Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica L) are a traditional crop—a super seed with many nutritional benefits revered for thousands of years. Evidence discovered by archaeologists determined that chia seeds were in use by humans as early as 3500 BCE. And during the Spanish conquest (1492-1898), advanced Mesoamerican societies were cultivating nearly 30 botanical species for a variety of nutrition functions, including chia seeds, one of four that were considered to be major parts of their daily diet (the others were amaranth, beans and corn). But what are chia seeds?
Chia is a very small, dark, non-glutinous seed that provides a rich source of essential Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, antioxidants and fiber. Because of the many chia seed health benefits, these “super seeds” are making a strong comeback in today’s market for healthy, quick and delicious foods. Chia seed recipes tend to be very easy to prepare; and their versatility and excellent nutrition profile make them an ideal food for athletes, children and anyone seeking to boost the quality of food they consume.
A one-ounce (28 g) serving of chia seeds contains approximately 9 percent of the recommended daily value for protein, 13 percent of the recommended intake for fat and 42 percent of the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber. Chia seeds are an excellent source of essential minerals including phosphorous and manganese and calcium as well as trace amounts of sodium and potassium. The chia seed health benefits also includes a wide array of antioxidants, including caffeic and chlorogenic acids, myricetin, quercetin, and kaempferol, which have been linked to reducing the risk of certain diseases, including several types of cancer. The chia seed is also a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids—more Omega-3 than the popular flax seed. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for heart health, brain function, hair and skin and have been linked to decreasing and preventing depression.
Organic chia seeds are widely available and recommended over non-organic chia seeds, as those may be exposed to an array of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which also devastate ground water and can be harmful to animal and plant life.
Today, researchers are working to develop more chia crops and study the many benefits of this powerful ancient seed.
Extremely versatile and easy to use, chia seeds can be eaten dry, soaked in water to make a gel, or added to baked goods.
Dry: Sprinkle chia seeds onto salads, soups, yogurt, even into sandwiches and wraps like you would any other seed.
Baked goods: Use chia in recipes that call for sesame or poppy seeds. Add to muffins, bread, cookies and cakes.
Gelled: Chia seeds will absorb 9-12 times their weight in water, and can make a delicious tapioca-like pudding. Try a protein rich chia breakfast cereal:
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp Nutiva Hempseed
3-4 oz water or milk
Apple, banana, or berries
Honey or maple syrup to taste
Soak chia seeds for 5 minutes in hot or cold liquid until the liquid starts to absorb and the seeds become slightly swollen. Top with sliced fruit, hempseed, and honey or syrup, and enjoy!
About the Author
Revered by the early Aztec and Mayan cultures, chia seeds are a superfood packed with fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. You can buy organic chia seeds online for use in sweet and savory cooking.
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