What is it?
Chia Seeds come from a species of a flowering plant called Salvia Hispanica. A member of the mint family, chia has been grown since 2,600 BCE in the southern regions of Mexico. Cultivation spread to the Aztec and Mayan civilisations where it claimed such importance that it was used as currency to pay tribute to the nobility and priesthood. Known as the "running food," Aztec warriors were exclusively fuelled by chia seeds and water during conquests. Due to its high level of easily digestible protein, omega-3 oils, and abundant fibre, chia kept ancient societies healthy and strong.
According to a study published in 2005 in the journal "Nutrition Research," chia seed is the highest plant-based source of a-linolenic fatty acid. The researchers concluded that chia shows promise as an alternative to fish-based sources for vegetarians.
Chia is a rich source of both soluble and insoluble fibre. The fibre not only adds nutritional value but also causes the chia to form a gel when wet. This adds to its versatility for cooking and food preparation and also assists with digestion as it slows the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar.
Chia offers a variety of minerals, including iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, molybdenum and magnesium. Chia also contains niacin and folic acid.
The protein content of chia exceeds that of other grains and seeds. Chia is made up of over 20 per cent protein, compared with 14 per cent for wheat. In addition, the protein is of higher quality - complete with all essential amino acids.
Chia seeds contain oil amounts varying between 32-39%, with the oil offering the highest natural percentage of Omega-3 essential fatty acid known to man (60-64%). In contrast, soybean oil and canola oil contain less than 10% of this essential Omega-3 fatty acid. Chia seeds are a very rich source of Omega-3 EFA.
They are also are rich in the beneficial long-chain triglycerides that help maintain the proper wall flexibility of cells and restore the proper cholesterol / triglyceride ratio. Your body converts the alpha-linolenic Omega-3 of chia into DHA and EPA fatty acids like those found in fish oil.
Chia seeds are a powerful source of the antioxidants chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid as well as myricetin, quercetin and kaempferol flavonols that protect delicate essential fatty acids from oxidation.
Chia seeds are easily digested and they absorb more than 9 times their weight in water. When the seeds are mixed with water they form a gel and researchers believe this gel-forming happens in the stomach. When chia seeds are eaten they slowly release carbohydrates and slow conversion of carbs into glucose (blood sugar) for energy. The outer part of the seed is very rich in soluble fibre and this forms the gel, protecting the seed from drying out.
The gel forms a physical barrier between the carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down. The carbohydrates are digested eventually but at a slow and uniform rate. There is no insulin surge or spike needed to lower the blood sugar level after eating chia. The water-retaining ability of the gel also helps level out the water intake and retains electrolyte balance.
Vitamins: Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), and Cobalamin (B12).
Minerals: Boron (B), Calcium (Ca), Copper (Cu), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K), Magnesium (Mg), Molybdenum (Mo), and Zinc (Zn).
Essential Fatty Acids: Omega 3 and Omega 6.
Other Nutrients: Antioxidants: Chlorogenic Acid, Caffeic, Myricetin, Quercetin & Kaempferol Flanovols, Fibre and Tryptophan (Trp).
Chia Seeds are a powerhouse nutritional food with benefits superior to flax seeds. Chia has a very mild flavour (and no "fishy" taste like other foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids). Chia seeds are the highest known whole-food source of Omega-3 fatty acids and are a very good source of fibre, calcium, iron, & manganese. Chia seeds are 30% oil, of which 30% is omega 3 and 40% is omega 6. Chia seeds have a long shelf life (4-5 years). They also have approximately two times the protein concentration and up to ten times the oil concentration of other grains. Other seeds with harder shells, such as flax seeds, require grinding to make them digestible and have a very short shelf life in the ground form.
Chia has three times more iron than spinach. Chia's protein is complete with all essential amino acids and is gluten-free. Chia has 19 to 23% protein content, more than that found in traditional cereals such as wheat (13.7%), corn (9.4%), rice (6.5%), oatmeal (16.9%) and barley (12.5%).
Chia seeds have become very popular in recent years because they offer balanced omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, soluble and insoluble dietary fibre, high-quality protein, antioxidants, and many other nutrients.
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