‘Chia’ means strength in the language of the Maya in Mexico where the plant (Salvia Hispanica) originates. To many of us today it has come to mean superfood or even nutraceutical. Superfoods are foods that contain large doses of antioxidants, polyphenols, fibre, unsaturated fats, omega-3 fats, vitamins and minerals. Nutraceuticals were first defined as food that provides medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease. Subsequent definitions focused on food extracts, fortified foods and food supplements used to treat or prevent disease.
Chia falls between these categories because it naturally contains exceptionally high and diverse numbers of superfood components. Nutritionists recommend chia as one of the most complete foods or ingredients and scientists are studying chia as a treatment of various diseases.
No other plant has more omega-3 polyunsaturated fat. These ‘good’ fats lower bad cholesterol and thus the risk of cardiovascular disease, enhance cognitive performance, brain health and prevent inflammation. According to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition, chia can reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol, increase ‘good’ cholesterol and reduce central obesity.
Chia is an excellent source of antioxidants, which keep our cells healthy and thus slow ageing and may prevent cancer. According to some studies, a serving of chia has up to 3 times more antioxidants than a blueberry serving.
Just an ounce (28g) of chia provides 30% of the daily intake of fibre recommended by nutritionists. Chia can thus help improve our digestive health and bowel function. Chia is one of the richest sources of soluble fibre which slows down glucose absorption, giving you that feeling of fullness.
Chia seeds have been found as a good regulator of high insulin levels and improve blood pressure in diabetics. Studies are ongoing on chia as a natural treatment of diabetes.
Chia contains 50% more protein than kidney beans. One serving provides you with almost 10% of the amount recommended for daily consumption by nutritionists.
Chia tops most other healthy foods in content of most minerals:
Calcium: 500% more than an equivalent serving of milk (18% of the recommended daily intake (RDI))
Magnesium: 1400% more than broccoli (24% of the RDI per serving) Phosphorus: 80% more than milk (27% of the RDI per serving)
Manganese: 30% of the RDI per serving. These minerals help us keep our bones and teeth strong and healthy. They also help us use other essential nutrients and synthesize protein for tissue growth and repair. Furthermore, chia contains twice the amount of potassium of bananas, benefiting our neurological system, twice the amount of iron of spinach (benefiting the immune system and oxygen supply) and it is an excellent source of selenium (protects from cell damage).
Chia is appreciated plain for its nutty and unique flavor. It is increasingly used as an ingredient to top up nutrients in bread, granola, nutritional bars and many more.
There are countless other uses of chia seeds: