A brief History:
Chia (Salvia hispanica L.) is a tiny edible indehiscent fruit that is derived from the annual herbaceous plant, Salvia hispanica L. The chia seeds are oval-shaped and measure about 1 mm in diameter. This small nutrient-rich powerhouse has been used by humans for centuries when the Aztecs heavily relied on it during the pre-Colombian civilization. Pronounced Chee-ah the small seeds are making a huge comeback amongst athletes, nutritionists, dieticians, whole and raw foods enthusiasts as well as those who want to keep a healthy lifestyle. The ancient communities grounded, roasted and mixed chia with water to form tamales and beverages. The seed was also ground and its flour added foods as medicine.
In the recent years, Chia seeds have gained popularity due to its fascinating nutritional and medicinal value. The high omega-3 fats, polyunsaturated fatty acids, dietary fiber, proteins, calcium and several minerals have set this seeds to a whole new level of superfoods. In 2009, Chia seeds received a major recognition after the European Union approved the chia seed as a Novel food. The union also allowed the bread manufacturers to incorporate at least 5% of the seeds into bread. Chia seeds are gluten-free, thus making it an appropriate choice for persons with Celiac diseases and gluten sensitivity.
What is the Nutritional Value of Chia Seeds?
Chia is truly a superb superfood! Wrapped up in a tiny package size of a poppy seed, chia is heavily loaded with vitamins, antioxidants, proteins, fibers, minerals and the omega-3 fatty acid, the alpha-linolenic acid. This tiny seed addresses so many health conditions, such that people recognize it as a beneficial functional food.
According to the national database by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), chia seeds contain various nutritional components as listed below.
| NUTRITIONAL FACT
United States Department of agriculture (USDA) national database on the chia seeds nutrient components.
| Amount per one ounce ( 28 g ) serving
|Total Calories 137
| % Daily Value*
| Total Fat 8.6g 36%
|Saturated fat 2.8g 14%
|Carbohydrates 8.6 g 41.12%
|Sodium 91 mg 4%
|Protein 12.3 g 16.45%
N/B; percentage daily values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Additionally the USDA did further experiment on one ounce of the chia seeds of which is about ( 28 grams) and they were found to contain: (5.6g) of protein, (12.3 g) of carbohydrate, (8.6 g) of fat, 137 calories , 265 mg of phosphorus which is about (27%) of our daily value(DV) , 177 mg of calcium which is approximately 18% of our DV and 44.9 mg of Potassium which is about 1 % of our DV.
Chia seeds were also found to contain the largest amount of omega oils than any other known food source. It has a 64 % omega-3 fatty acid, 19 % omega-6 fatty acids and 6% omega-9 fatty acids. A single teaspoon serving of chia seed is reported to have:
- As much calcium as a glass of milk
- More omega-3 fatty acid than a serving of walnuts and,
- AS many antioxidants as blueberries.
Chia seeds contain substantial amounts of fiber that can even absorb up to 10 times water, of the weight of seed.
How to Incorporate Chia into Your Diet
Chia seeds are perfect flavors and they contain no taste. Mostly, they take the taste of the particular food. With all the nutritional values in one serving, you can incorporate Chia seeds into your daily diet. Unlike most seeds and nuts, chia seeds absorb considerable amounts of water making yogurt, smoothies and oatmeal’s much thicker. Its gel-like property means that chia can be used in vegan and vegetarian recipes as a substitute for egg or even in puddings. There are many ways that you can consume Chia seeds but we will only list the best and simple ways to make a chia meal;
- Chia in water and drink. It is the simplest way of incorporating the Chia seed to your diet .To achieve the maximum results of this Chia seeds, we recommend that you soak 3 TB of Chia seeds in 1 cup of juice or water for between (20-30 minutes). Due to flavorless nature of the seeds, you can squeeze lemon juice into your drink.
- Chia for smoothies. To add Chia to your smoothie, you can either grind it or use its flour or alternatively soaking two tablespoons (14-28 grams) in water for about 5 minutes and you blend with your smoothies mixtures.
