Chia seeds are among the best-known superfoods. You can find them in almost every supermarket, but they have only been known for a few years. In this post, I want to tell you all about the Chia seeds, and what’s behind the hype about this little superfood.
Chia the Superfood from Central America
Chia seeds are now a staple food in many households. Whether as an ingredient for baking, as a Chia pudding or as a supplement to cereal – the small seeds are versatile, taste good and it’s said to be healthy. Here, in the Western world, Chia still is a relatively new food, and, therefore, little researched.
Although a different form of Chia seeds was cultivated in Kentucky, the Chia boom, which occurred in the 1980s, wasn’t due to it becoming a superfood, but for being sold as pet seeds in little terra cotta figurines ( the first Chia pet came out on September 08, 1977). Baked goods may consist of no more than 10 percent chia seeds. When eating pure seeds, a maximum of 20 grams, or 1.5 tbsp per day, are recommended.
In Central America, however, Chia has long been part of the daily diet. The seeds are the product of a sage that originated in Central America.
Even the Aztecs profited from the cultivation of the rich seeds. After the Spanish conquest, however, the cultivation only began to decline.
At the end of the 20th century, the small seeds came back to mind and received worldwide attention. The reason was a 52-year-old Tarahumara Indian.
After he won a 100-mile run, the American Christopher McDougall dealt with the tribe and came across the Chia seeds. He wrote a book about his findings and the hype about the seeds began.
Chia Seeds: Ingredients and their Effects
Chia seeds are said to be nutritious and healthy and are, therefore, marketed as superfoods. They have many powerful and healthy ingredients that make the seeds stand out from traditional foods and justify their power food denominations.
High Protein Content
Chia as a Source of Protein – Also for Athletes
The high protein content of the seeds is often emphasized. They should contain twice as much protein as other seeds and cover eight essential amino acids. Sufficient protein is vital for the body.
In addition to carbohydrates and fats, it is another essential macronutrient. Scientists cannot find a unanimous agreement to how many Chia seeds should be consumed per day.
Some say the recommendation is 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, while others argue that the recommended allowance should be lower, thus having it set at 0.7 grams per pound of weight.
The human body consists of an average of 15 pounds to 29 pounds of proteins that perform essential body functions. Sufficient protein intake is, therefore, vital.
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
Chia seeds also have an optimal ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, namely the ratio 3:1. In this ratio, the fatty acids can best develop their effect. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential for the body’s performance.
They are important for the formation of cells as well as for the regulation of blood pressure. They are also known for their regulating effect on cholesterol levels. The small seeds contain rare omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA, which otherwise humans can only absorb by eating fish.
A Brazilian study from 2014 found that regular intake of Chia seeds can regulate blood pressure. In the research, volunteers were given regularly ground Chia seeds over a period of 12 weeks.
Another group received placebos. The group that took the Chia powder was shown to lower blood pressure. This could be due to the high proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the seeds.
An Abundance of Minerals
Chia seeds also contain large amounts of minerals. Especially the calcium content stands out because this is many times higher than that of milk. Also, the iron content of the seeds is high and even higher than that of spinach.
For vegetarians and vegans, Chia seeds can also be a vital source of zinc. 15 grams of Chia seeds provide about as much zinc as a slice of cheese.
That’s 10 percent of your daily zinc requirement. Magnesium, sodium, and phosphorus are also contained in Chia seeds.
Minerals can help the body with many of its functions. These tiny seeds are capable of strengthening, both, the immune system and the metabolism. This makes the body more resistant to disease.
The nutrient-rich seeds contain a lot of fiber, which has numerous benefits for the body. Fiber does not only act satiating for a long time, but it also is very nourishing.
Dietary fiber promotes regular digestion and can greatly relieve the body in this regard. As a rule, a daily intake of 30 grams of fiber is recommended in adults. You should not take too much fiber, as this may cause bloating and diarrhea.
Secondary Plant Substances
Secondary plant compounds are mainly known for their numerous health benefits. Above all, the antioxidant effect of some plant substances is important for the body. They can protect the body from free radicals, which can be caused by UV radiation and air pollution.
Free radicals can damage the cells and cause many diseases. Chia seeds can protect against oxidative stress by using the antioxidant capabilities of phytochemicals.
Chia Seeds for Weight Loss
Due to the high fiber, the seeds are considered to be true satiety. Dietary fiber is essential in a healthy diet. Fiber can be found in, both, wholemeal products and in fruits and vegetables. Chia seeds are also full of valuable fiber.
It has many properties that can help you lose weight. Fiber promotes digestion, stimulates the metabolism and makes you full for a long time.
In addition, many foods that contain plenty of fiber often have only very few calories.
That’s just the advantage when losing weight. Low-calorie foods that stimulate the metabolism and make you full for a long time simply do promise success. This is also the case with Chia seeds.
Especially when the small kernels are prepared with liquid, a few seeds can replace a whole meal.
The small seeds can bind 25 times the amount of water to create a pudding consistency. Thus, the so-called Chia pudding can be a tasty diet meal with a lot of volume.
