“Chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength”. It is little wonder that these seeds were given this name by the Mayans, as there are many amazing benefits of chia seeds that do indeed give your body strength. Although the Mayans and the Aztecs regarded chia seeds as an important food source their unique properties as a food was only rediscovered in recent times.
What is this unique seed comprised of?
A 1 ounce (28 grams) serving of Chia seeds contains: 11 grams of fiber; 4 grams of protein; 9 grams of fat (5 of which are Omega-3s); 18% of the RDA of calcium; 30% of the RDA of manganese; 30% of the RDA of magnesium and 27% of the RDA of phosphorus. They also contain potassium, zinc, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 and vitamin B3 (niacin).
As we can see chia seeds contain a high percentage of fiber, protein, and Omega 3 fatty acid. Chia seeds are 40% fiber, by weight and this makes them one of the best sources of fiber in the world. By weight, they are about 14% protein, which is high in comparison to other plants. As Chia seeds also contain amino acids the human body is able to use the protein they contain efficiently.
Chia seeds contain more Omega-3s than salmon, gram for gram, however, the fatty acid chia seeds contain is ALA and humans are not good at converting this into DHA (the most important Omega-3 fatty acid).
Let us take a closer look at the amazing benefits of chia seeds and see how incorporating them into our daily diet can be of great benefit.
The benefits of chia seeds
1. Digestive Health
The high fiber component of chia seeds helps promote bowel regularity. When they are eaten chia seeds create a gelatin-like substance in the stomach due to the soluble fiber found in the seed. This gel-forming action can act as a prebiotic, which fosters the growth of probiotics in the gut.
2. Heart Health
Studies have shown that a diet that includes chia seeds, soy protein, oats and nopal, can lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, increase HDL cholesterol and reduce inflammation. However, a separate study that just looked at just chia seeds did not find any improvements to cholesterol readings or inflammation. This does not necessarily mean that chia seeds do not have a positive effect on heart health it may simply suggest that chia seeds need to be one part of a diet that is geared towards heart health.
3. Cure Diabetes
Chia seeds are rich in alpha-linolenic acid and fiber, which indicated to researchers, from the University of Litoral in Argentina, that they may be useful in preventing metabolic disorders (like dyslipidemia – excessive fat in the blood – and insulin resistance). Such metabolic disorders are can be part of the cause of diabetes. The studies which were published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that chia seeds were proven to stop diabetes and even reverse it.
4. Boost Your Energy
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning came to the conclusion that eating chia seeds can help improve exercise performance. Using chia seeds as a performance enhancing food finds its precedent; legend has it, in Aztecs and Mayans cultures.In the study half of the athletes drank only Gatorade. The others drank half the amount of Gatorade and made up the remaining amount of Gatorade with a chia drink. The workout lasted for 90 minutes.
The result was that consuming half Gatorade and half chia drink was just as beneficial as drinking the full amount of the Gatorade drink. The study thus suggests that the chia seeds provide athletes with extra carbs they need for endurance events while decreasing their intake of sugar.
5. Stronger Bones
One ounce of chia seeds has 18% of the recommended daily amount of calcium. Calcium aids in the maintenance of bone strength and mass and is thus fundamental to bone health. Boron, another essential nutrient for bone health, is also found in Chia. Boron helps metabolize calcium, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium all of which are essential in the growth of healthy bones.
6. Lose Weight
The high protein and fiber content of chia seeds means that they are very useful in helping you lose weight. The fiber absorbs large amounts of water and expands in the stomach, which gives a feeling of fullness. It also slows the absorption of food. Protein often acts to reduce one’s appetite, thus the protein found in chia seeds may help you feel less hungry.
Studies that have looked at the effects of chia seeds on weight loss have not found any relationship between the intake of chia seeds and weight loss. Nevertheless, adding chia seeds to an overall healthy diet may prove to be a useful addition.
We have seen many of the amazing benefits of chia seeds. A lot can be said for this nutrient packed seed and it is clear that adding chia to your daily diet can prove to be of great benefit to your overall health. Let’s take a look at some great recipe ideas that will show you ways to incorporate chia seeds into your daily foods.