- Chia seeds in a salad. This is another ingenious way of adding Chia to your daily meal. To achieve it, simply sprinkle Chia seeds to salad leaves and to your salad vegetables and cook them all together. Your salad will not only be sweet but also nutritious.
- Chia pudding. This is a simple way of deriving the natural nutritional benefits of the chia seeds. By just mixing the Coconut milk, vanilla, cinnamon powder and sprinkling Chia seeds on the mixture, you will turn a delicious morning breakfast into a nutritious meal of all time.
Therapeutic Potential of Chia seeds.
A chia seed has been a staple food for the ancient Aztec and Mayan cultures for several thousand years. Despite it being small, it has numerous health benefits. In fact, it is on the list of the top healthiest foods on the planet and thus qualifies to be a versatile “superfood”. They are endowed with minerals and nutrients that are beneficial to not only our bodies but also the general functioning of brains in many ways, and that is why “Chia” in an ancient Mayan language term meaning strength!
Below are some benefits of chia seeds that have been scientifically proven;
- Phytochemicals and Antioxidants in Chia seeds.
Chia seeds are a perfect source of antioxidants. Antioxidants are enzymes and nutrients that prevent cell damage. According to a 2008 research by Department of food and nutrition, Indiana, USA, the chia seeds contain a remarkable amount of antioxidants mainly chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, quercetin, and flavanols.
Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant that is capable of not only boosting one’s energy levels but also preventing most of the chronic diseases such as lung cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes type 2, asthma and heart diseases by boosting the body’s immune system.
Caffeic in Chia sees is a second most abundant phenol. A research on chia seeds overviews by Bruna de Falco, Mariana Amato,and Virginia Lanzotti all from the University of Naples Federico II found out that the caffeic acid concentration in Chia seeds is (0.0274 mg/g) higher than (0.007 mg/g) in mango and (0.0216 mg/g) in blueberry. Caffeic helps prevents colon cancer by preventing colitis, an inflammation of the colon (large intestines).
The Chlorogenic acid being the most abundant phenols in Chia seeds has an anticancer property that prevents mitosis, a cell division process that results in the development of cancerous cells. It is for this reason that experts recommend chia seeds for patients suffering brain tumors.
Besides that, the antioxidants strengthen the body’s immune system, allowing the body protect itself against invaders. The alpha-linolenic acid found in chia fortifies the bodies’ immune system and functions.
N/B: chia seeds can remain in its shell for up to 3 years without any preservative due to the high levels of antioxidants.
Type 2 Diabetes has been on the sharp rise for past decades. Most studies have attributed the rise to low fiber consumption and poor lifestyle choices. Despite all this, Chia seeds are perfect diabetes preventers, thanks to its high content of linoleic acid and high amount of dietary fiber. The presence of high extents of fiber helps in diabetes mellitus by slowing down the rate of digestion and releasing of glucose. It also increases the peristaltic movements of the intestine while reducing the plasma cholesterol level.
Chia helps both type 1 and 2 diabetes by actually slowing down the rate of carbohydrate conversion into sugar, hence maintaining and balancing healthy blood sugar levels. Chia often forms a gel-like substance which surrounds the carbohydrates during digestion, thus slowing their release into blood eventually moderating the blood sugar levels. In a study done at St. Michael Hospital in Toronto, twenty patients with type 2 diabetes were administered daily with 37 grams of chia seeds for almost ten weeks, showed that chia significantly helped to control the blood sugar while also lowering blood pressure, reducing the harmful triglycerides and LDL cholesterols, while significantly increasing the beneficial HDL cholesterols. As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure; it is high time that you incorporate our Chia seeds into your diet and reduces the risk of diabetes.
Chia is rich in alpha-linolenic acid, the only essential omega-3 fatty acids. They make the cell membrane more efficient and flexible, thus making nutrients readily available for nerve transmission to be effective. This will in turn help improve memory, moods and the overall functioning of the brain.
- Chia seeds and weight loss.
