The many health benefits of chia seeds

by | Jul 14, 2014 | Food, Food as Medicine, Health | 0 comments

Chia seeds are everywhere. They seem to be one of the most popular superfoods of the moment and I have had loads of questions from my patients about how good they really are, and how to use them. So I thought this would be the perfect topic for a newsletter.

I must admit that at first I thought ‘here we go, another superfood’. Products such as goji berries, kale, wheat grass, spirulina and maca powder have all had their own popularity. However, much research exists to back them up as an amazing source of nutrition and an excellent addition to everyone’s diet.

Chia seeds are originally found in South America and have been used as early as 3500 BC by the Aztecs. Interestingly, Chia grows best at 15 degrees from the equator and are today grown on this latitude in Australia and South America.

So why are Chia seeds so good for you?

  • Chia seeds contain a high amount of beneficial oils. Up to 64% is Omega 3. The oil also contains omega 6 essential fatty acids, and has an omega 3 to omega 6 ratio of 3:2.  The omega 3 found in chia seeds is converted by the body into DHA and EPA fatty acids – the same kinds that are found in fish oil.
  • They contain 23% protein. This is a ‘complete’ protein that can be very effectively utilized by the body. Its an excellent source of protein for vegetarians or people with a low animal product diet.
  • They are gluten free and Cholesterol free
  • They contains 6 times more calcium per weight volume than milk. Just 100g will give you about the same amount of calcium as 2 sips of milk.
  • Also high in B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, boron and copper
  • They contains 27 key nutrients in total
  • They contain a range of antioxidants (such as quercetain and flavonol glycosides). This is about double the amount of antioxidants found in blueberries! In fact, the naturally high level of antioxidants means that the seeds do not need to be refrigerated even though they have a high level of fats.
  • The seeds can absorb 9 times their weight in water and form a gel like consistency with fluid. This helps you to feel fuller after meals.
  • They are high in fibre and the mucilaginous properties (ability to form a gel) act as a bulking agent, therefore improving digestive function and promoting regular bowel motions.

How to use Chia Seeds

Chia seeds have a very gentle flavor so they will not overpower the taste of your meals. They are almost tasteless and can be added to a variety of different meals. However keep in mind that they do absorb liquid and so will thicken whatever you add them too.

Ground or whole chia seeds can be sprinkled into yoghurt, cereals, muesli, smoothies or even into salads. Take care that you drink your smoothie immediately or add extra liquid so that it doesn’t turn out too thick to drink! Add into your own homemade muesli, cakes, muffins, slices etc- up to ¼ of a cup will mix in well. Throw them into stews, soups or casseroles and add them into rice or cous cous dishes after cooking. Chia seed pudding is delicious and easy to make by blending some coconut milk, cinnamon and banana and then soaking the chia seeds in the liquid for a minimum of 2 hours. You are left with a beautiful mousse type consistency and a healthy option for dessert. As an even easier option you can also add them into your drinking water and sip throughout the day.

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