Chia seeds are some of those food items in which ancient people used for years before anyone knew how beneficial they were. You may be surprised to know that the use of these tiny seeds date back hundreds, even thousands of years. Nonetheless, it is only recently that people have begun to understand the many nutritional and health benefits of chia seeds.
The tiny chia seed can be a curative part of your diet. It is versatile enough for you to use it in a variety of dishes. Besides, it has enough nutrients to provide you with all the support your body needs.
In this article, you will not only be learning about the health benefits of these seeds, but also how to use and store them. Later on, you will also come across some incredible facts about chia seeds that you may not have heard before.
Let’s start with everything you want to know about those healthy little chia seeds:
1. The Ancient Chia Seeds: The Usage of These Seeds Dates Back Millennia
The scientific name of the chia plant is Salvia hispanica. It belongs to the mint family of Lamiaceae and is native to some parts of Mexico and Guatemala.
It is only been in recent years that chia seeds have attained popularity as a healthy food item. However, according to archaeological evidence, experts can trace back the use of chia seeds to 3500 B.C.
2. Chia Seeds and the Aztec: A Mythological Connection
Archeologists believe that the cultivation of chia plants as a food source dates back to the time of the Aztecs.
The Aztecs cultivated a lot of crops, including chia seeds; these held the honor of being the third most important one. Amazingly, the Aztecs were familiar with the incredible health benefits of the chia seeds. They valued them highly and used them liberally in their food products. Most significantly, the Aztecs even used chia seeds as currency.
There was even a religious connection between chia seeds and Aztec mythology. The ancient people used to believe that the seeds came from the nose of Cinteotl, the Aztec maize god.
The Aztec runners and warriors would consume only a single spoon of chia seeds in order to sustain themselves.
3. Chiapas and Chia: What’s Common?
Due to its links with the Aztec civilization, the chia plant also has a connection with Mexico. Chiapas, a state in Mexico, derives its name from the chia plant. Originally, it was known as Chiapan. The word can be loosely translated into English as the “river where the chia sage grows.”
4. The Spanish Conquistadors Almost Destroyed Tiny Chia Seeds
After the Spanish took over the land of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, the conquistadors began to destroy the Aztec civilization. In fact, the destruction occurred way before anyone could study the peoples and the culture of the Aztecs. They banned and destroyed anything related to the Aztecs. This included their favorite foods.
The colonists also removed the complex agricultural system that the Aztecs had developed in order to pave the way for the foods which had become popular in Spain and Europe. This included the removal of the chia plants and their seeds, as well. Nonetheless, the chia plant managed to survive somehow and people have once again started to cultivate it for the seeds.
5. Chia Seeds Build Stronger Teeth and Bones
Calcium is essential for the health of your teeth and your bones because these are mainly made up of calcium. There are 233 milligrams in a three tablespoon serving of chia seeds. More importantly, the calcium content in chia seeds is five times more than in milk.
Regular consumption of chia seed can help you to get up to 18 percent of the recommended daily amount of this mineral. Here are some of the benefits of calcium that you should know about:
- A deficiency of calcium can lead to a variety of bone diseases, such as osteoporosis.
- Calcium is necessary for strong teeth and bones.
- Your cardiovascular system needs calcium. It assists in contractions of the heart muscles and plays a role in blood clotting.
6. Reasons Chia Seeds Improve Your Digestion
The fiber content of chia seeds is rather high. This makes chia seeds the perfect aid for the digestive system. Its high fiber content means that you need to consume less chia seeds than other fiber-rich foods in order to gain the same benefits.
The benefits of chia seeds, in terms of fiber content, are:
- Fiber can help in clearing up different digestive issues.
- Fiber is capable of absorbing large amounts of water. As a result, the chia seeds will swell up inside the stomach and cause you to fill fuller faster.
- The most effective and natural way to clear up constipation is by adding fiber to your diet. It is also capable of reducing inflammation.
- Fiber helps absorb cholesterol and eliminate it from the body. Therefore, chia seeds are effective in order to control your cholesterol levels.
7. Good News for Diabetics: Chia Aims to Keep Your Blood Sugar Levels Steady
One of the most vital features of chia seeds is that they are capable of regulating the blood sugar levels and bring diabetes under control. There have been numerous studies which have shown the effectiveness of chia seeds in treating type 2 diabetes.
This is, once again, mostly due to the fiber content in the chia seeds. The high amounts of fiber allow the digestive system to process food more efficiently. This, in turn, allows the absorption of sugar in the food to occur more slowly. And, when your body absorbs sugar effectively, you will not experience any drastic spikes in blood sugar levels after consuming food.
8. Make Chia Seeds Part of Your Diet and Get Yourself Loaded With Protein
Apart from the high fiber content, chia seeds are also loaded with proteins. In fact, these seeds are effective vegetarian sources of protein. One serving of chia seeds offers 10 percent of the protein that you need to take daily. This is quite impressive since most foods that provide you with high protein content are usually animal products.
There are a number of ways in which your body can make use of the protein from chia seeds. Let’s learn about a few of them:
- The protein content, along with the fiber content in chia seeds, is capable of making you feel full. You remain satiated for a longer period of time and experience less food cravings. Therefore, you are able to decrease the amount of calories that you consume.
