Superfood: Chia Seeds
Author: Lia Pellizzeri Date Posted:21 May 2019
Did you know that Chia is the ancient Mayan word for ‘strength’? Chia seeds have been considered a ‘Super’ food long before our current obsession with them, but it is our recent day and age that have elucidated the exact components of this seed making it worthy of the title!
A close relative of the Mint family, seeds from the Salvia hispanica plant have been a staple of the Aztec and Mayan diet for thousands of years, providing long sustaining energy to those cultures due to its wonderful balance of carbohydrates, fats and protein.
But is the humble Chia seed a nutritional fad? The simple answer is no… they are indeed a very rich source of nutrition – however, many of the claims associated can be over-stated and many people don’t know much about them beyond their superfood status, which is why we will address some common thoughts and misconceptions.
Will they really help you lose weight?
Chia seeds are often touted as a weight-loss aid, but this is a misnomer, as they are not going to actively reduce fat by any effect on metabolism. However, almost all the carbohydrate content found in them is in fact fibre – in a 28g serving containing 12g of carbohydrate, 11 of those grams are fibre! And though its considered a carb, fibre is actually indigestible and therefore has no effect on blood sugar levels.
Fibre also increases satiety or that feeling of fullness after eating a meal, and slows down absorption of food which may help you to eat a little less, thereby theoretically assisting in weight loss through curbing caloric intake.
What makes them so good for you?
Having a diverse nutrient profile they are undoubtedly a complete health food, they also contain the very important Omega-3 essential fatty acids which can be difficult to get if you are vegetarian or a non-frequent fish eater. Keep in mind though, that the form of the Omega-3 is alpha-linolenic acid, which first needs to be converted into the active forms of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid before the body can utilize it.
A 28 gram serving of Chia seeds also provides a nutritional punch with 11g of fibre, 9g of fat - 5g of which are those coveted Omega-3’s, provide 18% recommended dietary intake of Calcium, 30% RDI of Manganese, 30% RDI of Magnesium, and 27% RDI of phosphorus, whilst also containing significant amounts of Zinc, Vitamin B 1,2 and 3, and potassium.
Are they a better source of protein?
Chia seeds are a complete protein, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body – making them a fantastic source of protein, especially for Vegetarians and Vegans who - although can get very adequate amounts of protein in their diet - can struggle to get all nine amino acids without clever food combining!
Even for meat-eaters, chia seeds provide a great low-carb, high-protein addition to many meals that also delivers a vast array of other nutrients for very little calories.
Do I just eat them whole?
The other great thing about this super food, is their sheer versatility, so instead of just guzzling them down with water during the day they can be used imaginatively in so many ways. One of the better known ways is by soaking them over-night in some form of liquid (usually either milk or a plant-based milk) to create a chia pudding, as the seeds actually form a gelatinous texture when combined with liquid.
Chia seeds can also be sprinkled into cakes or muffins, or on salads for added texture, or even whizzed up in a smoothie to enhance thickness and creaminess… they also make a fantastic egg-substitute for vegans or those with egg allergies in baked goods.
So now you know a little bit more about this current foodie obsession of the health world! It can always be a challenge introducing something new and trendy into your everyday diet, but the additional nutritional punch chia seeds can provide - and the fact that many simply do not get enough fibre in their day - can make a really noticeable difference in so many ways regarding health.
And did you know? That although the seeds are native to Mexico and Guatemala, the largest producer of organically grown Chia seeds come from the Kimberley region here in Australia!
|Written by Lia Pellizzeri|
Lia is a qualified Naturopath who believes in the power of nature to heal many of today’s acute and chronic conditions. She’s not only passionate about living a healthy lifestyle, but about educating people on nutrition and the amazing benefits of herbs and supplements in addressing symptoms and their underlying issues.
Lia loves to cook, bake and read… when she isn’t busy telling people to enjoy their egg yolks and other healthy fats, she can most likely be found on the lounge with a latte and a tattered copy of Lord of the Rings.