All about Chia

31st March 2014

Chia seeds come from a flowering plant in the mint family that's native to Mexico and Guatemala. Whilst being regularly consumed in its native countries, it was largely unknown in North America until researcher Wayne Coates began studying chia as an alternative crop for farmers in northern Argentina in the mid 1980's.

The South Americans recognised it as so strengthening that they fed it to their armies when they were going on long marches.

What gives Chia its "Superfood" Status?

Chia is the richest known plant source of a type of Omega-3 fatty acid called ALA. Additionally, the essential fatty acids in chia are much more easily absorbed by the body than they are in some other food sources.

Nutritional Highlights

As well as Chia's impressive Omega-3 status it also contains significant levels of:

  • Protein (around 18% and containing all 8 of the essential amino acids making it one of the few plant source complete proteins)
  • Fibre (around 37%)
  • Omega-6 fatty acids
  • The minerals calcium, manganese and phosphorus
  • Anti-oxidants

General health benefits

  • Weight control - The soluble fibre dissolves in water to create a gel-like substance which reduces hunger by helping one feel fuller for longer
  • Heart health - omega-3 fatty acids lower cholesterol and help to maintain proper artery function, thereby helping reduce cardiovascular disease
  • Joints & flexibility - there's wide research linking benefits of omega-3 essential fats with joint health. Also the protein, calcium and anti-oxidant profile supports joint health.
  • Healthy digestion - due to fibre content which acts as an intestinal broom and bulks stools supporting regular bowel movements
  • Blood sugar & diabetes control - study that showed the inclusion of just one tablespoon to the diet controlled Type 2 diabetics reduce their morning blood glucose levels as well as those two hours after dinner.
  • Energy - chia seeds provide a sustained release of energy due to their protein and fibre content

Specific beauty benefits

Chia has certain notable nutritional highlights that particularly benefit the skin.

  • Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids - there is wide research linking skin health to these fatty acids
  • Anti-oxidants - these combat oxidization, which is a naturally occurring process in our bodies caused by things like sun exposure, pollution, stress and other toxicity such as ingesting damaged or saturated fats or excess oils/carbohydrates. Antioxidants neutralize this process. It's widely accepted that antioxidants are vital in the maintenance of healthy cells. Studies show that a diet rich in antioxidants can slow the aging process.
  • Protein - Chia is comprised of around18% protein, protein is essential for skin health as it's needed to repair and restore tissues.

Chia is an incredibly versatile food, which can be soaked or ground, and added to all manner of dishes, both sweet and savoury. It is also very popular as a breakfast cereal, most commonly known as "chia pudding".

Written for the Brigton Argus (to be published at a later date)