7 Reasons to Check Out Chia
Chia Seeds are one of my favourite superfoods. “Super” meaning that gram for gram they contain more nutrients and minerals than your average food. Chia seeds originate from South America, and have been grown and eaten by the Mayans and Aztecs since as early as 3500BC. Aztec warriors and running messengers would use them as a high-energy food to maintain their strength and endurance in battle. That’s why they were called ‘Chia’, which in fact means ‘strength’ in Mayan.
Even back then the Aztecs were all over the power and versatility of these wonder seeds. They would mix them with water and drink them as a beverage, grind them into flour, mix them into their medicines, press them for oil and even use them as a base for body paints.
Luckily for us these seeds are now being also grown in Australia too (organically in some places), thus increasing their accessibility, and reducing their food miles for us folk in this half of the world.
Here are 7 great reasons you should check out chia, plus 8 ways to easily incorporate these beauties into your diet:
1. Highest Source of Omega 3s – 28x More Than Salmon
Chia Seed Oil is the richest source of Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) on the planet, with almost 60% Omega 3 content. It’s also rich in Omega 6 and 9, two other healthy fatty acids. This makes it a brilliant plant-based alternative to seafood and fish oil. In fact, chia seed oil gram for gram contains 28 times the Omega 3 found in salmon. Amazing!
EFAs can’t be produced by our bodies and therefore must be consumed, thus the term “essential”. They are known for their role in encouraging healthy skin, hair, nails, joints, and brain function; improving post-workout recovery, cell regeneration and cardiovascular function; increasing metabolism and promoting fat-burning; and preventing heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and arthritis.
In the modern Western diet, the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 consumption is well out of kilter at around 1:20. The ideal ratio recommended by the World Health Organisation is more like 1:3. Consuming more Chia oil and seeds can help you return to that ideal balance.
Chia Seed Oil, Hemp Seed Oil, & Flax Seed Oil – the Plant-Based Omega Powerhouses
|per 100ml/g||Salmon||Chia Oil||Hemp Oil||Flax Oil|
|Omega 3 (Linolenic Acid/LNA)||2g||57g||17g||50g|
|Omega 6 (Linoleic Acid/LA)||<1g||19g||53g||12g|
|Omega 9 (Oleic Acid)||trace||9g||10g||19g|
Chia seed oil is also a wonderful alternative to fish oil tablets, which have become rather popular of late. What doesn’t get mentioned by supplement companies is the often toxic levels of mercury in these oils, which can cause neurological damage, cognitive impairment, poor fetal development, attention and learning disorders, and more. The very reason why pregnant woman are told to stay away from fish oil!
In addition, fish oil is highly unstable and has the tendency to go rancid very quickly. The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research tested capsules from an array of global brands, and discovered that the majority of them had indeed begun to oxidize. This means the EFA benefits are lost, and their consumption can cause hardening of the arteries and increased risk of blood clots.
Not to mention the even more alarming ethical and environmental quandaries the fishing industry faces right now. The UN is predicting that the current rate of global overfishing of our waters will lead to the complete extinction of all sea-life and associated bird and wildlife who depend on the oceans for food, in less than 50 years. Yes you read correctly, complete extinction. All the more reason to crank out the Chia oil!
2. 20% Complete Protein
Chia seeds contain a whopping 20% protein, and a complete protein at that, with all eight essential amino acids. This makes them great if you’re active or trying to build muscle. Add a teaspoon or two to your daily smoothie and you won’t even notice they’re there.
3. Full of Fibre
Chia seeds contain 37% fibre and are a whole grain in that the bran, germ and endosperm are present (the bran contains lots of the beneficial nutrients). 80% of this fibre is insoluble, which is great for keeping our digestive and intestinal systems healthy and regular, and lowering the risk of colon cancer. The remaining 20% is soluble fibre, which dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance – this can help moderate blood glucose levels and lower cholesterol.
4. High in Anti-Aging Antioxidants
Chia seeds contain twice the amount of antioxidants found in blueberries, with an impressive ORAC score of 10,000μmol per 100g. ORAC scores measure the ability of a food to fight destructive free radicals from our environment and combat oxidisation, which is essentially the skin’s aging process. Studies show that a diet rich in antioxidants can slow aging not only of the physical body, but also the brain, thus reducing the risk of illnesses such as Alzheimer’s.
5. Jam Packed with Vitamins & Minerals
Chia seeds are packed with lots of healthy vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, potassium, calcium and magnesium. We don’t often hear much about magnesium, which is needed for over 300 bodily biochemical reactions, however 60-80% of us don’t get enough of it. Gram for gram chia seeds pack an incredible punch, with more calcium than dairy milk, more iron than raw spinach, and more potassium than bananas.
6. Provide Sustained Energy
Chia seeds provide a sustained release of energy, so you’ll avoid that mid afternoon slump after a big pasta lunch. Athletes also use chia to improve their endurance, aid mobility, and help with muscle repair.
7. Good for Weight Management & Diabetics
As well as releasing energy evenly throughout the day, the thickening agent in chia seeds can help keep you full for longer. Chia seeds absorb up to 12 times their weight in water, helping to curb your appetite. Recent studies have also shown that chia seeds were able to reduce the blood glucose levels of Type 2 Diabetics.
So How Shall I Use These Majestic Seeds?
- Add 1-3 teaspoons of chia seeds or chia oil to your favourite smoothie.
- Add the seeds to your bircher muesli overnight – they’ll absorb the liquid and create a nice thick creamy texture.
- Make a batch of my delicious healthy Cacao Coconut Superfood Balls.
- Whip up a jug of my popular Coconut Cashew Chia Cream – the most delicious plant-based yoghurt or cream substitute.
- Make a nourishing Chia Dessert/Breakfast Pudding – stir a few tablespoons chia seeds into your favourite plant-based milk (coconut, almond or cashew are some of my favourites), along with a few teaspoons of coconut nectar, vanilla, a pinch of salt, and a few teaspoons of raw cacao powder if you want a chocolate version, then pop in the fridge for 15 minutes or overnight – serve with extra fruit.
- Use the oil for salad dressings (don’t cook with it), or sprinkle the seeds on top for added texture and colour.
- Use to make a great egg replacement – perfect for plant-based cholesterol-free baking. Simply mix 1 Tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 Tablespoons water and leave for 10 mins until it forms a gel – this equates to 1 egg. Use in any baking or pancake recipe that require eggs.
- Sprinkle the seeds on breakfast cereal, oats, or yoghurt.
THIS WEEK’S CHALLENGE:
Try out some chia seeds or chia seed oil this week. Make sure you choose a spray-free organic version to avoid any toxins, chemical pesticides and GMOs. Or click here to order our favourite chia seeds and chia seed oil, and get them conveniently delivered to your door.
Sources: The Chia Co, Garden of Life, Loving Earth