Everybody has probably heard about chia from the little plant “pets” that became popular in the 80s. What is not as widely known is what a great addition to the diet the chia seed can be.
The history of chia, or Salvia hispanica, can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago in Mexico. Chia was one of the staple foods of both the Aztec and Mayan cultures. It was also used as a form of currency and was said to help messengers sustain energy over long distances.
Chia is at the top of the charts in four important areas: levels of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and fiber. In fact, it has the highest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, even more than flax seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids play a large role in cardiovascular health and are anti-inflammatory. Its levels of antioxidants, from flavonoids, are also anti-inflammatory and allow it to have a good ORAC value. It also is free of cholesterol.
Chia is being promoted to improve weight loss, however, there are two studies that are the most referenced showing that is does not have any effect on weight loss, despite its fiber content, which helps with making one feel full. One serving of chia a day provides 11 grams of fiber which is 42% of the daily requirements.
It has, however, shown positive results in studies done on people with diabetes. The patients had improvements in blood pressure and inflammatory blood markers. Once again, however, the trial was small and there hasn’t been more research done in this area yet with humans. There have been more studies done on animals that show it to promote weight loss and improve cardiovascular function.
Another reason why chia is said to help with wight loss is because it helps decrease appetite. This occurs because the seeds absorb water very readily. This helps promote the feeling of fullness, along with the fiber in chia, and also slows the conversion of carbohydrates to glucose. When the seeds are wet, they have a gel-like quality that is great for the digestive tract and bowels.
Chia seeds are also great for pets and have a long shelf life. Because of its levels of oils and antioxidants, it doesn’t require a lot of pesticides when being grown, therefore it has a low impact on the environment.
Despite the inconclusive evidence in human trials, chia’s nutritional components, history of use and broad spectrum usage make it a wonderful addition to anyone’s diet. Almost everyone can use more antioxidants, fiber and healthy oils in their lives.
Image courtesy of GLiving.com.