I’ve discussed a few superfoods in these articles in the past such as coconut oil and quinoa, but one I haven’t addressed yet is Chia. Chia seed is a low-carb, gluten-free ancient grain that’s incredibly healthy, but has no odd taste and will barely be noticed when added to your diet. Chia seeds deserve your attention, because they come with a host of benefits:
- Makes you feel full due to its unique gelling action
- Is high in fiber to help with weight loss
- Helps keep your blood sugar stable
- Aids digestion and helps prevent diverticulosis/diverticulitis
- Rich in “good fat“: omega-3 fatty acids
- High in complete protein
- Rich amino acid, vitamin, and mineral content
- Helps prevent osteoporosis
- Improves blood pressure in diabetics
- Increases healthy cholesterol (and lowers bad cholesterol)
- Gives you energy and endurance
- May help regulate mood and sleep due to high tryptophan content
- Slows down carbohydrate digestion and prevents blood sugar spikes
Chia Is the Mayan Word for Strength
Chia seeds are tiny black seeds from the plant Salvia Hispanica, a type of mint which grows natively in South America.
You may have heard that Chia seeds were used by Aztec and Mayan warriors as a super – energy food. Warriors would carry a small pouch of Chia into battle. It has also been called “Indian Running Food” because long-distance messengers would eat nothing but Chia as they ran their messages from town to town. Chia is very concentrated nutrition, so a small amount can provide a steady, consistent flow of energy with nothing else required except water.
Chia Gel for Weight Loss
Although studies of Chia seed for weight loss have been limited and inconclusive, there is evidence that Chia has a particularly beneficial effect for diabetes. Since we know that limiting blood sugar spikes and hunger while adding nutrition and fiber are all beneficial to weight loss, Chia seems like a good call for healthy nutrition when you’re trying to lose weight.
Chia can be added directly to foods and smoothies, but it’s even more effective nutritionally if you create Chia Gel.
Simply add one third of a cup of Chia seed (2 ounces) to 2 cups of water. Stir well, and leave it in a sealed container in your fridge. The gel will be ready to eat within 10 minutes, and can be stored for up to three weeks.
Many Ways to Eat It
Add a few tablespoons of gel to soups, smoothies, juices, oatmeal, granola, salad dressings, pudding, salsa, dips, sauces, almond milk, or even to drinking water. Chia has no taste of its own, but because it has the ability to hold so much water (especially as Chia Gel), it seems to enhance the flavor of whatever it is added to.
You can even eat Chia Gel plain – a few tablespoons 15 minutes before each meal will significantly reduce your appetite and help prevent overeating. It’s not terribly attractive on its own, so mixing it with a bit of chopped fruit or juice or greek yogurt will definitely make it more visually appealing.
Chia offers an easy way to increase fiber and omega-3’s in your diet, which is very important for weight loss. One ounce (28 g) of Chia seed contains 11 g of dietary fiber, plus 5 g of omega-3 fatty acids. By weight, that’s the highest omega-3 content in nature, more omega-3 than salmon, and it certainly has no fishy aftertaste!
Chia Seeds at a Glance
- 40% fiber
- 14% protein
- 18% omega-3 fatty acids
By RDA based on one ounce (28 g):
- 137 cal (101 cal if you subtract fiber)
- 1 g of digestible carbohydrate
- 18% of the RDA of calcium
- 30% of the RDA of manganese
- 30% of the RDA of magnesium
- 27% of the RDA of phosphorus
Chia seeds also contain good amounts of zinc, iron, potassium, niacin (vitamin B3), folate (vitamin B9), , thiamine (vitamin B1), and riboflavin (vitamin B2).
How to Buy Chia Seed
Chia is becoming commonly available in health food stores and even in grocery stores. Generally you’re best to buy Chia seed whole, as it does not need to be ground (like flaxseed) in order to be digested. Preground Chia seed will not last as long, as it contains healthy fats which may become rancid over time when exposed to oxygen.
If you can’t find Chia seed locally, it’s easy to purchase online from Amazon or other vendors. Because Chia seed is rich in antioxidants, whole Chia seeds stored at room temperature will last up to two years.