Chia seed is becoming a popular natural health food because they are a rich source of balanced fatty acids Omega-3 and Omega-6, both soluble and insoluble, dietary fiber, proteins, antioxidants, and several other nutrients. In fact, one researcher in Australia stated: “Chia seeds are the richest known whole food source of dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, plus they’re exceptionally high in vegetable protein, calcium, magnesium, iron and antioxidants.”
History of Chia
Chia seed, harvested from the salvia hispanica plant, has been used by both the Maya and the Aztecs and other people in Central and South America for thousands of years. Regarded as a source of food by these ancient civilizations, Chia seeds were grown and consumed as a grain, mixed with other grains, milled into flour, used in medicines and for oil. Because the plant is a member of the mint family, most insects don’t like it and so no pesticides are necessary for successful cultivation.
Today Chia seeds are emerging in the market as a prized dietary supplement because of their many health benefits. Most of the Chia in the market today is grown commercially in the Ord Valley region of Western Australia although Chia continues to be grown in many Central and South American countries as well.
Black vs. white Chia seeds
Chia seeds are generally considered as being either white or black and there is no little controversy surrounding which seed color is nutritionally superior. Research done at the University of Arizona on both white and black seed plants grown in four geographically diverse locations found no significant nutritional differences between the two seeds. In fact, the research found that there is actually a greater nutritional difference depending on the location grown than in the color of the seeds.
Uses of Chia
Chia seeds are one of the most dense foods available nutrients, because they are rich in protein, carbohydrates, antioxidants, Omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fibers. They have no flavor, so that they can be added as a nutritional supplement to almost any type of food. They can be added to yogurt, used in recipes to make bread or added to a drink such as a fruit or vegetable smoothie.
Chia vs. Flax
Both flax and Chia seeds contain many essential nutrients, including omega-3, but the flax seed has a very hard seed coating that must be opened through grinding, milling, or cooking. If you eat flax seeds that have not been properly opened, they will simply pass through the body. Chia seed does not have this seed coating so eating the whole seed will yield the nutritional benefits.
Benefits of Chia
The Food and Drug Administration classifies Chia seeds as a food source without any safety concerns. The omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber have been shown to have positive benefits to health, such as reduced inflammation and increased immunity in many different studies. Although not a diet food, Chia seeds expand in fluid and will often give a “full” feeling which makes you feel less hungry. Many athletes use Chia in their diets to help improve endurance levels. Indeed, anyone who is interested natural health and maintaining a healthy diet will benefit from by adding Chia to their meal plans.
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