Originally from Mexico, chia seeds are known for their high nutrition value and therapeutic benefits. During the Aztec civilisation, it was believed that eating one teaspoon of chia seeds gave you energy to sustain for 24 hours. Chia means ‘strength’ in the Mayan language. Mesoamericans considered chia seeds as ‘runner’s food’ and ate it before going to battle.
Chia seeds are so powerful since they are high in fibre, proteins, omega-3 – alpha-Linolenic acid, vitamins A, B, D, E, Niacin and Thiamine. They also have the goodness of minerals like manganese, phosphorous, calcium, zinc, potassium, suphur, iron, iodine, magnesium and copper. Just an ounce of chia seeds contains approximately 130 calories.
Health benefits of chia seeds
Recent researches have reconfirmed the benefits of this easy-to-digest superfood which include promoting healthy skin, heart, bones and gut, reversal of diabetes, and better nerve functions. Let’s find out more about it.
Chia seeds contain very high level of fibre which is sufficient enough to meet your daily requirement. This soluble fibre makes the seed to create a gelatin like substance in the stomach which supports the growth of probiotics in the gut. Fibre also helps in balancing the blood sugar level. It helps in balancing the irregularities of the bowel and helps to provide early satiety (feeling of fullness); thus can be used in managing weight due to excessive eating.
Chia seeds are excellent in regulating cholesterol, reversing inflammation and controlling blood pressure. They contain more omega 3 than salmon which makes them quite useful in preventing oxidative stress. Persons who consume chia seeds regularly are less likely to develop atherosclerosis.
Chia seeds are nature’s richest anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants help reduce skin inflammation and prevent premature aging. They also help to speed up skin repair and prevent free radical damage.
Chia seeds contain high levels of calcium. They contain boron which helps to metabolise various minerals including calcium to give us healthy bones and muscles.
Chia seeds can gain 10 times its dry weight in water and hence used for prolonged hydration. It is a good source of protein and nutrients that helps muscle growth. Due to the presence of zinc, Chia seeds also promote the release of leptin, a hormone that regulates appetite and energy levels.
Due to the presence of soluble fibre and omega 3, Chia seeds have a supreme role in treating dyslipidemia, which is a condition where there are abnormally elevated cholesterol or fats (lipids) in the blood. Consumption of chia seeds regularly also helps to increase the HDL (good cholesterol level) and reduce both LDL ('bad' cholestrol level) and triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood). It also helps in reversing type 2 diabetes.
Due to the presence of vital minerals in them, chia seeds help to make our teeth stronger. Calcium is the building block of our teeth and zinc helps to prevent the mineralisation of plaque in the mouth. Phosphorous and vitamin A also promote oral health and strong teeth.
How to consume chia seeds?
Chia seeds have a nutty taste and can be used as a garnish in most salads. But just chewing the seeds will not provide all the nutrition to your body. The best way to make sure that you get the maximum benefit out of the chia seeds, is to soak them for a while or grind them before eating. When they are soaked, the enzyme inhibitors that protect the seed, are released. This makes it easier to digest and the body can actively access the dense nutrients inside the seeds.
How to Soak: To soak the seeds, mix them in a 1: 8 ratio of chia to water. Then let them soak for about 1- 3 hours before eating.
(The writer is the director at Atmantan Wellness, has two decades of experience in the wellness industry in India and abroad)