It is likely that you've heard of the Chia seed craze, and we don't mean the ch-ch-ch-CHIA jingle you just sang in your head, though who doesn't love a clay figure that sprouts leafy-green hair? Chia seeds have been dubbed a superfood, which Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist and a CNNHealth expert doctor, says is usually referring to foods that contain above average amounts of health promoting nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and especially phytonutrients (plant based nutrients).
The history of chia seeds is quite fascinating. In a recent article from nutrition expert Andrew Weil, M.D., discusses the seeds, origins and uses. Derived from the desert plant Salvia Hispanica found in southern Mexico, the seeds were part of the diets of the Aztecs and the Mayans. It is said that Aztec warriors used them as their basic survival food, since supposedly a person can be sustained for 24 hours from consuming just 1 tablespoon of the seeds. Conveniently, chia seeds can be stored for long periods of time without becoming rancid and don?t require grinding. Dr. Weil noted that a preliminary study conducted at the University of Toronto showed that chia seeds could actually help to lower blood pressure. The 3 month study consisted of 21 diabetics who consumed either a supplement made from chia or grains with similar fiber content. The results showed that the blood pressure of the patients who were given the grain remained steady, but the ones who had taken the chia supplement had a decrease in blood pressure (and average of 10 points diastolic , and 5 points systolic).
None can argue that these seeds are an excellent source of antioxidants and fiber, as well as the omega-3 fatty acid ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which can also be found in walnuts and flax seed. Dr. Jampolis explained that chia seeds contain no cholesterol and are low in saturated fat, but like all nuts and seeds they are more calorie dense, 139 calories per ounce, so it is important to watch serving sizes and consume in moderation. Other nutrients chia provides include calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus and zinc. They can be added to your diet in various ways to keep things fresh.
Dr. Oz featured chia seeds on an episode of the Oprah show, and said that they have among the highest antioxidant activity of any whole food, even more than fresh blueberries. He mentioned that chia seeds can provide health benefits like keeping blood sugar and blood pressure levels under control. The only caution Dr. Oz had about consuming the seeds was that the chia seeds you get in a Chia Pet have not been approved as food by the FDA, so get yours from a health food store, or order online.
So, just as you?re thinking this seed can?t get any better, it does. Dr. Jampolis reveals that chia seeds may benefit you in terms of weight loss. Chia, you are a superfood indeed. She stated that when combined with liquid (like water, milk, juice, or yogurt), they form a gel due to the soluble fiber that they contain. This can help with weight loss by helping you feel fuller longer and also by delaying the increase in blood sugar of foods that you consume which contain chia seeds.
So does this seed seem too good to be true It's not! Many find that chia seeds are best when mixed into a smoothie or salad, as a yogurt, cereal or oatmeal topping, and when used as a binder and healthy fat in baked goods (gluten-free or vegan particularly). A popular drink in Mexico and Central America called chia fresco calls for 2 teaspoons of the seeds into 8 to 10 ounces of water (remember, when mixed with a liquid it becomes gelatinous). Then for flavor, add lemon or lime juice and a bit of sugar.
Do you have a favorite chia recipe or suggestion? Let us know!