Chia seeds are hydrophilic, hence when it gets wet, it’s outer layer swells into a gelatinous covering. This quality, plus the fact that it’s high in fiber content(38% of the seed),allows chia to create a feeling of fullness and satiety, while also controlling any food cravings, soothing the digestive tract as well as balancing the blood sugar levels. Chia is ideal for people who want to lose weight.
Besides that, the Galactomannan fiber found in Chia seeds that helps stimulate weight loss. These fibers are roughly 10 g per ounce of seeds. This fiber is responsible for absorbing the water and making you fill full for a longer time thus reducing overeating. One study conducted in 2015 by US dietary showed that eating at least 30 g of fiber on a daily basis may help one lose weight, lower blood pressure and improve the body’s response to insulin just as a diet that is more complicated.
Chia is loaded with protein. Protein is essential for all living cells and tissues. The human body uses protein in building and repairing of tissues as well as in making hormones, enzymes and other important body chemicals. Protein is an important building block for muscles, bones, skin, blood, and cartilages. The human body needs relatively high amounts of proteins from our diets since they are not stored by the body. What’s even more important is the fact that chia not only contains a generous 20% of protein but also contains complete protein. This means that our body can fully utilize chia proteins just as it is.
With 20 % of protein content, chia has a massive prospective to prevent and correct any protein-energy malnutrition. The secret behind the protein power of chia is its building blocks, the amino acids (Chia contains all the eight essential amino acids). Chia seeds contain 2 g of protein per tablespoon serving which is roughly 4% of the daily protein value (DV). The protein in chia seeds is made up of albumins (39g/kg protein), globulins (70 g/kg), prolamins (538 g/kg proteins) and glutelins (230 g/kg protein). Chia seeds also have strontium, which helps the human body produce high energy and assimilate the proteins.
- Chia seeds and cardiovascular conditions
Heart diseases also referred to as cardiovascular diseases affect one out of every four citizens in the country. Most cardiovascular diseases are caused by poor lifestyle choices-thus they can be prevented. Daily consumption of chia is a lifestyle choice and an excellent one if you really want to ward off, treat or lessen any heart disease. In a 2007 study done at the University of Toronto, researchers fed 21 diabetic subjects with chia and grains with similar fiber contents, and the subjects who took chia had a significant reduction in their blood pressure. Furthermore, researchers found out that the blood clotting factor and the C-reactive protein, an inflammation marker of heart disease fell by over 30%.The alpha-linolenic acid in chia seeds plays a significant role in the reduction of cardiac inflammations and fibrosis by lowering the bad cholesterol levels.
The higher the concentration of omega-3 in chia the higher the chances it will correct cases of dyslipidemia i.e. increased LDL blood levels, triglycerides and lowering the HDL cholesterol.
It’s so tempting to list study after study, but they all suffice to support that chia is full of substances that can help protect your heart from any cardiovascular diseases. All you need is just two tablespoon a day of chia seeds.
- Chia Seeds for the Skin and Beauty
Chia seeds have a high concentration of the antioxidants that contains high phenol concentration. Antioxidants act to prevent the formation of skin wrinkles by reducing the overproduction of free radicals by our body cells. Antioxidants also speed up skin repair systems and prevent any damage through constant regeneration of new skin.
The high concentration of Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in chia seeds plays an important role in improving the skin outlook. Together with alpha Linoleic (LA) acid and linolenic acid (ALA), the omega acids improve skin elasticity by increasing the collagen and also removing the pro-inflammatory molecules that cause premature aging.
- Chia seeds in Digestive health.
Chia is a super-fiber food containing about 11 grams of fibers in one ounce. Normally, the recommended fiber for an adult is about 10-13g/1000kcal or 20-3 5g/day. For children, the required DV fiber is equal to their age plus 5 grams of fiber daily. For instance, an 8-year-old will require (8+5 g) of fibers. The high fiber content of chia seed as health perspective, fiber increases stool volume, prevent diverticulosis and colon cancer.