- Proteins are the building blocks of muscles and tissues. Your body needs protein to build and repair tissue.
- The body also needs protein to make hormones and enzymes, which are vital for the proper functioning of your body.
9. Gluten-Free Meals Are Possible Thanks to the Help of Chia Seeds
Gluten has become a major problem nowadays for many people. Doctors recommend that people with gluten-sensitivity should avoid foods with gluten. However, this poses a problem for people looking for foods without gluten since there are many food products that contain this substance.
Besides, they are forced to avoid many foods with gluten, which are otherwise beneficial for their health. For instance, grains are the most common source of gluten; however, they have other benefits.
People with gluten-sensitivity may now find relief in the fact that chia seeds are a potent source of numerous nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; however, they are free of gluten. These tiny seeds are capable of providing the same benefits as those of grains. Thus, people can easily introduce chia seeds to their diet and enjoy their innumerable health benefits.
Are you wondering what nutrients are present in chia seeds? Keep reading.
10. Give Your Body a Healthy Dose of Nutrients With Chia Seeds
You may be astonished to know that chia seeds are one of the best sources for a variety of micronutrients, in spite of their deceptively tiny size. These micronutrients help maintain the health of your body including your skin, teeth, bones and blood.
Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain the following nutrients:
- Carbohydrates: 12 grams
- Fiber: 10.6 grams
- Calcium: 177 mg
- Protein: 4.4 grams
- Potassium: 44.8 mg
- Fat: 8.6 grams
- Iron: 2.2 mg
- Phosphorus: 265 mg
- Copper: 0.1 mg
- Sodium: 5.3 mg
- Zinc: 1.0 mg
- Manganese: 0.6 mg
- Calories: 137
11. Chia Seeds Fight Those Damaging Free Radicals
Food specialists have started to call chia seeds a super food, and, why not? These tiny seeds are a powerhouse of minerals, fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. In fact, the level of antioxidants present in chia seeds is quite high. As a result, you can easily enjoy the benefits of antioxidants with just one serving or two of chia seeds every day.
There are a number of beneficial effects of antioxidants for the health of the body. Some of these are:
- The primary function of antioxidants is to fight against free radicals and protect your body from their destruction. These free radicals can damage your body and create diseases. They can cause the cells to break down and stimulate the growth of cancerous cells.
- Inflammation is harmful for your body and can affect the heart. Antioxidants are capable of reducing inflammation in the body to keep your heart healthy and improve your overall health.
- Antioxidants are the perfect anti-aging treatment and help keep your skin, hair and body feel and look younger.
12. Get In Shape: Eat Chia Seeds and Lose Weight
The presence of large amounts of fiber and protein works to reduce fat which has been deposited in your body, and keep you fit. Chia seeds make you feel satiated as they swell up inside your gut. This makes you less likely to experience cravings and prevents you from indulging in junk and processed foods.
We have learned about the numerous health benefits of consuming chia seeds, and adding them to the diet. Now, let us find out how we can use them in diet. In addition, let us find out the types of chia seeds available in the market.
13. Understanding the Various Types of Chia Seeds
There are three different kinds of chia seeds available. The differences between these three types are subtle; however, the choice you make may impact the amount of nutrients you gain from these seeds.
The different types of chia seeds available, and their properties, are:
- Black Chia: These chia seeds have a dark color. They tend to have slightly lower protein content and slightly higher fiber content.
- White Chia: These chia seeds have a whitish color. Some of them may be slightly yellowish, but that is not a problem. The fiber content of white chia seeds is lower while its protein content is higher. Besides, they are more expensive than the black variety.
- Black and White Chia: These chia seeds are the most commonly available type. They are available as a mixture of the black and the white varieties of chia seeds. They allow you to get the best of both worlds. You should try and opt for these chia seeds.
- Brown Chia: They are the unripe version of chia seeds. Do not buy brown chia seeds since they have little nutritive value to offer; therefore, they are a waste of money.
Where to Buy Chia Seeds
You can easily buy chia seeds from your local health food store and supermarket. In addition, you can look for them in online stores. Now that you have bought the right chia seeds, you should learn how to store them correctly.
14. Maintaining the Nutritive Value of Chia: All About Storing Them
You can store chia seeds for a long time without too much effort, since they are dry seeds. As long as you keep chia seeds away from water and direct sunlight, they can last for months.
Here are some ideas for you to store chia seeds properly:
- Keep the chia seeds in a glass container, airtight plastic zip bag or in a plastic storage airtight box. Keep the chia seeds in a dark cupboard, away from direct sunlight. Make sure that the cupboard is safe from dampness and water.
- You can make a gel of chia seeds by adding them to water. Make sure that you stir the mixture well so that the gel forms properly. You can store this gel in an airtight container in your refrigerator, so that you can use it later. It can last for two weeks, on average, when properly refrigerated.
So, you have brought and store your chia seeds the right way. Let us now learn how to use chia seeds for consumption.
