Superfood Facts: Chia Seeds
Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family and is grown in southern Mexico. Although most people only know chia seeds as the main component of chia pets, they are a nutritionally complete superfood. In pre-Columbian times, they were a main component of the Aztec and Mayan diets. Chia seeds were the basic survival ration of Aztec warriors. One tablespoon was believed to sustain a person for 24 hours. After the Spanish conquest, the growing of chia was banned because of its use in Aztec religion. Commercial production of chia has resumed in Latin America and it has gained recent notoriety due to the New York Times bestselling book, Born to Run, which chronicles the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico. The Tarahumara are barefoot runners who effortlessly run 50 to 100 miles at a time and heavily utlize the power of chia seeds in their diet.
Consuming chia seeds is very easy. You can sprinkle the seeds on cereal, yogurt or salads, or create a chia gel that can be used for baking, sauces or smoothies. To make chia gel, mix 1/3 cup chia seeds in 2 cups of water and refridgerate for 10-15 minutes. I will be posting some chia seed recipes this week!
Read more about chia seeds after the jump
Where to buy chia seeds: Whole Foods and Trader Joe's both stock chia seeds. Additionally, you can order them online or find them in a natural or health foods store. Some major supermarket chains offer them in the heath food section. Or you can just buy them from amazon, which has a huge selection. Since they will last for years and are pretty inexpensive, it's a great investment in your health. I also just found Swanson Health Products, which is an amazing website that sells a ton of different type of chia seeds and other health products. Check it out!
Health Benefits of Chia Seeds:
- Chia seeds are hydrophillic, meaning then can absorb over 10 times their weight in water. This makes them great for hydration, as they absorb the water we drink and hold it in our bodies.
- Eating chia seeds slows down how fast the body converts carbohydrates into simple sugars. This leads scientists to believe chia seeds may have huge benefits to diabetics.
- Chia seeds have 5 times the calcium of milk, 2 times the potassium of bananas, 3 times the iron of spinach and 3 times the antioxidants of blueberries!
- Chia seeds have more omega-3's than flax! And, unlike flax, chia seeds do not have to be ground to be digested and can be stored for years without going rancid.
- 19-23% of the seed's weight is protein. Like quinoa, it contains a complete amino acid chain, giving your body complete protein on par with meat or eggs.
- Chia seeds reduce your cravings for sweets and junk foods because its high levels of soluble fiber allow for a measured release of unrefined carbs into the bloodstream. This is the opposite of a sugar rush and crash which creates more cravings.