Would you like to try my version of Chia pudding? Let me share the simple, but delicious, recipe with you. Please, enjoy:
Recipe for Chia Pudding
For a serving of savory pudding, 15 grams of Chia seeds are enough. This is also the recommended maximum amount of the nutrient-rich seeds. If Chia seeds come into contact with liquid, they swell over an extended period of time and create a sort of pudding that lasts longer and tastes good. There are many variants for the preparation.
This basic recipe consists of Chia seeds and water or the non-dairy milk of your choice. I, personally, always use coconut water, which is a great source for an extra boost of vitamin C on its own, by the way. And, I also add some vanilla beans or vanilla extract, depending on what I have available at the time. Nevertheless, it’s heavenly!
For 15 grams of seeds you need about 125 ml of milk or water, that’s up to your preferences. This can be cow’s milk, soy milk, coconut milk or almond milk. You could also mix cow’s milk with coconut milk to create a subtle coconut flavor.
In this liquid, you can now mix cocoa powder, protein powder, sweetener (if you must) or similar ingredients and prepare your very own creation.
The finished mixture is best left to stand overnight in the refrigerator so that the Chia seeds can swell and a pudding-like consistency is created. The next morning you can enjoy the pudding for breakfast.
However, integrating Chia seeds into the diet alone does not ensure a weight loss success. For a working diet, often your entire lifestyle needs to be changed. Regular exercise is also indispensable when aiming to lose weight.
How to lose weight healthily, you can read here. If you would rather have a quick result instead, then you can find out here how to lose weight quickly with my self proven lemon diet:
Use of Chia Seeds: You should Pay Attention (Be Mindful!)
Those who want to benefit from the effects of the nutrient-rich kernels should pay a lot of attention to the use of Chia seeds. Both, when buying and when dosing and preparation, some things should be considered so as not to affect the positive effect of this superfood.
Dosing Chia Seeds Correctly
If you’re not used to Chia seeds, experts advise caution when dosing. There are no long-term studies on the seeds yet. The long-term effect of the seeds is, therefore, not yet known. It is recommended to consume no more than 15 grams per day.
In addition, because the seeds react to fluid, you should drink plenty of water to allow the seeds to glide better through the gastrointestinal tract. NEVER eat your Chia seeds dry.
Because they can expand 27 times their weight when in contact with liquids, they may cause an obstruction to your esophagus, thus, hindering you from breathing! I doubt that they swell up as fast as you have them swallowed, but I’ve heard about this warning and just wanted to share the information with you.
Just don’t eat them whole and with a spoon, then you’re good. Once they’re cooked, ground, baked, mixed with liquid or blended, they’re harmless and ready to be enjoyed.
Buy Chia Seeds
You can buy Chia seeds in many variations. They are available as whole seeds, processed into baked goods, in cereals and also in yogurt. The seeds, however, are not quite cheap, and there are significant price differences. It’s all depending on the quality you can get. As with many other superfoods, one should pay attention here to good quality and best resort to an organic product.
Superfoods can be contaminated with pollutants, including Chia seeds. Cultivation countries often have different regulations than Western countries. Pesticides that are banned in one country are still used in other countries.
The seeds can be treated with plant hormones. In order to avoid these pollutants, one should buy products from controlled biological cultivation. Make sure to check that you obtain your Chia seeds from providers who refrain from chemical crop protection and fertilizers, genetic engineering and many other additives.
In addition to Chia seeds, you can also buy Chia oil. This can be obtained both for body care and for cooking and in the form of capsules.
Chia oil is extracted from the seeds and, therefore, contains similar properties. It consists of 80 to 90 percent of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which have many beneficial properties and are very nurturing.
Since it is relatively tasteless, it can be integrated into many dishes. You can also use it for body care. It moisturizes the skin and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This eliminates impurities and reduces large pores. In addition, it protects against free radicals and can, thus, prevent premature skin aging.
Chia oil is also popular in capsules as a dietary supplement. So you can benefit from the polyunsaturated fatty acids, without having to integrate the oil in your meal preparation.
When taking these capsules, however, you should definitely pay attention to the recommended consumption of the respective manufacturer. Two grams of Chia oil a day is generally considered harmless.
Are Chia Seeds really Healthy?
Chia seeds can be a good supplement to a healthy diet. In addition to a high amount of fiber, the seeds contain polyunsaturated fatty acids, many phytochemicals, minerals, and high protein content. They can, thus, contribute to a balanced diet.
Chia seeds can, however, also cause side effects and interactions. Although the swelling ability of the seeds has many advantages, it can also have some negative effects. Those who take the seeds unperforated should drink enough, otherwise, it can lead to constipation. The prescribed maximum quantity of 15 grams should, therefore, not be exceeded.
Some people may also be allergic to Chia seeds. People with an allergy to herbs such as mint or rosemary should be wary of consuming Chia seeds. Like many other superfoods, Chia kernels can interact with some medications. Especially if you take blood thinners, you should be careful and discuss the consumption of Chia products with a doctor.
Alternatives to Chia Seeds
Chia seeds contain many valuable ingredients, but there are also domestic foods that are similar in composition and have a shorter transport path behind them. Today, the small seeds are grown in many parts of the world.
Linseed, rapeseed oil and nuts have a similar content of unsaturated fatty acids and contain numerous vitamins and minerals. Above all, flaxseed is considered a good alternative to the exotic Chia seeds.
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