Chia seeds are among the most popular of the so-called "superfoods". Even though they've gained wide popularity in recent years, chia seeds have been well-known since ancient times. The name of the species is Salvia hispanica. These small black and white seeds were among the main food sources of the Mayans, Incas and Aztecs, as well as for numerous other tribes in South America.
In the Mayan language, "chia" means "strength". The ancient culture used the seeds as a very potent high energy food. Tribal ambassadors and messengers always carried a small bag of these seeds with them. Chia was also called "Indian Running Food" due to the tremendous amounts of energy it provided the body. Long, long ago, people noticed that chia seeds fueled the body with energy and increased endurance.
Locals in Mexico claim that just 1 tsp of the seeds is enough to charge us with energy for a whole 24 hours. The climate and growing conditions greatly determine the nutritious qualities of chia seeds. At present, the main producers of these miraculous seeds are Mexico, South and Central America.
Composition of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are an excellent source of proteins that fuel the body with easily absorbable amino acids. They are the richest plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids and the exceptionally valuable linolenic acid which the body cannot synthesize on its own.
Chia seeds contain 5 times more calcium than milk and 3 times more iron than spinach, 2 times more antioxidants than blueberries, 2 times more potassium than bananas. They contain the mineral boron, large quantities of phosphorus, zinc and manganese.
2/5 cup (100 g) of chia seeds contain 486 calories, 30 g fat, 0 g sugars, 16.5 g proteins, 34 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol.
Choosing and Storing Chia Seeds
These unique seeds are sold in organic food stores. The package must contain information about the expiration date and producer. Chia seeds need to be stored in dark and dry areas away from sunlight and moisture. If when opening the package you smell mildew or other strange odor, this is a sure sign that it's no good.
Culinary Use of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds possess a very light strawberry aftertaste which is why they are very suitable for adding to salads, baked goods, various dishes, drinks. They almost do not alter the taste of the dishes they are added to but rather, when they swell, they change their consistency. This way they provide a longer feeling of satiety.
Chia seeds can be used to enrich vitamin juices and shakes, which in turn become thicker. Chia seeds can be consumed in the form of raw sprouts as well - they are good for consumption up to 4 days.
One of the best ways of consuming chia seeds is to take 2 tbsp of soaked or ground seeds every day. Always soak the chia seeds before preparing a dish with them because otherwise they can cause an upset stomach.
Benefits of Chia Seeds
The advantages and benefits of consuming chia seeds are plentiful, which is no wonder why they're called a superfood. Chia seeds charge the body with strength and energy, they boost the body's endurance, improve gastrointestinal function.
It has been proven that chia seeds have an effect on the sugars in the body. Upon contact with liquids, the seeds form a gel, which acts as a sort of physical barrier between the enzymes and carbohydrates in the digestive system. This process slows the breaking down of the carbs into sugar, while the energy from the food is absorbed at regular intervals, which guarantees stamina. This control over the sugar is extremely beneficial for diabetics.
Thanks to their high hygroscopicity, when chia seeds absorb water they extend the hydration process and retain electrolytes, especially in times of bodily stress.
When the seeds swell upon contact with liquids and pass through the gastrointestinal tract they act as a sort of sweeper, cleaning the walls of old waste deposits. Many people use chia seeds to regulate their excretory system.
The protein found in chia seeds does not contain gluten, making these magical seeds an excellent food for anyone suffering from gluten intolerance.
Chia seeds aid in the very rapid production of tissues as a result of their easy assimilation and incredibly high nutritional value. They help in cases of internal and external wounds. They are beneficial for pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as those who actively exercise.
Besides everything else, chia seeds are a favorite food for people who are dieting because when added to dishes they swell and fill up the stomach easier, taking the place of fat and calories. Even if you're not on a diet, you'll decrease your calories in half by consuming chia seeds.