Chia is packed with health-promoting nutrients like protein, antioxidants and fibre, and is one of the best-known plant sources of healthy fatty acids, making it a must-have in anyone’s diet, and a powerful food for body and brain.
While most of us know Chia from the popular and peculiar Chia Pets, Chia is far more than a humorous ornamental plant. Chia (Salvia hispanica), originated in the central valley of Mexico and is a member of the mint family. Its use as a food in this region dates back 3500 years. The name of the Mexican state of Chiapas, originally called Chiapan, loosely translates into “river where the Chia sage grows.” Chia was used by Aztec warriors and runners to sustain themselves for an entire day’s activity.
Today, it is also used in the popular Mexican drink called Chia Fresca as a nutritious, low calorie energy drink. Now in North America, Chia Seed is really coming into its own as a legitimate dietary staple as part of a healthier lifestyle.
Nutrient Rich Superfood
Chia provides a high amount of nutrition in very few calories – a 2 tablespoon serving (12 grams) only contains 60 calories! This is one of the main reasons it is often recommended to support a weight management diet. Chia is very rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids with the highest known percentage of alpha-linolenic acid. It also has the highest combined alpha-linolenic and linoleic fatty acid (an Omega-6 fatty acid) percentage of any cultivated plant. In fact, chia seeds contain more Omega-3s than salmon, gram for gram. Chia has more protein, healthy fats and fiber, yet with fewer carbohydrates than rice, barley, oats, wheat, or corn. It is also gluten-free.
Unlike flax, Chia seed does not require milling for nutrient bioavailability. The whole seeds are readily digested and absorbed even in the weakest of digestive systems. Again, unlike flax, Chia does not need to be refrigerated because the antioxidant rich seed is not susceptible to rancidity.
Each serving of Chia seeds provide substantial levels of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin, and zinc. The seeds are a complete source of protein, providing all the essential amino acids in an easily digestible form. Chia is also an excellent source of soluble fibre.
Chia can come in many forms – milled or whole seed, Conventional or Organic, and Non-GMO. As a raw food and vegetarian/vegan friendly, it supports many specialty diet needs.
Best Uses for Chia for a Healthier Lifestyle
- Weight management – these fibre-rich seeds hold 10x their weight in water, forming a low calorie, nutrient-rich, gelatinous bulking agent that effectively contributes to a feeling of satiety, helping to consume less calories. This gelatinous bulk can be used as a healthy fat substitute in baking recipes. High nutrient content – including protein – fuels the body and helps maintain metabolism, whether you are trying to grow your physique, or keep it lean.
- Anti Aging – premature aging is associated with free radical damage. Chia is rich in antioxidants having anti-inflammatory effects and reducing free radical activity.
- Supports Cardiovascular Health – Omega-3 is researched to normalize blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Being Cholesterol-free and naturally very low in sodium, Chia is a heart-healthy food.
- Supports Brain Function and Health – Omega 3’s, antioxidants and amino acids found in Chia may help brain function, help support mood, provide fuel to stay sharp, and may help protect the aging brain from deterioration.
- Improves Digestion, Detoxification and Elimination – reduces digestive transit time and removes toxins through the lower intestine.
- Supports a healthy, low glycemic diet – Chia’s high-fiber and low-impact carbohydrates may help manage blood sugar levels.
- Supports an active lifestyle – Containing all essential amino acids to support muscle function and metabolism, protective antioxidants, Omega-3 fats, and healthy carbs, Chia is a great addition to keep you on the go. And it’s so fast and easy to incorporate into your diet.
How to Use Chia
Chia can be eaten directly from the spoon or added to foods. Enjoy whole chia seed by sprinkling it over salads, hot or cold cereals, yogurt or your favourite entrées. Whole chia seed may be added to lemon water or fruit juice to make a traditional Mexican drink known as chia fresca. Add it to smoothies or health shakes. Since it absorbs water, Chia can be used to thicken sauces too. Since you don’t have to ground them, Chia is easier to use than flax. With a neutral taste, they won’t change the taste of your favourite foods.
NOW CHIA Seeds
The NOW brand of Chia seed (Salvia hispanica) is 100% Non-GMO white Chia seed and is available as whole seed, ground and sprouted whole seed meal.