The name chia comes from the Aztec word for “oily” and this explains well what one of the main benefits of chia is; it is very high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are a type of unsaturated fat.
It’s easy to get mixed up between omega-3 and omega-6. Basically, omega-3 fatty acids are the fats which are not so easy to come by. They can be found in fish oils, kiwi seeds, flax seeds, and chia seeds, among other things.
On the other hand, omega-6 fatty acids are found almost everywhere you look including nuts, vegetable oils, avocados, etc. As important as omega-6 oils are to our health, the balance of omega-3 to omega-6 is equally important.
As it is so easy to consume plenty of omega-6, it is very easy to end up with an unbalanced consumption of the two types of oils, which are also known as essential oils. When it comes to the amount of omega-3 oil in various seed oils, the chia seed has the highest content, just above kiwi seeds, perilla, and flax.
Chia seeds and digestion
Chia is high in fiber, providing nearly 11 grams per ounce. One serving can provide the recommended fiber intake for the day, according to the American Dietetic Association.
Being high in dietary fiber, chia seeds benefits bowel regularity and healthy stool. The rich fiber content in chia seeds also helps people feel more full quicker because it absorbs a considerable amount of water and immediately expands in the stomach when eaten. When consumed, chia seeds create a gelatin-like substance in the stomach. This gel-forming substance moves through your body and cleans up as it goes.
It’s also thought that this gel physically prevents the fast-breaking down of carbohydrates in the body by slowing down the action of the enzymes on the carbs.
Chia seeds and heart health
Chia seeds ability to reverse inflammation, regulate cholesterol and lower blood pressure make it extremely beneficial to consume for heart health. Also, by reversing oxidative stress, someone is less likely to develop atherosclerosis when he or she regularly consume chia seeds.
Moreover, omega-3 fatty acids work to protect the heart by lowering blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and inflammation. Inflammation can put a strain on blood vessels and cause heart disease.
Chia – A nutrient powerhouse
The chia seed was once a staple food of the Aztecs, loved for its ability to sustain and to give endurance. Actually, you could live off chia almost entirely, because it has 19 amino acids, with all of the essential amino acids except taurine.
- Chia is gluten free
- It is super high in dietary fiber, making it great for digestion and healing digestion issues.
- It contains 20% omega-3 ALA, making it a super food for the brain and heart.
- Chia has eight times more omega-3 than salmon!
- It boasts 20% protein
- It is high in antioxidants (It has four times higher ORAC value than blueberries)
- Chia contains five times more calcium than milk
- Chia contains seven times more vitamin C than oranges
- It contains three times more iron than spinach
- It contains twice the potassium content of banana
- It is food for healthy skin, hair, and nails
- It has a positive impact balancing blood glucose levels (making it awesome for diabetics)
- Chia makes a great egg replacement. Just combine with water to form a gel, and add it to recipes that call for egg.
So, how do you consume it?
There seems to be much debate as to whether you need to eat chia seeds raw or you need to soak them before eating. It won’t hurt to eat them straight, but if you soak them, then you “sprout” them, which releases the “enzyme inhibitors” that are used to protect the seed.
One, this makes it much easier to digest, and two, your body can then access the dense nutrients inside the seeds. If you want to get the most nutrition out of chia seeds, I suggest soaking them before adding them to your food or smoothie. Either way, they’re still an excellent source of nutrition.