Learn More About Chia Seed
What is chia?
The seed we call chia, or Salvia Hispanica, has been grown as a food in Mexico since 3500 BC. The Toltec and Teotiahuán civilizations cultivated chia, as did Aztecs and Pre-Columbian Nahua peoples that succeeded them. The inhabitants of this area held chia to be as important a food crop as corn, beans, and amaranth, and even regarded it as a sacred gift from the gods.
With the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492, Native Americans introduced chia to European settlers, who showed little interest in this remarkable food. However, the modern world now has at last begun to embrace the many healthful benefits of chia.
What is chia used for?
Chia contains up to 64% alpha-linolenic acid, a basic form of omega-3, which makes it the riches source of this vital nutrient among plant foods. Even flax and hemp don’t have as much of this essential, heart-healthy fatty acid, shown in many studies to lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, lower cancer risk, and even improve mood. Vegetarians often favor the consumption of chia to obtain omega-3, since this eliminates the need to eat fish or take fish oil capsules.
Interestingly, chia also serves as a source of another essential fat, linoleic acid, which the body can convert into the extremely useful omega-6 nutrient GLA, often beneficial to sufferers of PMS, menopause, joint problems, and skin disorders such as eczema.
Seeds that contain larges amounts of omega-3 normally go rancid very easily, but the Aztecs and other peoples of Mexico found that chia stays fresh for a long time. Scientists now understand that this is because chia also contains unusually large amounts of antioxidants that act as natural preservatives that prevent oxidation of that seed’s essential fatty acids. These antioxidants, or free radical scavengers, which are associated with many health benefits, include chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, myricetin, quercetin, and kaempferol flavonols, powerful substances that act both individually and synergistically. One of the best known of these antioxidants, quercetin has been shown to prevent oxidation of lipids, proteins, and DNA. Caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid exhibit strong free radical and superoxide radical scavenging abilities and inhibit lipid peroxidation.
Of considerable interest to those with weight, blood sugar, and gastrointestinal issues, the chia seed consists of 5% soluble fiber, significantly more than than oats, wheat, barley, corn, or rice. When placed in water, chia can absorb more than twelve times its weight in water due to the expansion of the soluble fiber, which appears as clear mucilage surrounding the seed. This thick, high-viscosity chia mucilage produces greater metabolic benefits than low-viscosity dietary fibers (e.g., beta-glucan, guar, etc.), including significantly increased intestinal transit time, delayed gastric emptying, and a slow rate of glucose absorption. Swollen, water-laden chia seeds form a gel that creates and prolongs hydration in your body. The gel also causes a slow release of carbohydrates and a correspondingly slow conversion of carbohydrates into sugar for energy. This slow release of carbohydrates potentially translates into more sustained energy levels and hydration for athletes, as well as greater blood sugar stability and appetite control for both dieters and diabetics.
How is chia taken?
Chia seeds have a very neutral flavor, and take on the taste of whatever they are mixed with. They can simply be mixed in water and consumed that way, but most people will want to stir them into cereals and yogurt, or sprinkle them on salads, or add them to protein smoothies.
Is chia safe?
Chia appears to be quite safe. It contains no gluten or common allergens. Of course, those with pre-existing health conditions would be wise to consult their health care providers before consuming chia.
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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.