These wholegrain seeds from the South American plant- Salvia Hispanica, (a member of the mint family) are increasingly popping up in cook books and recipes. Native to central and south America, Chia seeds have been a traditional food since ancient times and boasting medicinal properties. Let’s look a little deeper into the nutrition and health benefits surrounding these tiny black seeds and find out why they’re making their way into kitchen cupboards across the world! I often add chia to porridge, sprinkle onto of a salad, add to a fruit and veg smoothie or incorporate them in home baking.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Chia seeds, are a great vegetarian source of the Omega 3 essential fatty acid, Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA). It is ‘essential’ that we get ALA from our diet, as our bodies can’t make it. These essential fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, offering health benefits to a number of chronic diseases such as Heart disease.
Chia seeds are a great source of gluten and wheat free fibre. Chia is high in both soluble and insoluble fibre providing a total of 5g fibre in two dessert spoons. Chia bia is hydrophilic, meaning that the seeds can absorb up to 10 times their weight in liquid. The seeds promote bowel movement by increasing the water content and bulk volume of our stools (number 2′s!), keeping us nice and regular. Fibre is important in the prevention of bowel cancer, constipation and slowing the absorption of sugar into our blood stream.
Chia seeds are a source of the minerals Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Magnesium and Selenium – all essential for optimal growth and repair of our bodies. As part of a varied, balanced diet, Chia seeds can make a significant contribution to meeting the recommended daily amounts of these minerals. The antioxidants contained in Chia include flavonoids: Quercetin, Kaempferol, and Myricetin also contribute to good health.
Egg free baking
Use Chia seeds as a replacement for eggs in your baking recipes. Ideal, when you’re catering for vegans or those with an egg allergy. Also, it’s a great tip to know for occasions when you’ve simply run out of eggs for baking. Mix 1 tablespoon of Chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water (per egg in recipe). Leave the mixture for 15 minutes before adding to your mixture. The same ability to form a gel with water also makes Chia seeds suitable for incorporating into making home-made jam!
The health benefits of Chia seeds are best achieved in complement with a varied, healthy diet. Natural health supplements sometimes have unexpected side effects or interactions with medication that can lead to adverse reactions. A final note of caution though – discuss their use with your GP if you’re taking blood thinning medication or medications for blood glucose and blood pressure control. Chia seeds may increase the lowering effect of these mediations. Chia seed is natural blood thinner and has anti-coagulant properties. If you take blood-thinning medication (e.g. aspirin or warfarin), talk to you doctor before using chia. Further research is currently underway to investigate other possible health benefits.