The word “chia” comes from the Mayan word meaning “strength”, which is really fitting when you realize just how amazing these little seeds really are! They are power houses that really do deserve the “superfood” label that so many foods are getting today.
So let’s talk chia…
Chia seeds derive from the plant Salvia Hispanica, a plant native to South America and are of the mint family. You know, the delicious green herb that flavours so many of our teas, toothpastes and jellies.
Chia is great for so many reasons. Not only are chia seeds naturally gluten free, but they are also loaded with antioxidants. But more on that later.
Let’s consider 1oz (or 2tbsp) of chia. In it you would find 12g carbohydrates (11g of fiber), 4g of protein, 9g of fat (5g of which are heart healthy omega-3s), 18% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium, 30% of your RDA of magnesium, 30% your RDA of manganese, 27% RDA of phosphorus as well as zinc, niacin, iron, B2, thiamine and potassium.
But what does that all mean? Let me help!
Let’s start with the 11g of fiber. Fiber is so so important to include in your diet for multiple reasons and it’s important to include 25-30g into your day! There are two types of fiber; soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Chia contains both. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, ferments in the colon and slows the breakdown of food through your system. This is important because as it slows the breakdown of your food the fiber stops your blood sugar from spiking and instead moderates it’s rise. Insoluble fiber on the other hand does not dissolve in water, instead absorbing it and helping you have regular bowel movements. Not only does fiber help you stay regular and control your blood sugar, but it also maintains healthy bowels (lessening your risk of diverticulitis, haemorrhoids, gallstones and kidney stones), can lower heart disease risk and can even help clear your skin by moving toxins through the digestive system to be expelled instead of letting them leech through the skin causing blemishes.
Chia seeds are great at keeping hunger at bay and keeping you fuller for longer. Because chia seeds can expand to 12x their size with water, they can expand in your stomach taking up more room that you would initially think. Because they are taking up so much room in your stomach, you feel full for a longer period of time, but the high fiber content also helps keep your blood sugar from spiking too quickly (as previously mentioned) and will make sure that you don’t have a blood sugar crash making you crave sugary foods and leading you to overeat!
Now protein. I’m sure by now you know the importance of protein in your diet. In biology you learn that proteins are “the building blocks of life”, I know I heard this from every teacher for years, I’m sure you did too! I’m sure then that you also know that every cell in the body is made up of protein, so it is important to make sure your diet is full of it! Because chia is about 14% protein, it is a great way for people on a vegan or vegetarian diet to get in their proteins! Yes, plants can be full of protein also!
Let’s discuss fats. Fats have gotten a bad rep these past few years but not all fats are created equal and chia seeds are chock full of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, gram for gram, chia seeds contain more omega-3s than salmon! Omega-3s are considered an “essential fatty acid”. “Essential fatty acids” mean that the body cannot produce this fat on its own and must rely on food to acquire it. Because chia seeds’ omega-3s come from plant matter, they have ALA (alpha linolenic acid) a type of short chain fatty acid. Unfortunately, ALA cannot be absorbed by the body before first converting into EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) long chain fatty acids that are found in fish and shellfish. The body is able to convert ALA to EPA and DHA for absorption but because of this conversion, you need to consume much more ALA to benefit from the same amount that you would EPA and DHA. Omega-3 fatty acids are very important for maintaining healthy eyes, a healthy heart and can have even been noticed to lower the risk of certain cancers. Definite reasons to keep getting in your omega-3s!
Getting back to antioxidants… as previously mentioned, chia seeds are very high in antioxidants! Antioxidants are substances that fight cell damage. Chia seeds in particular fight 70% of free radicals! Free radicals are pesky little guys whose whole purpose is to damage cells leading to ageing and even to cancer! Antioxidants find those damaged cells and repair them, killing off free radicals without harming any healthy cells. Antioxidants are super heroes! You may have heard that blueberries, pomegranates and other fruits have excellent antioxidant power and now you can add chia seeds to that list! Yum!
Chia does all these great things and even more! Can you imagine? Because of the high percentage of magnesium, chia seeds are great at keeping cortisol levels low helping you fend off stress. Low magnesium has also been linked to migraines and fatigue, so it’s great knowing that chia has got your back there too! You know how we talked about chia being gram for gram higher in omega-3s than salmon? Well it’s also gram for gram higher in calcium than most dairy products! This means that chia seeds are going to keep your bones super strong, your teeth healthy and your smile brilliant!
Finally, chia seeds are excellent for athletes, people who are active or just people who like to run around and have fun! Chia is great as an energy boost as it improves endurance and strength.
So now that you know how great chia seeds are, where can you find them? Because chia seeds have become so popular, you can find them at most grocery stores. I find mine in the baking and specialty food isle. They may even be with the gluten free foods, as mine sometimes are. If not, I recommend ordering online or perhaps finding a specialty food store in your area.
Whole seed or ground? While both whole chia seeds and ground have their benefits. I would recommend buying whole seeds (that’s what I do!) They are great for adding into smoothies, using as egg replacers in baking, making puddings for breakfast or dessert, the list goes on and on!
Chia are awesome little seeds that are so much more than the crazy pet from the 90s, they’re so good for you (and yummy too!) Stay tuned for my favourite chia recipes!
(Note: I am not sponsored by Salba Chia. I am not being compensated for writing this, I just liked how they looked in the grocery store!)