Chia seeds are a dietary staple in many parts of the world. The seeds are small, black and most notably, nutritious. Originally native to Mexico and Guatemala, the chia plant has been cultivated and consumed as a part of diets for centuries. While the popularity of these beneficial seeds has been steadily increasing in recent years, chia seeds remain shrouded in mystery to many. Let’s delve into what exactly chia seeds are, their benefits and how to incorporate these nutrient powerhouses into your diet.
Chia seeds are the small, oval, black seeds of a flowering perennial plant that is native to Mexico and Guatemala and is a member of the mint family. The word “chia” derives from the Nahuatl language and translates to mean “strength” or “power” – an apt description for these potent little seeds.
In terms of nutritional benefits, chia seeds are incredibly high in essential nutrients. Specifically, they are rich in important minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and manganese as well as vitamins such as thiamine and riboflavin. Additionally, these seeds are an excellent source of heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acids, with one serving containing nearly five grams of omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are also extremely rich in dietary fiber, containing more per gram than most other plant-based sources.
It’s clear that these tiny black seeds offer great nutritional benefits, but how do you actually incorporate them into your diet? Chia seeds are incredibly versatile and easy to use in cooking. They are often ground and added to smoothies, oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt. The ground form also works well as a thickener in sauces, custards, and baked goods. Whole chia seeds forgo the need for grinding and can be added to salads and grain dishes. Beyond these uses, chia seeds can act as an egg replacement in vegan recipes simply by mixing the seeds with water 1: 3 ratio and allowing them to sit for 5 minutes until they form a gelatinous mixture.
It should also be noted that chia seeds should not be eaten raw and should always be thoroughly cooked or soaked before consuming because chia seeds can absorb a lot of moisture which can cause discomfort if eaten without any preparation.
Due to the ease of incorporating these seeds into your diet, chia seeds offer a number of incredible health benefits. As previously mentioned, chia seeds contain high levels of both omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber. These two compounds provide numerous benefits, including helping to reduce inflammation, promoting healthy digestion, and aiding in weight loss. Furthermore, studies suggest that consuming chia seeds may help to lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar levels, and even protect against certain types of cancer.
The benefits of these incredibly nutritious seeds can no longer be denied and the list of uses for chia seeds is ever increasing. Whether you prefer grinding them into your smoothies, adding them to salads or desserts, there’s no doubt that chia seeds can and should be incorporated into your diet. Make sure to check with your doctor before making any dietary changes and do your research to make sure you’re purchasing a high quality chia seed product. With the right balance of healthy recipes, consuming chia seeds can be an easy, delicious and nutritious way to add a superfood boost to your routine.