Chocolate Pistachio Chia Shake
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk, plus more to thin if desired
2 tablespoons black chia seeds
3 whole medjool dates, pitted
1/3 cup roasted + shelled pistachios, plus more for topping
3 frozen medium + very ripe bananas, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt or use coconut milk yogurt for a vegan option
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a small bowl mix together the milk and chia seeds. Let this sit for 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile add the pistachios and dates to the bowl of a food processor or high powered blender. Blend until the mixture becomes finely chopped and almost butter like, scraping down the side as you go. You want to get it as smooth as possible. I let the mixture blend for about 5 minutes.
To the blender add the chia seeds + milk mixture, the frozen banana chunks, cocoa powder, greek yogurt and vanilla extract. Blend until thick, creamy, and smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the blender as needed. If the shake is too thick add more milk to your liking.
Chia Oat Pitaya Super-Bowl
Ingredients to Blend
1/3 cup oats
3 tbs. chia seeds
1 cup coconut water (filtered water will work, too)
1 banana (fresh or frozen)
1 dragonfruit smoothie pack
1/2 cup frozen raspberries and blueberries
1 tbs. maca powder (optional, energy boost)
1 tbs. psyllium husk (optional, helps digestion)
1 tsp. spirulina
Toppings: Handful frozen blueberries and raspberries, handful goji berries, 1 tsp. flax seeds.
Soak oats and chia seeds in water or coconut water overnight. In the morning, blend with all other ingredients. Top with frozen berries, goji berries and flax seeds. Soaking chia and oats adds nutritional value to the bowl, however you can still make it without pre-soaking!
Banana cake with chia seeds
2 cups almond flour
¼ cup tapioca flour
¼ cup flaxseed meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 cup bananas, mashed
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup coconut milk
⅓ cup honey
4 tablespoons coconut oil
In a large bowl mix the almond flour, tapioca flour, flaxseed meal, baking soda, salt and chia seeds. In a separate bowl, cream together coconut oil (not melted) and honey with a hand mixer. Add in eggs one at a time and continue mixing. Add in mashed banana, vanilla extract and coconut milk, mix until fully incorporated. .Pour wet ingredients in with dry ingredients and mix together with hand mixer to form batter.
Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper, covering two sides. Leave extra long so you have a handle to pull cake out. Pour the mixture evenly in the pan. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Set the pan on a wire rack when removing it from the oven and allow it to cool.
Lemon Poppy and chia Seed Loaf
Makes 1 loaf
160 g flour
12 g baking powder
4 g baking soda
2 g salt
170 g coconut oil
85 g sugar
170 g yogurt
30 g poppy seeds
25 g chia seeds
Zest of 2 lemons
Vanilla to taste
1 1/2 lemons juiced (about 70 ml)
60 g sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F or 175 degrees C. Butter and flour a loaf pan.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cream the coconut oil and sugar together until fluffy. Slowly add the eggs one at a time. Add the lemon zest, poppy seeds, chia seeds, and vanilla. Beat in half the flour, then add the yogurt. Last, add the rest of the flour and mix until just combined. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
While the loaf is baking make the lemon syrup. Heat the lemon juice and sugar together until it comes to a simmer. As soon as the loaf is taken out of the oven, spoon the syrup on top. Leave the loaf in the pan for several hours, or overnight.
Sticky Chia Brown Rice with Fried Egg Recipe
1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1 green onion, sliced on diagonal, green and white parts separated
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon black or white chia seeds
2 cups cooked, chilled short-grain brown rice
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce
In a small saucepan, stir together the broth, white parts of green onion, and 2 tablespoon of the chia seeds and let stand for about 20 minutes. (Makes about 2/3 cup green onion-chia gel.)
Bring the green onion-chia gel to a boil over high heat. Add the rice and stir for about 30 seconds. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until rice is steaming hot and has a sticky consistency, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a nonstick (PFOA-free) skillet over medium heat. Add the eggs and cook until desired doneness, such as sunny-side-up, about 4 minutes.
Divide the sticky rice mixture onto plates or into bowls and top each with an egg. Sprinkle with the tamari, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of chia seeds, and the green parts of green onions. Serve immediately.
Featured photo credit: ecochiclife.net via ecochiclife.net