The first time we saw chia seeds we connected them with mold! Soon, we learned that these mouldy looking seeds provide many health benefits when consumed on a regular basis.
WHAT ARE CHIA SEEDS AND WHERE DO THEY COME FROM
According to Wikipedia, Salvia Hispanica, commonly known as chia, is a species of flowering plant in the mint family, native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. Chia is a herb growing up to one meter tall, with opposite leaves that are four to eight centimetres long and three to five centimetres wide. Its flowers are purple or white and are produced in numerous clusters in a spike at the end of each stem. Chia seeds are typically small ovals with a diameter of about one millimetre.
CHIA’S NUTRITIONAL VALUE
As mentioned above, chia seeds provide many health benefits due to its high nutrient density. To list a few:
- Micronutrients: such as iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, sodium and phosphorus, all supporting healthy muscle function
- Fibre: is important for digestive health. Chia has both soluble and insoluble fibre
- Antioxidants: impressive levels of four dominant antioxidants such as quercetin (known for its anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties and also said to increase VO2 max), kaempferol, chlorogenic acid, and caffeic acid are found in chia seeds. These antioxidants also make the chia seed last for years without going rancid despite lacking the hard and indigestible outer shell that many other seeds have
- Essential fatty acids: they contain the highest omega-3 levels found in any plant product which are good for brain health
- Protein: they are a great source of protein aiding recovery after training
According to the USDA, a 28 gram serving of chia seeds contains 5 milligrams of sodium, 11 grams of dietary fibre, 9 grams of fat and 4 grams of protein.
CHIA SEEDS AND ATHLETES
The above nutritional information has led to many athletes picking up on chia seeds.
Christopher McDougall, author of the best-seller Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, was introduced to chia seeds when he spent time with the Indian Tribe Tarahumara, known for their long-distance running ability. We heard that Christopher thought he was given frog eggs in mid-hatch, almost similar to our initial thoughts! Christopher wrote about chia seeds in his book, after which athletes rapidly introduced them into their diet. Chia seeds mixed with lime and water are said to be great running fuel.
CONSUMING CHIA SEEDS
Chia seeds can easily be incorporated to your daily diet as you can mix them in with anything (whole or milled) without changing the flavour of your food. We usually add chia seeds to green smoothies, breakfast bowls or drink them. Get into the habit of adding chia seeds to water bottles during exercise because the seeds can absorb 10 times their weight in fluid meaning they are very hydrating.
Many people think that white chia seeds are better than black chia seeds as they are more expensive. This is not true as they contain the same nutritional profile. When you buy chia seeds all you need to look out for is good quality, organic seeds.
Research form The Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has indicated that chia seeds may increase the effects of medications to lower blood pressure and to control blood sugar. People that are currently taking anti-hypertensive drugs, or are pre-disposed to heart disease, should consult with their doctor before consuming chia seeds.