The gel-like substance is formed also allows growth of probiotics in the gut. Prebiotics are important bacteria found in our digestive systems. Fibers create a suitable environment for the prebiotics. The Fibers in chia seeds also help reduce constipation. Chia seeds are highly hydrophilic thus they bring moisture to the colon. As it moves along the colon, chia’s nature “irrigates” the intestines, keeping the contents malleable and moist.
N/B: a study by American Diabetic association notes that a single serving of Chia seeds fulfills the recommended daily fiber needs of the body.
- Role of Chia seeds in cancer.
Two tablespoons of chia seeds daily will prevent cell mutations as well as slow the mutated cells, hence making conventional therapies in cancer more successful. How? Chia has high levels of antioxidants, thus they help protect and supercharge cells from oxidative and DNA damages. Chia seeds contain alpha linoleic acid (ALA) which is an omega 3 fatty acid. This acid suppresses the growth of cancerous cells without destroying normal cells. Among the cancer-fighting antioxidants found in chia are Vitamins A, E, and C, caffeic and chlorogenic acids, and quercetin, myricetin, and flavonol glycosides and kaempferol flavonol, Omega-3 fatty acid also helps in fighting and preventing cancer. A study done in 2007 showed that omega 3 fatty acids in chia helped in the prevention of the cells from metastasizing and shrinking of the existing tumors.
- Role of Chia seeds in pregnancy
Chia seeds are highly nutritious and expectant mothers should incorporate it into their pregnancy diet. The chia seeds help to boost the nutrients and boosts the energy of the fetus and mother. Chia slows sugar absorption and also slows down the process of converting sugars and carbohydrates from sucrose to energy. This, in turn, slows burning process leading to sustained energy boost for a long time. It is important for both mother’s health and baby’s development. The fatty acids are important in the development of fetus brain.
The Calcium in chia is important for skeletal development during the final months of pregnancy.
The iron-Mothers need high volumes of blood and also the young angel needs blood. Iron is an important component in the formation of red blood cells which transports oxygen through the body.
Possible Side Effects of Eating Chia Seeds
- For those with bowel complications, the consumption of fibers in chia seeds should be closely monitored such that it may cause chronic cause inflammation and narrowing of gastrointestinal tract leading to abdominal pains and bleeding that may result to weight loss.
- Choking risk: Chia seeds pose a high risk of choking because of its property of absorbing a lot of water and becoming gel-like which wells. Those with swallowing problems should first soak the seeds for some minutes before consumption rather they should be consumed when roasted than when dry to avoid problems of the seeds clogging in one’s throat.
- Can prevent blood clotting: Due to the extreme presence of amino acids fatty acids, these seeds are natural blood thinners and may prevent blood from clotting. To curb this, persons undergoing treatment or surgeries should not eat chia seeds for fear of overbreeding.
- Triggers allergic reactions: Most allergic people do not consume protein products, given that largest composition of chia seeds is amino fatty acids and that they can cause allergic reactions such as skin rashes, coughing, and sore eyes. Severe allergies trigger shock weakens pulse and turns the skin pale.
- Hinders Diabetic medication. Though the studies show that chia seeds can lower blood sugar levels due to high fiber content. Eating sizable amounts of chia can help diabetic persons to keep their blood sugars on track. On contrary, excessive intake of chia seeds may lower blood sugar levels and cause adjustments in the dosage of diabetes medication.
- Hinders Blood pressure medication. Those with high blood pressure may be advised to eat chia seeds to lower blood pressure but this reduction might be quite dangerous as it may cause low blood pressure or hypotension.
- Worsening diverticulitis: People with diverticulitis symptom may develop bulging sacs called diverticula along the lining of large intestines causing inflammation when it squeezes through the colon bringing about abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea. To stop this one should avoid higher intake of chia seeds as they get stuck on the diverticula and inflames them.
In conclusion, the chia seeds contain awesome nutritional and medicinal properties. The chia seeds are generally versatile and can be incorporated into our daily diets in many ways. With chia seed, you will get amazing benefits ranging from preventing diabetes, preventing premature aging, improving the body fiber requirement, boost immunity, reduce risks of chronic diseases among many other benefits. However, the Scientists are still doing research to have a clear understanding of this magical seed.