Chia is a forgotten powerhouse of nutrients. Aztec warriors believed so strongly in the power of chia that they consumed it regularly. The seeds were so highly regarded that they were offered to the Nahua gods. But, then chia practically disappeared for 500 years.
Only recently has chia resurfaced. Chia is now consumed around the world as a functional food. It’s also fed to horses, pigs, birds, cats, and dogs worldwide. Is chia really the miracle food that ancient civilizations praised?
What is Chia?
Chia is an herb from the mint family. It’s best known for producing seeds that are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids.
What can Chia do for me?
Collectively, the nutrients contained in chia have been shown to help with numerous diseases including: heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, autism, ADHD, cancer, and allergies.
Chia seeds contain the highest percentage of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat, of any plant source. Why should you care? Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, autism, and even allergies are associated with omega-3 deficiency. We know this and yet 60% of Americans are currently deficient in this essential fat. Chia may be the answer. Eating just 2 teaspoons of chia seeds meets the daily omega-3 requirement for all adults.
Chia is a good source of complete protein, providing 19-27 grams of protein per 100 grams. In fact, chia contains more protein than traditional crops including wheat, corn, rice, oats, and barley. This makes chia a great alternative for vegetarians and vegans.
Chia is a good source of fiber. The fiber in chia helps you feel full after a meal and it decreases the time it takes for nutrients to be absorbed by your body. Additionally, fiber can help prevent chronic diseases including diabetes, colon cancer, heart disease, and obesity.
Chia seeds are naturally rich in antioxidants including vitamin E and polyphenols. This is important because antioxidants keep you healthy by combating free radicals. Excess free radicals in your body can damage your organs and lead to disease. Eating antioxidants on a daily basis helps combat these free radicals.
Chia also contains minerals including: phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and copper. In fact, chia contains higher levels of phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium than wheat, rice, and sorghum. These nutrients are required for healthy bones as well as proper muscle contraction, and nerve function.
Where can I buy Chia?
Chia is sold online and at some grocery stores. Whole Foods sells both chia seeds and chia seed powder. If you want a chia cookie supplement that even your kids will love, try the oatmeal cookie sold online at LifesHealthyPleasures.net. Receive 5% off each order if you use this coupon code: EFSM-1.
How do I cook with Chia?
Chia is actually easy to incorporate into your diet. The seeds or powder can be added to yogurt, oatmeal, granola, salads, soups, smoothies, stir-fry, or even peanut butter. Chia seeds can be used as an egg substitute when baking cakes and cookies by mixing 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with ¼ cup water.
There is one caveat when eating chia: If you do not consume enough water, chia can dehydrate you because of the type and amount of fiber it contains. If using seeds, you can avoid dehydration by soaking them for at least 15 minutes prior to consumption. Soaking also reduces the crunchy texture.
If you’re like me and you don’t like the crunchy texture of the seeds, you’ll love my Chia Omelet!
½ tablespoon of chia seeds
½ tbsp milk
¼ cup onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup spinach.
Whisk egg and milk together. Soak chia seeds in the mixture for 30 minutes. Cook onion in a small amount of oil until translucent. Add garlic, cook for 1 minute. Add spinach, cook until tender. Add egg mixture to the pan. Cook until eggs are done. Season to taste.
Bottom line: Chia is a powerful source of omega-3 fats with the added benefit of providing complete protein, fiber, antioxidants, and minerals.
Dr. Sina McCullough has a PhD in Nutrition and Exercise from the University of California at Davis. She is a freelance writer and nutrition consultant (www.personalizeyourdiet.com).