A look at why this tiny superfood is taking the nutrition world by storm
Dt. Geetika Uppal
Gold-medalist in Nutritional Science and the founder of ‘Foodmatters by Dt.Geetika Uppal’
Chia has long been touted as a superfood and it isn’t surprising that the world over many people are obsessed with these seeds. Chock full of health and very versatile, they can be made into puddings, blended into smoothies, and even baked into bread. Chia seeds are edible seeds of the chia plant (Salvia Hispanic), a flowering plant of the mint family native to central and southern Mexico. They are oval and gray with black and white spots, with a diameter of only 2 mm. Chia in ancient Mayan means ‘strength’.
These seeds are hydrophilic, which means when soaked, they can absorb liquid 12 times their weight and develop a coating that gives them a gel-like texture. With little, if any distinctive flavor, they don’t compete with other flavors in a dish, making it a very versatile ingredient to use.
- Calories per ounce (28 grams) – 138 calories
- By weight they contain,
- Water – 6%,
- Carbohydrate – 42% (12 grams), out of which 82 % is fiber (9.8 grams)
- Fats – 31% (8.7 grams)
- Protein- 17% (4.8 grams)
- Rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6
Consuming 1 ounce of chia seeds daily provides 18% of the daily calcium requirements, 27 % phosphorus, 30% magnesium, and some amounts of potassium and copper too. Most people do not usually get these essential nutrients from their food, so regular consumption of chia seeds helps get these vital minerals into the system.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF CHIA SEEDS
1. Improves Omega-3 levels in the blood
Omega-3 helps decrease LDL, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. It also helps reduce atherosclerotic plaque and improves endothelial pressure. Omega-3 is very important for the body and brain and having chia seeds is the best option for vegetarians to increase omega-3 levels.
2. Improves blood sugar levels
With the ability to convert glucose into slow-releasing carbohydrates, chia seeds reduce insulin resistance and help control blood sugar, which reduces the risk of diabetes.
3. Lowers blood pressure and reduces LDL or bad cholesterol
the seeds are good for controlling elevated blood pressure levels. They have also been found to be effective in decreasing LDL (low-density lipoprotein) levels. Hence, its consumption is good for heart health.
4. Improves gut health
the seeds are high in fiber, making them gut-friendly, improving digestion, and helping relieve constipation. The fiber is mainly soluble fiber and mucilage (the substance responsible for the gluey texture) that bulks up stool, feeds friendly bacteria in the gut and helps slow digestion promoting a feeling of fullness.
5. Treats diverticulosis
Diverticulosis occurs when small, bulging pouches (diverticula) develop in the digestive tract restricting bowel movement. The seeds being high in fiber with water-absorbing properties, make bowel movements easier and help lessen the pressure on the colon.
6. Gluten and Sugar-free
it is a safe option and can be easily used for people suffering from gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Also, perfect for individuals mindful of sugar intake.
7. Full of antioxidants
the antioxidants in the seed help protect the delicate fats from going rancid. Besides, the antioxidants also scavenge free radicals from body cells and reduce damage caused by oxidation.
8. High in proteins
Chia seeds are the highest in quality protein among all plant-based foods. As we know, Protein functions as ‘building blocks’ for cells and helps them grow and repair themselves.
CHIA SEEDS AND WEIGHT LOSS
Chia seeds have become very popular with dietitians and are extensively recommended in weight-loss diets. Low in calories, high in fiber, its water-holding capacity makes a person feel fuller for a considerably longer time. The seeds contain around 5 grams of fiber per tablespoon and high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acid, which is advantageous for weight loss.
The seeds are consumed after soaking in liquid which forms a gel-like coating around them. This causes it to digest slowly in the body, preventing hunger pangs for an extended period. Feeling full for a long time reduces excess intake of food and thus results in a decrease in calorie intake. When combined with a healthy lifestyle and eating habits, it is an effective way of aiding weight-loss.
SIDE EFFECTS OF CHIA SEEDS
Chia seeds generally do not have any significant adverse effects, but if consumed in large quantities, they may have blood-thinning effects as they contain a compound called phytic acid (present in all seeds) that reduces mineral absorption. Hence the recommended daily limit is 1.5 – 2 tablespoons per day.
HOW TO USE CHIA SEEDS?
- Add a tablespoon to your morning smoothie
- Sprinkle onto salads
- Cook with chia flour
- Soak in water (1:16 ratio), add lemon or any other flavor for a refreshing drink
- Add chia seeds to trail mix (a combination of dried fruit, nuts, seeds, granola, and sometimes even chocolate)
- Make a chia seed pudding by soaking overnight in milk or yogurt.
Chia breakfast power bowl
|Low fat Greek yogurt||2 cups|
|Any low-fat milk or unsweetened milk||1.5 cups|
|Chia seeds||¼ cup|
|Vanilla essence||2 tbsp|
|Honey or stevia||2 tbsp|
|Blueberries, pecan, some lemon or orange zest, chopped almonds||For toppings|
- In a large bowl, mix all ingredients (except the toppings).
- Soak it overnight or at least 4 to 5 hours.
- Top with all the toppings and serve cold.
- One serving (1/6th) contains only 104 calories, is high on fiber, and a perfect breakfast option.
- The other benefit of chia seeds is they have no specific distinctive flavor of their own so they don’t compete with other flavors in a dish, making it an extremely versatile ingredient to add to recipes.