Chia seeds are small, hydrophilic, mottled colored, oval shaped seeds from the desert plant Chia (Salvia Hispanica). Chia is a flowering, annual herb, of the mint-family, native to the southern or central Mexico and Guatemala; introduced later in Argentina, Peru and Bolivia. It was first used by the Aztecs during the Teotihuacan and Toltec civilizations in the valley of Mexico. It was a cash crop in Mexico between 900 and 1500 BC. Evidence suggests Chia seeds were a staple food consumed by the Aztecs and Mayans as early as 3500 BC. During pre-Columbian civilizations, Chia was used as a raw material for nutritional and medicinal purposes. Currently, this high-energy superfood is widely used and gaining popularity throughout the world.
Considered fiber-rich, energy boosting, and nutritious; Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids and minerals. Chia plant has long extended white flowers (white seed variety) and purple flowers (black seed variety). Chia seeds are available in white, black, brown, gray and mixed colors. Black and white Chia seeds are most commonly used and recognized in the market. Although, black and white Chia seeds vary by color; however, it is believed they equally possess nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and protein. Black seeds contain more antioxidants. White seeds are rich in protein and possess a milder flavor compared to black seeds. However, this assumption lacks strong clinical data and both seeds are nutritionally dense and have close nutritional value.
This ancient, super-seed is a highly nutritious food, rich in Omega 3 fatty acids (linolenic acid), anti-oxidants, fiber, protein, carbohydrates, iron, protein, potassium, calcium, zinc and magnesium. It is a gluten-free, blood-sugar regulator that offers a wide range of health benefits. It is comprised of 60 percent lipids such as Omega 3 and Omega 6 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
What is Chia good for?
According to a 2014 pilot study published in the journal of alternative and complementary medicine, intake of 25 gm milled Chia seeds for 10 weeks increased the serum levels of eicosapentaenoic acid, alpha-linolenic acid and omega 3 long chain fatty acids, which significantly improve heart health without altering disease risk factors or inflammation.
Rat studies have concluded that Chia seeds increase good cholesterol (HDL) and lower inflammation, triglycerides, insulin resistance and abdominal fat.
How is Chia used?
Chia seeds are consumed raw, in oil form or used in powder form. Chia seeds may be blended into smoothies, and added to yoghurt, energy bars, breakfast cereals, granola bars, and energy bars. Chia seeds ground into a meal or flour is known as Pinole, commonly used in cakes, porridges and cookies. Raw Chia seed mixed in a beverage is referred to as Chia Fresca in Mexico. Chia seed oil may be sprinkled in cereal, breads and salads. Gelatinous Chia obtained by soaking chia seeds in water is used in smoothies and puddings. Chia sprouts are used in sandwiches and salads.