“Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia!” – Like many, when you think of chia your brain most likely automatically goes to the chia pet made famous by late night infomercials of the nineties. However, Chia has been around long before those clever little plants growing out of clay animals, and has been found to have immense health and weight loss benefits.
A long, long time ago…
Chia seeds were originally brought about by the Aztecs and Mayans. These ancient civilizations saw the chia seeds’ ability to increase sustained stamina and energy, and consumed them regularly by grinding them into flour, pressing them for oil, and drinking them mixed with water. Chia actually got its name from the Mayan word for strength.
With the coming of the Spanish conquest these tiny seeds seemed to disappear along with many other Aztec and Mayan ways and traditions. Today, scientists and nutritionists are “rediscovering” why these tiny seeds were once deemed the seeds of strength.
These Little Guys go a Long Way…
Chia seeds are all natural, easy to digest, non-trans fats, and gluten and cholesterol free. They are not contaminated with chemicals, pesticides or heavy metals, and unlike flax seeds they don’t have to be grinded up to consume. At room temperature, they’ll naturally stay fresh for over two years! They have this amazing ability because of their high antioxidant content. With 3 times the antioxidants of blueberries, they are great for fighting free-radicals, pre-mature aging, and inflammation (i.e. arthritis)
Chia is the largest whole food source found in nature of Omega 3 (more than salmon), Omega 6, and fiber. It has 3 times more iron than spinach, 15 times more magnesium than broccoli, and 6 times more calcium than whole milk. It’s high calcium and boron content (a mineral which helps the body absorb calcium) makes it a great source for vegetarians and those who are lactose intolerant. Chia is also one of the highest plant based sources of complete protein.
The combination of its properties: complete protein, vitamins, minerals and blood-sugar balancing gel (more on that later) create a long duration, steady energy boost. Many regular chia seeds users claim that they do not need to drink coffee anymore. This natural-source energy, the fact that it helps aid the regeneration and toning of muscles, and it’s ability to prolong hydration by absorbing and retaining water makes the chia seed a favorite amongst endurance athletes and bodybuilders.
But Wait. There’s More!
They Promote Weight Loss – When added to liquid, chia seeds absorb up to 12 times their own weight and expand, creating a gel-like substance. This expansion fills your belly and therefore helps you feel full for hours. All the vitamins and minerals it contains also prevent deficiency cravings. (Ex. Ever have an overwhelming craving for cheese that comes out of nowhere? This is usually your body’s way of telling you that you need calcium) Adding just an ounce or so of chia seeds to your diet a day can stop you from snacking, keep your caloric intake down, and therefore help you lose weight.
Balance Blood Sugar – Chia’s gelling process along with its unique combination of soluble and insoluble fiber slow down your body’s conversion of carbs into sugars resulting in fewer spikes in blood sugar levels. This will help deliver a steady level of energy throughout your day rather than the typical ups and downs. Balancing your blood sugar is also of course immensely helpful in reducing the risk of, and controlling type 2 diabetes.
Help with Digestion Problems – Chia seeds are also know to help enhance the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food, resulting in easier digestion. It can also help with acid reflux, gastritis, ulcers, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS.) WARNING- Using Chia seeds for this purpose are meant as an aid to be ADDED to treatment. Please do not stop taking prescribed medications and talk to your doctor before taking chia.
Other Chia Seed Benefits:
- Cleanses the colon
- Gets rid of toxins in the body
- Helps to lower blood pressure
- Lowers the risk of heart disease
- Lowers cholesterol
- Improves mental performance and mood
- Improves sleep
Although it may seem like chia seeds can do no wrong there are a few minor side effects associated with taking them. Most of the side effects can be avoided by knowing what to look out for.
Upset Stomach – Since chia seeds are so high in fiber you may experience upset stomach, gas, and maybe even diarrhea if you are not used to fiber in your diet. The body usually adjusts and symptoms cease after a couple of days of taking the seeds.
Low Blood Pressure –Studies show that consuming large amounts of chia seeds can bring down blood pressure. This is great for people with high blood pressure, but for those with low blood pressure it can be dangerous. If you already have low blood pressure talk to your doctor before taking chia seeds.
Too Much Vitamin B – Chia seeds are known to contain significant amounts of Vitamin B. Too much Vitamin B can have negative effects on the body, so avoid taking additional Vitamin B when taking chia.
Allergy – Many people who are allergic to mustard seeds have observed allergic reactions to chia seeds as well.
Omega 3 is a Blood Thinner – People who are taking aspirins and blood thinners, hemophiliacs, or those who are scheduled to undergo surgery must refrain from taking chia seeds.
Because chia has yet to be tested on pregnant women it is recommended for expecting mothers to not risk taking chia seeds.
How to Eat It
Firstly, you should know that the actual chia plant is very bitter and therefore cannot be consumed. Chia is grown in many different parts of the world, so you may see a slight difference in the seeds from product to product depending on what part of the world it came from. Chia seeds can be white or black. There are no nutritional differences between the white or black seeds.
Put 1teaspoon of chia seeds in 1 cup of water or juice, mix it up and let it sit until it gets it’s gel consistency. (about ½ hour) Then eat 1-2 teaspoons of the gel daily, or mix it in your smoothies, soups, salad dressing, etc.
Healthier Baking – Chia is virtually tasteless and can therefore go undetected. In most recipes, chia gel can substitute for half the butter, and in the ground up form it can substitute for some flour, making your baked goods a lot healthier. Plus don’t forget that chia is calorie free!
Chia gel can also replace flour and corn starch as a thickening agent in soups and sauces. It can save recipes that have accidentally turned out too liquidly by absorbing the excess liquid.
My 2 Cents
I personally have an aversion to anything with a lumpy consistency, so taking chia in the gel form makes me gag. Instead, I stir them into a glass of water and drink then down before they swell. I believe I am getting the same health benefits this way, but it is recommended to drink a full glass of water after taking them as they will absorb any liquid that you may have in your digestive system. I definitely prefer it mixed into recipes. I have been taking chia seeds daily for about 2 weeks now and haven’t noticed any changes to my energy levels, though I am sleeping better. I did cut out processed carbs at the same time as introducing chia into my diet and that always makes me sleepy for the first 2-3 weeks, so time will tell.
Tell me your experiences with chia seeds. Feel the difference? Share your recipes with me in the comments!
Sources: www.doctoroz.com, ogglog.com, mychiaseeds.com