By Karen Appold
“Chia seeds” may bring to mind the clay figurines that grow green fur. These small, superfood seeds give Chia Pets their leafy, lush coats.
Nowadays, people are eating chia seeds as a rich source of nutrients (such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc) and antioxidants. It’s also an excellent source of omega-3s–in fact, chia seeds are one of the richest plant-based sources of these fatty acids.
Chia seeds are also high in fiber–packing 10 grams in just two tablespoons. That is one-third of the daily recommended allowance.
South American roots
Chia seeds are native to South America; they were an integral part of Aztec and Mayan diets for centuries. They are from a flowering desert plant called Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. Chia seeds were mostly unknown in North America until 1991.
Although research is still in the early stages (with only a small number of participants in each study), data seems to suggest that chia seeds may help to improve cardiovascular risk factors, such as reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides. They might also boost your energy, aid in digestion, ease inflammation, improve cognitive performance, regulate bowel function, and stabilize blood sugar.
Studies also show that chia seeds might help you lose weight by slowing down the time it takes your body to break down carbohydrates. This stabilizes blood sugar levels. Because the seeds retain so much water, they can help you to feel fuller for a longer amount of time.
In addition, eating chia seeds might help you sleep better. They contain tryptophan–an amino acid that works in conjunction with serotonin in the brain to naturally promote sleep.
Eating chia seeds
Chia seeds, which have a nutty taste, are easy to add to your diet. You can eat chia seeds raw, or use them as an ingredient in a variety of recipes. Try sprinkling whole or ground chia seeds on vegetables, rice, cereal, or yogurt. Chia seeds are very absorbent; they develop a texture like gelatin when soaked in water. This makes it easy to mix them into prepared dishes. Chia seed oil is also available as a nutritional supplement.
Karen Appold is a writer in Lehigh Valley, PA.