Chia seeds are the newest “it” health food on the market. Have you ever wondered what they are and why so many people are singing their praises? Well, today we want to share what we have found regarding these little seeds.
Chia Seed History
Chia is a species of a flowering plant in the mint family, Lamiaceae, which is native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. These seeds were cultivated by the Aztec and Mayans as an important food crop used for nutritious drinks and as a food source. Chia came from the Mayan word for “strength.” The Aztecs and Mayans consumed chia seed regularly by grinding them into flour, pressing them for oil, and drinking them with water. They were known to increase energy and stamina over long periods of time.
Chia’s Nutrient Profile
Chia seeds are a rich source of plant based Omega 3 fatty acids, ALA in particular, soluble fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and protein. They are naturally grain and gluten free.
1 oz. Chia seeds
Carbs: 12g (11g fiber)
Omega 6: 1.6g
Omega 3: 4.9g (ALA)
Chia Seeds and Omega 3 Fats
When it comes to eating chia seeds solely for the purpose of obtaining omega 3 fatty acids we want you to keep this in mind. The omega 3 fatty acid, ALA, found in chia seeds are plant based fats. ALA must be converted in the body to EPA and DHA for use, and this conversion is often inefficient. When you eat animal sources of omega 3 fats such as fish and grass-fed beef, you obtain omega 3 fatty acids in the form of EPA and DHA, which means there is no conversion needed and your body is ready to use the fats. You do not want to rely simply on plant based fats alone. Chia seeds however are an excellent addition to this routine. Experts suggest that in order to retain the quality of the fat in chia seeds a person should buy the seeds whole and then grind the seeds in a coffee grinder when using. If you purchase already ground chia seeds more than likely the fats have been exposed to oxidation, which is damaging to the body.
Soluble Fiber and Antioxidants
Soluble fibers feed the friendly bacteria that live in our guts, and can aid in regulating blood sugar. The fiber in the seed also allows the seed to form a gel when wet, which experts suggest is the same thing that happens inside the stomach. The antioxidants present in chia seeds add to both its nutritional profile and shelf life. The antioxidants prevents the seeds from deteriorating which means they can be stored for longer periods of time before becoming rancid.
How to Add Chia Seeds to Your Diet
A good rule of thumb for general health purposes is to consume 1-2 TB daily. You can find chia seeds at any health foods store and most grocers are beginning to carry them, especially if they have a natural or organic section. You could also find them available online to buy in bulk. Here are some easy ways to eat them:
- Chia seed puddings are all the rage these days.
- Drink them! Simply add to water or a juice and drink. Make sure to check your teeth in a mirror before heading out though!
- Sprinkle them on your foods. Ideas include: topping your salads, eating in your grain free porridge or yogurt, or add to smoothies.
- Wellness Mama gives 10 uses for chia seeds that you should check out.
So there you have it. These little seeds come packed with nutrition. Adding these to your healthy diet seems like a good idea. Have you all tried chia seeds? What are your favorite ways of adding them to your diet?