THE FOOD SERIES: Chia Seeds

The consumption of chia seeds have been on a steep rise as we continue to learn and reap its benefits. But what exactly are these benefits, and how can something so small give us so much nutrition? Let’s find out!

DESCRIPTION:

The chia plant is a member of the mint family. These tiny oval seeds are very small, around 1mm. Seeds are found to be gray, black, white or brown. Chia seeds have a mild but nutty flavour. The seeds are also hydrophilic, meaning they are attracted to water and tends to be dissolved by water as well. In fact, they can actually absorb up to 12 times their weight in liquid when soaked. While soaking, chia seeds develop a mucilaginous coating which is a thick, gel like consistency, hence giving them an advantageous role in many baking and cooking recipes.

PRODUCTION:

The chia plant is native to Central and South America such as Mexico and Guatemala. History shows that it was an important food crop for the Aztecs.

Today Mexico and Guatemala continues to commercially grow and consume chia seeds, as well as Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Australia.

NUTRITIONAL PROFILE:

1 tablespoon of chia seeds, whole:

48.6 kcal
4.2 g Carbs
3.4 g Fiber
3.1 g Fat
1.7 g Protein
70.9 μg Vitamin K
0.3 mg Manganese
39.0 mg Magnesium
0.1 mg Vitamin B6

Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants, high in fiber, iron and calcium. In just one tablespoon there are 1.8 grams of omega-3 fatty acids! Most of us are familiar and have heard of the importance of consuming more omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids. The particular acid we are referring to in chia sees is the α-linolenic acid or ALA, which are derived from plant sources and are essential to the human body. ALA provides benefits in controlling blood clotting, help build cell membranes, and are anti-inflammatory. There have been studies that have shown omega-3 fatty acids to help prevent heart disease, such as lowering blood pressure, prevent buildup of plaque, reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, lowering high triglycerides, regulate cholesterol and more. Additionally omega-3s have also been found to help with mental disorders and other illnesses such as depression and anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder and more. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it can further help prevent and reduce the risk of many additional diseases such as cancers.

I could go on forever with the number of health benefits. However one last health benefit I want to mention is that chia seeds are quite delicate and easily broken apart with the presence of moisture and a liquid. As a result, chia seeds are easily absorbed and digested in their whole form, compared to flax seeds for example. So, feel free to use whole raw chia seeds in a variety of your dishes and in your diet!

WAYS TO ENJOY

Chia Pudding
– 
Simply soak chia seeds in any liquid, such as any desired plant-based milk. The ratio to be around 1:4. For example if you use 1/2 cup of chia seeds, there should be around 2 cups of liquid. Soak it for at least 15 minutes, feel free to soak it overnight. Then add whatever toppings and additional ingredients that you like!

Egg Replacement
– 
It can be used in a number of recipes, from pancakes, to breads, to cookies and other baked goods.
– Stir 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with around 2.5 tablespoons of water. Stir, and let thicken into a gel like substance.

Others
– Sprinkle it on top of any dish, from granola to parfait, to sauces and savory dishes, to brownies and cookies.
– Add it to your smoothies for that extra nutritional boost, and to thicken up any smoothie.

FUN FACTS

  • Chia is one of those species that can easily be grown in our own gardens in many parts of the world.
  • Remember chia pets? Chia seeds are actually the same seeds used!
  • The word chia comes from The Aztec word meaning ‘oily’.
  • Chia seeds have more omega-3 fatty acids than any other plant food.
  • Chia can be found in different colours such as black or white. The nutritional value are essentially the same with minimal differences.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES / REFERENCES 

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