The Chia Super Seed

Chia Seeds History

A member of the mint family, the Chia plant (Salvia Hispanica) has oblong leaves and produces small blue flowers. Its seeds are primarily used as food.  Long ago, before the Spanish conquest of Latin America—and well before the “ch-ch-ch-chia pet” was born—chia seeds were a staple food, like corn and beans, in the diets of the Aztecs and Mayans.  “Chia” actually comes from the Mayan word for “strength”.

Most evidence shows that humans began using chia seeds around 3500 BC.  Aztecs and Mayans consumed chia seeds regularly, grinding them into flour, pressing them for oil and drinking them straight with water.   Chia seeds were also used for medicinal purposes.  It was said that Aztec warriors used chia seeds as a source of fuel before going into battle to boost endurance and stamina. At this time in history, chia seeds were considered to be almost magical because of their ability to increase stamina and energy over long periods of time.

After the Spanish conquest of Latin America, chia seeds and their benefits became somewhat eclipsed, as the Spanish introduced their own foods into the farmland and prohibited the farming of chia.  Now, as modern scientists and nutritionists are recognizing the extreme lack of certain nutrients in the standard American diet, they are looking to history for natural solutions; chia is beginning to regain popularity, and its benefits are being fully studied. I think our culture is finally becoming more accepting of using foods as our medicines, so chia is receiving attention from the health and research community for its proven superior nutritional benefits.  Also, for so long, chia was not widely available to American consumers, but now you can get it at your local health foods store.  And, yes, these are the same seeds that come with the Chia Pet!

Why is it a Super Seed?

Chia seeds are “super” because, like superfruits, they deliver the maximum amount of nutrients with minimum calories. These tiny little seeds pack a big nutritional punch. They have several of the same benefits as the more well-known “super seed” flax, but unlike flax seed, you don’t need to grind them to reap the health benefits.  The nutritional benefits of Chia include:

  • Dietary Fiber
    • Nearly 11 grams per ounce. That’s about 42% of your recommended daily value in one single ounce. The typical American diet is dramatically lacking in fiber; while the American Dietetic Association recommends 20 to 35 grams of fiber/day, the average American only gets 12 to 15 grams!
    • Fiber is vital for all aspects of health, and is especially key for Weight Loss & Digestion. Fiber helps slow digestion and makes you feel fuller by soaking up fluid and expanding in your digestive tract.  Chia seeds can absorb up to 12 times their weight in fluid.  Simply doubling your intake of fiber each day by adding an ounce or so of chia seeds to your diet can reduce caloric intake and help lower the energy density (or calories) of foods.
    • Research has shown over and over again that people who eat higher fiber diets tend to weigh less and are less prone to weight gain as they age.  A high fiber diet has also been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
  • Omega-3 & Omega 6-Fatty Acids
    • 8 times more Omega-3 fatty acids than salmon—nearly 5,000 miligrams per ounce—which is one of the most concentrated sources of Omega-3 in any food. It also contains high amounts of Omega-6.  Everyone needs to consume high amounts of these essential fatty acids in their diet, because these EFA’s build new cells and regulate various processes of the body, but our bodies cannot make them internally.  In addition to boosting heart health by supporting lower cholesterol and reducing blood pressure, omegas are key to healthy skin, hair and nails.  Talk about a super seed! Chia gives you the look-good-feel-good combo by helping you maintain a healthy weight and boosting overall appearance!
  • Calcium
    • 18% of your daily value per ounce, which is 3 times more than skim milk. Many Americans—especially vegetarians or those who avoid dairy—are not getting enough calcium. Calcium deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, a disorder characterized by porous and fragile bones. Osteoporosis is a serious public health problem for more than 10 million U.S. adults, 80% of whom are women. Another 34 million have osteopenia, or low bone mass, which precedes osteoporosis.  Calcium is also key to fighting stress and maintaining a healthy, alkaline body.
  • Antioxidants
    • Antioxidant levels are equal to that of dark berries like blueberries. Antioxidants help protect our bodies from free radicals, which can cause “oxidative stress,” a type of cell damage that is thought to play a role in the development of many diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, eye disease, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

How much Chia Seed do you need?

I recommend integrating about three tablespoons (1 ounce) of chia seeds or another type of fiber supplement into your diet per day. You can do this by adding about two heaping tablespoons at breakfast and another for a snack.

Incorporating chia seeds into your daily diet is easy, but it’s important to start with a small amount and gradually increase your intake until your stools are the proper consistency.  Chia seeds have been known to cause occasional gastric distress like bloating, gas and even diarrhea or constipation, but you can avoid that by paying attention to your body and easing your way into a high-fiber diet routine.  To avoid constipation, make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids!

What are some ways to get Chia into my diet?

Chia Weight Loss Pudding

Let it sit for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. It will set into a smooth pudding, about the consistency of tapioca.  This simple delicious dish makes for a great dessert, although I prefer to eat it before meals to curb my appetite.  I included the Pomegranate & Berries with Resveratrol Juice by Genesis Today because it contains essential vitamins and nutrients like 1,000% of your daily value of Vitamin B12 and the entire B complex family of vitamins, which are responsible for turning your food to fuel, therefore supporting a healthy metabolism and boosting weight loss.  You can find this juice in the refrigerated juice section of Walmart, Safeway stores and other fine grocers.

The 150-Cal Chia Muffins

  • 1 tablespoon ground chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sweet potato puree (can get it in cans)
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup agave syrup
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Simply mix together all of the wet ingredients into one large bowl, and the dry ingredients into another. Next, fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Scoop into muffin tins and bake for 15-20 minutes at 350°.  Enjoy!