Chia seeds have been labelled a ‘superfood’ and they are definitely the rising star in the healthy eating world, but are they really worth the hype?
Chia seeds originally come from Mexico and were even used as a currency due to their medicinal properties and nutritional value. The Aztecs are the first known civilisation to utilise the chia seed – as early as 3500B.C. It was, in fact, one of the main foods in the Aztec diet. There’s no difference nutritionally between the black or white chia seeds, they both pack a nutritional punch.
What are chia seeds?
Chia seeds are power houses of protein. Despite their small size, they are packed full of important nutrients. They are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to raise HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol that helps protect against heart attack and stroke).
Where do they come from?
Originally grown in Mexico, the seeds were highly valued for their medicinal properties and nutritional value. In fact, they were once even used as currency! Aztec warriors ate these seeds to give them high energy and endurance. They said just 1 spoonful of chia could sustain them for 24 hours. Chia means “strength” in the Mayan language, and they were known as “runners food” because runners and warriors would use them as fuel while running long distances or during battle. Protein power house!
Chia seeds contain a decent amount of protein. By weight, they are about 14% protein, which is very high compared to most plants. They also contain a good balance of essential amino acids, so our bodies should be able to make use of the protein in them. On an amino acid scale, both chia and flax seeds score 115 and 92, respectively. Scores of greater than 100 mean that the protein is a high-quality, or complete protein, so chia seeds win a point for that! Chia seeds really are an excellent protein source, especially for people who eat little or no animal products.
Packing in the fiber
Chia seeds have a huge amount of dietary fiber with a whopping 11g per ounce, nearly half of the 25g recommended amount per day. The easiest way to increase fiber intake is to increase your consumption of plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and unprocessed grains. Just one ounce of chia seeds provides 10g of fiber, almost half the daily recommendation for a woman over 50.
How to consume them:
Chia seeds are extremely absorbent, they swell up when exposed to any fluids. Chia seeds are great to add to many foods and drinks. They can be used whole or ground. Unlike some ‘super-foods’ like spirulina, chia seeds don’t have a strong flavor and can be easily used in recipes and added to smoothies without affecting flavor.
Chia Seed Nutrition Profile
The reason Chia seeds are so beneficial is due to them being rich in protein, fiber and omega-3 fats
- Dietary fiber (11g – 42% recommended daily value)
- Protein (4.4g – 9% RDV)
- Omega-3 fatty acids (4915 mg)
- Omega-6 fatty acids (1620 mg)
- Calcium (77 mg – 18% RDV)
- Copper (0.1 mg – 3% RDV)
- Phosphorus (265 mg – 27% RDV)
- Potassium (44.8 mg – 1% RDV)
- Zinc (1.0 mg – 7% RDV)
But, are they healthy?
They certainly pack a nutritional punch, but chia seeds are tricky little characters and you need to understand that they absorb a huge amount of water, so make sure you are hydrated when eating them. Some people have been known to experience stomach discomfort when consuming chia seeds especially in large amounts due to the high fiber content. Always eat in moderation and drink plenty of water.
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