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Three Cheers for Chia Seeds

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Chia seeds were the “IT” food for 2014, having gained considerable popularity and status in the healthy food market.  They are worthy of such accolade in my opinion since they do stack up a significant nutritional score sheet for a seed so small and ancient.

What is Chia?

Chia seeds come from the flowering plant ‘Salvia hispanica’, native to Mexico and Guatemala. Evidence suggests that it was cultivated by the Aztecs and was as important as maize as a food crop. The seeds are still used today in Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Mexico and Guatemala for nutritious drinks and as a food source.

Why eat them?

Nutritionally speaking, one tablespoon of chia contains a mighty 3g of plant-based Omega-3, 3g of complete protein (excellent if you’re a vegetarian), and 6g fibre.  One tablespoon of Chia Seeds has more calcium than a glass of milk, more Omega-3 than Salmon, and more antioxidants than blueberries.   Furthermore, the fibre rich chia delivers a slow release of sustainable energy throughout the day. They are gluten free and offer a range of other essential nutrients that are often lacking in our modern-day diets.

For digestive health, Chia seeds have soluble and insoluble fibre that can improve digestion, lower cholesterol and keep you feeling fuller for longer. The protein in chia is an essential nutrient for the growth and generation of hair, nails and skin.  And since Chia is a complete protein, it contains all nine amino acids, much like edamame beans.

How to enjoy Chia seeds:

Chia can be eaten raw, since it has no taste.  It can be added to porridge, muesli, salads, smoothies and last but not least yummy, not so naughty cakes and puddings.

A little bit more…

I know Chia seeds have been highly regarded for many thousands of years in other cultures for the myriad health yielding qualities outlined above. Now further research shows that Chia seeds are being used for their nutritional and medicinal properties, endurance for athletes, for suppressing the appetite, weight loss, levelling blood sugar, and for aiding bowel regularity. Chia seeds readily dissolve into water, creating a substance that looks like gelatine. This gel-forming action is due to the soluble fibre in the Chia seed. Researchers believe that this same gel-forming phenomenon takes place in the stomach when Chia seed is consumed, thus creating a physical barrier between carbohydrates and digestive enzymes and slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar. Slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar helps with endurance and metabolic rates, which is beneficial for athletes and others.

So there you have it. Chia Seeds may well end up being your best friend of 2015! I include ways to use Chia in your diet on my One Day Nutritional Cookery Class. If you’d like to learn more, join us for our next one!

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