15. Enjoying Chia Seeds in a Variety of Ways
You can eat chia seeds raw in a number of ways. There is no harm in eating them without cooking them first. The main reason for this is that chia seeds do not have a strong taste. They are quite bland, which allows the flavors of the food to conceal the presence of chia seeds. Nonetheless, these seeds can add some much needed color to foods and improve its texture.
Here are some chia seeds recipes that do not require cooking:
- Oatmeal and Yogurt: Add chia seeds to yogurt and cooked oatmeal. After a while, the chia seeds will turn gelatinous and mushy.
- Smoothies: Blend a tablespoon of ground chia seeds into your smoothies.
- Juices: To enjoy the unique texture of chia seeds, put them in your favorite juice.
- Cereals: Sprinkle some of these seeds on your breakfast cereal.
- Sandwiches: Add chia seeds to the fillings of sandwiches, such as egg salad or tuna salad, along with pepper and salt.
- Spreads: Mix chia seeds with bread spread, such as cheese and butter. Apply this mixed spread on your toasts for a healthier breakfast.
- Salads and Puddings: Add a few tablespoons of chia seeds to prepared salads or puddings.
- Snack Bars: Granola bars are quite healthy. Make them healthier by adding some chia seeds. You can do so with any granola recipe that you like.
- Jelly and Jams: As chia seeds turn gelatinous when added to water, they make excellent additions to jellies. In fact, you can easily make jellies and gelatins with the help of chia seeds, along with your favored purees.
Tip: If you want to offer chia seeds to a child who is a fussy eater, you can easily mix them into the food to hide their presence.
16. Introduce These Tiny Yet Mighty Seeds to Your Recipes
While you can eat chia seeds raw, there is no reason for you not to cook them. There are a number of ways you can cook with chia seeds. Here are some of the recipes, which are delicious when used with chia seeds. Of course, they also become healthier, thanks to chia seeds.
Healthy and Mouthwatering Porridge
- One cup milk
- One tablespoon chia seeds
- One pinch cinnamon
- A few slices fresh fruit
- Two tablespoons honey
- Salt to taste
- Nuts of your choice to garnish
- In a medium saucepan, combine milk and chia seeds, and warm over low heat.
- Let the mixture cook for a couple of minutes, so that the seeds can become gelatinous.
- Stir the mixture from time to time in order to avoid the clumping of chia seeds.
- You may add more seeds to increase the thickness of the porridge, or more milk to make it thinner.
- Add a bit of cinnamon, slices of fresh fruits, honey, salt or nuts.
- Once completed, store the porridge in your refrigerator or eat it warm.
Spice Up Your Baked Items With Chia Seeds
- While baking a cake, muffin or bread, you can add some chia seeds to the dough.
- Typically, you will need around three tablespoons of chia, but feel free to change the amount as required.
- You may also add them to pancake dough.
Soups and Sauces
- The ability of chia seeds to become gelatinous is quite beneficial. You can add the seeds to gravy, soups and sauces to thicken them.
- Don’t forget to stir the mixture while adding chia seeds, in order to avoid the formation of clumps.
Add Ground Chia Seeds To Your Recipes
- You can easily grind the chia seeds into flour with the help of a blender or a food processor.
- You can use this flour in all kinds of dough. For thick dough, you should substitute an equal part of the original flour with the chia seed flour.
- For a thinner one, you should mix one part of chia seed flour with three parts of regular flour.
Use Chia Seeds to Replace Eggs
- Replace eggs with chia seeds to augment the nutritional properties of baked products.
- In order to replace one egg in a recipe, you need to add one tablespoon of chia seeds mixed with three tablespoons of water, and leave it for 15 minutes.
Casseroles and Meatballs
- The bland taste of chia seeds makes it simple to add them to any dish. Casseroles, meatballs and lasagnas are some of the options available for you to do so.
- If you are making meatballs, add chia seeds instead of bread crumbs.
- Add chia seeds to egg dishes such as omelets and scrambled egg.
- Stir fry dishes are also good options where you can use chia seeds.
17. Keep It Safe: Warnings About Eating Chia Seeds Raw
Unlike many other nutritious seeds, it is not important to grind chia seeds in order to obtain their incredible health benefits. The consumption of one to two tablespoons of whole chia seeds will offer you the same benefits as ground ones.
However, you should be careful when chewing raw and dry chia seeds. This becomes more significant for people with a constricted esophagus or those dealing with problems related to difficulty in swallowing. The seeds form a jelly-like ball when wet and this can partially block your food pipe, and even cause death.
18. Why Chia Seeds Have an Incredible Affinity for Water
One of the most interesting properties of chia seeds is their ability to absorb water. In fact, the amount of water that these seeds can absorb is as much as 12 times their weight.
19. You May Be Wondering: All About Chia Seeds and Chia Pets
In the 1980’s, chia pets were one of the most popular home décor items. These were terracotta figurines of animals that had holes where chia seeds were placed. Once the plant began to grow, it would resemble the hair or the fur of the animal. These chia pets are still available.
Chia seeds are considered to be one of the super foods of the world. It is the right classification as they certainly possess a high nutritive value. Additionally, they are highly versatile, thus making them suitable for a wide variety of recipes.