Ch Ch Ch Chia!

By: Health Local Staff Nov 02, 2011
  Article
chia seeds

Many people are familiar with chia seeds for their use as decorative living art, but not everyone knows that these tiny seeds are packed with nutrition.

Indigenous peoples living in Central America have known of their qualities for several centuries. Some groups so revered them for their utility in sustaining the hunt that chia seeds were included in certain religious rites. So profound was their influence that they left their mark on the region in more ways than one. The Mexican state of Chiapas takes its name from “chia” and “-pas”, together meaning water or river of chia in Nahuatl, an Aztec language.

Ancient Wisdom, Modern Benefits
Chia seeds are very high in fiber, something that most people could use more of in their diets. Chia seeds are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. While fats are something that we usually try to avoid, the effect of this fatty acid is anything but bad! The human body cannot manufacture omega-3 but needs it to survive. Myriad studies have shown that omega-3 aids in the prevention of a wide range of illnesses, from heart disease to diabetes to cancer. This beneficial oil is found only in natural sources such as fish. Therefore, the same benefits that native peoples of warm climates enjoyed, thanks to chia seeds, were also experienced by the first inhabitants of North American coastal regions. When Europeans came into contact with these groups, chia cultivation almost died out. If that had happened, people who cannot or prefer not to eat fish would not be able to profit from chia seeds’ healthy properties today. Modern diets tend to be overly flush in omega-6 acids, which contribute to the ‘bad’ cholesterol your mother warned you about. The omega-3 in chia seeds works to counteract this unfortunate aspect of modern living.

Chia Seed Smoothies, Desserts and Breads, Oh My!
Chia seeds have become extremely popular among aficionados of live food, raw food, and vegan and vegetarian diets. However, the high level of current interest in chia translates to a wide variety of tempting recipes that anyone can enjoy, from drinks to desserts. Chia has very little flavour of its own and is very low in calories, so using it in recipes is a great way to extend their flavour without any compromise in taste. At the same time, your dish’s overall calorie count will plummet when chia takes the place of excess fats and carbohydrates.

Chia seeds by themselves are remarkably capable of water retention. Fully hydrated, chia seeds will absorb several times their own mass of water and form chia gel. To make your own chia gel, carefully add four cups of water to one cup of chia seeds and watch them grow, splitting their shells. You can then use the gel that forms as a flour substitute (chia is gluten free!) for a host of delicious recipes such as breads and muffins, smoothies and desserts, milkshakes and mixed drinks. With so many benefits, it makes sense to choose chia.

The Health Local Staff is a team of writers and experts dedicated to bringing you the latest health, nutrition and lifestyle information at www.healthlocal.ca.