sensitive fats from the seed are protected by antioxidants from going bad.
- Large portion of carbs in chia seeds are fiber
1 ounce of chia seed has 12 grams of carbohydrates of which 11 grams of them are fiber. These fiber cannot be digested in the body. Benefits of fiber is that it doesn’t need insulin to be disposed of. It doesn’t make the level of the blood sugar raise and this makes it not to be counted as carb.True carb has 1 gram per ounce only of which it is low. This is evident that chia has fiber. By weight, 40% of chia seed is fiber. This means chia seed is one of the best fiber source.
- They are highly loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids
Chia seed has higher level of omega 3s than salmon. Usually Omega 3s have got ALA (Alpha Linoleic Acid) which is not of much benefit. Conversion of ALA to active form of EPA and DHA needs to be done before being used in the body.
Human beings are unable to convert ALA into active forms and this makes omega 3s from plants inferior to animal sources like fish.
- Chia seeds improves blood markers
Chia seeds improves the metabolic health because they are rich in fiber, protein and omega 3s. After a study done in a rat, it was noted that chia seeds can raise HDL which is the “good” cholesterol, lower triglycerides which is a “bad” cholesterol, reduce fat belly and inflammation.
- Chia seeds have many bone nutrients
They are high in nutrients such as calcium,phosphorous,protein and magnesium which are of much benefit to the bones. Comparing gram for gram,the calcium content (18% of the RDA) in chia seeds is higher than in dairy products.
It improves the type 2 diabetics
In a study, 20 diabetic patients were instructed to either consume 37 grams of chia seeds or 37 grams of wheat bran for 12 weeks. Those who consumed chia seeds had important blood markers improved in their body. It was noted that there was a decrease in a risk factor called Vwf BY 21%, hs-CRP inflammatory marker went down, and also the level of the blood pressure went down by 3-6 mm/hg. This shows that chia seeds are of great importance.
- It improves exercise performance
In the past Aztecs and Mayans used to fuel performance by consuming chia seeds. According to a study, it was noted that chia seeds can be of assistance to the athletes in “carb loading” during enduring events. This can be of help to the athletes if they can increase the intake of nutrients and decrease the intake of sugar.
- Chia has high protein and fiber content which can help lose weight.
Fiber enables large absorption of water and this leads to stomach expanding. This causes an increase in fullness and it slows food absorption. The effect of the protein in the chia food is to help reduce appetite and food consumption.
- Helps in treating diverticulosis
There is reduced preference of flare-ups of diverticulitis due to fiber consumption. This is because there is high absorption of water in the colon and this makes the movements in the bowel to pass. Pressure and colon inflammation reduction can be facilitated by eating diet full of healthy, vegetable, fruit and fiber.
- There is high portion of quality protein in chia seeds
Chia seeds contains 14% protein, by weight which is much higher compared to other plants. Protein is a friendly weight loss nutrient and it has many benefits in the body. It contains essential amino acids.Increased consumption of proteins helps in reducing appetite, obsessive thoughts about food by 60% and night time snacking by 50%. Chia seeds as a source of protein are of much help to people who consume little or no animal product.
NUTRITION FACTS ABOUT CHIA SEEDS
It contains Omega 3 fatty acids which helps in raising HDL level (the good cholesterol). The HDL helps in protecting against stroke and heart attack.
They also contain antioxidants, fiber,magnesium, zinc calcium and iron. Consumption of 1 ounce of chia seeds per day provides 18% of calcium, 27% of phosphorous, 30% of manganese and little portion of zinc,copper and potassium.
28 grams (1 ounce) of chia seeds contains the following nutrients:
Protein – 4 grams. Proteins have a lot of functions such as repairing and maintaining body tissues. It helps in repairing the skin, hair, eyes, muscles and other organs. It is involved in formation of hormones,transportation and storage of molecules,helps in forming the antibodies that prevents diseases.
Fats– 9 grams. Carbohydrates are than main source of fuel in the body. But when the level of carbohydrate deprives, fats acts as a backup. Also some types of vitamins in the body cannot be absorbed nor stored without fats being present. These vitamins(A, D, E and K). They are also known as fat soluble vitamins. These vitamins are of much help to the body. Vitamin A helps in promoting good health, vitamin D in keeping the bones strong because it boosts calcium absorption, vitamin E helps protect the cells from neutralizing free radicals, and vitamin K helps in blood clotting. Low fat intake can limit the absorption of these vitamins and this can result to impaired functioning. Fats also helps in insulating the body thus maintaining normal body temperature.
Fiber– 11 grams (5 being omega 3s) It is of great importance in the digestive process. Fiber plays many roles in body health as it regulates appetite, reduces the risks of getting many diseases.
Calcium –. Calcium helps in oral health and stronger bones. It also helps in preventing osteoporosis.
Manganese – It is a mineral which helps the body use other nutrients such as thiamin and biotin thus, very important in our health.
Phosphorous –. It helps in maintaining strong bones and teeth in the body. It is used by the body in synthesizing proteins for the cell, repairing tissues and promoting growth of the tissue.
Magnesium -. Magnesium helps in regulating blood pressure, it treats diabetes, insomnia and depression. It also helps in preventing cardiovascular diseases and it improves bone mineral density.
Zinc – It helps in body immune systems. It is of much help in cell division, cell growth, breakdown of carbohydrates and in healing of wounds.
Vitamin B3 – It is also known as niacin. It helps in lowering the cholesterol levels in the body.
Potassium– Helps in energy metabolism, as well as in biochemical cellular reactions .This means, it is important in protein synthesis from the amino acids and is of great help to the body as it assists in maintaining the electrical gradients in the body cells. Study has shown that increased intake of potassium helps in reducing blood pressure. Blood pressure in human beings is a risk factor that can lead to stroke, kidney failure and heart attack.
Vitamin B1– it is also called thiamin. It helps in converting carbohydrates into glucose. Which is used in the body to produce energy. It is also of benefits to the eyes, improves the brain function and development of myelin sheaths.
Vitamin B2– It is also known as riboflavin. It acts as antioxidant that helps in heart diseases, treats anemia, minimizes the effects of cancer producing carcinogens, and also helps in production of energy.
In conclusion, chia seeds can be added into breakfast cereals, yogurt, bread, granola bars, smoothies and energy bars. In Iran, chia seed has been used in preparing cold beverage called sharbat. Chia seeds were approved in 2009 by the European Union as a novel food. This allowed chia to be included in bread product, total matter of a 5% percentage. Gelatin like substance can also be made from chia seed or consumed while raw.