Chia seeds were a major staple in the diets of the Aztecs and Mayans.
They were carried on long journeys by Aztec warriors and used to enhance
their strength and endurance. In the Aztec culture, these seeds were the
third most important crop, after beans and corn.
Chia seeds are an excellent source of antioxidants and vegetarian omega 3 fats. They have the highest omega 3 content of any plant-based source, including flax seeds. Chia seeds contain 64 percent of the omega 3 fat alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Hemp seeds are another superfood that offers very similar omega 3 properties.
Omega 3 fatty acids are probably the most important fats for your health. They help reduce inflammation, a primary cause of many of the degenerative diseases so common today — heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimers, arthritis, and more.
Omega 3 fats have significant benefits for your skin, joints and hair, as well as your immune system. They're critical for normal growth and development in children, and for women, they offer relief from menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms, infertility and breast cancer.
Typical diets today are lacking in omega 3 fats, and overloaded with omega 6 fats from vegetable oils like corn and soy oil. To get more omega 3's, you want to add more foods such as chia, cold-water fish, flax seeds, or hemp seed products to your diet, or use omega 3 supplements to get your daily requirement. Other good sources for omega fats include nuts, olive oil and avocados.
When you examine the list of benefits attributed to essential fatty acids, it's easy to see why they are quickly becoming one of the most researched topics in the scientific community — and one of the supplements most often recommended by health practitioners. Omega 3 fats, especially, have been shown to have a wide range of health benefits, including:
Some of the health benefits reported by users of chia seeds include increased energy, better digestion, improved skin tone, and help for blood sugar issues.
Increased Energy. Chia seeds contain more energy-boosting nutrients than grains such as rice, corn, wheat or oats. For endurance athletes, chia can provide a major source of energy and stamina.
Help with Digestive Disorders. The soluble fiber and the gel action of these seeds keeps the colon hydrated and ensures the easy movement of food through your colon, thus providing a natural intestinal cleanse. This can be beneficial for digestive disorders such as celiac disease and diverticulitis.
Improved Blood Sugar Stabilization. Chia seeds' combination of soluble and insoluble fiber, along with its unique gelling action, combine to slow down your body’s conversion of starches into sugars. When eaten with a meal, they'll help you turn your food into sustained, steady energy, and keep you "full" longer. Regular consumption helps regulate your blood sugar levels, which is especially helpful in relieving conditions such as diabetes and hypoglycemia.
Chia seeds contain an easily digestible form of protein — in fact, they're one of nature’s highest plant-based sources of complete protein.
Chia also contains minerals, B vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin E. One ounce (about a quarter-cup) contains 300mg of calcium. In addition, it's an excellent source of the trace mineral boron, which is a catalyst for the absorption and use of calcium in the body.
Nutritional content is 16 percent protein, 31 percent fat, 44 percent carbohydrate and 24 percent fiber by weight. One quarter-cup contains 140 calories and 12 grams of fiber.
Chia comes in two main types, white chia and black chia. Typically, black chia is the more commonly produced variety. Chia seeds have virtually no taste of their own. As a result, when used as a nutritional addition to foods and recipes, they don't change the taste of the main ingredients. The simplest way to use them is to sprinkle them directly on your foods, either whole or ground. Use them as a flour replacement in baking recipes, or in place of any recipe calling for flaxseeds.
Chia has a unique ability to absorb liquid and form a gel. This makes it especially good to use as a thickening agent in recipes for things like sauces, soups or smoothies. You can add the seeds to just about anything — oatmeal, granola, yogurt, scrambled eggs, rice, jams and jellies, peanut butter and more.
Chia seeds have many of the same uses as flax seeds. While flax must be ground in order for the nutrients to be absorbed, chia seeds can be consumed whole and are readily digested in that form. Because of its high antioxidant content, chia will not go rancid like flax seed or other oils and grains. It will keep safely for up to 2 years without refrigeration.
A gel made from chia seeds is an excellent addition to baked goods, including breads, muffins, cookies, cakes, pies, etc. The food will bake the same and taste the same (or better). The gel can also be used as a base for your smoothies.
Chia gel can substitute for half the butter in most recipes. All you need to do is divide the amount of butter or oil in the recipe in half, and then use the same amount of gel to replace it. The antioxidants can even help the food stay fresh longer.
Chia gel will store in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.
One of the easiest ways to add the benefits of chia to your daily routine is by using it as an ingredient in your smoothies. They won't affect the taste at all; they'll just increase the thickness and add nutrients and fiber.
A chia gel (as described above) can be used as a liquid base for a smoothie instead of nut milk or juice. This will give your smoothie more fiber and a boatload of omega 3s. You'll have to play around with the proportions to get the consistency just right for you.
If you don't know about smoothies yet, they're the easiest and best way to increase the amount of antioxidants you get from your diet. Using superfoods can boost the nutritional content of any smoothie recipe to equal the antioxidant benefits of at least 6 servings of dark green leafy vegetables, but can be made to taste nothing like them!
You can discover my secrets about how to make smoothies the healthy way elsewhere on this website.
A great source for raw, 100% organic chia seeds is Navitas Naturals. They're a company that I'd recommend as an excellent source for a wide variety of organic superfood products, including acai, goji, maca and cacao, as well as other omega 3 foods such as flax seeds and hemp seeds.
The Navitas Naturals website features hundreds of recipes that include these superfoods, making it easy to find ways to add them to your menus.
Navitas Naturals is a company that also supports fair-trade policies and sustainable organic agriculture. Their foods are certified organic, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, raw, and certified kosher. You won't find higher quality products anywhere.
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