Let’s get acquainted with this super-trending superfood
Originating in Central America and considered to be a staple Aztec diet, chia seeds have suddenly become the latest health buzzword. Chia seeds are actually seeds of the desert plant Salvia hispanica which is a member of the mint family.
Though these seeds were once primarily consumed only the South American population, today chia seeds have become a major global dietary trend. 80% of chia seeds are grown and sourced from Latin American countries. These are sold as a standalone product and also marketed as a functional ingredient in a wide variety of cereals, health bars, bakery products, and even peanut butter.
The fact that chia seeds justify their hype as a supposed superfood is true without any doubt. These tiny and black seeds are lavishly overloaded with essential nutrients and healthy goodness. The internet is swarming with articles and research work conducted for analyzing the potency of chia seeds in keeping our bodies healthy and disease free. People across the globe are amazed at how these miniature seeds can accelerate the weight loss process in addition to keeping chronic diseases at a bay.
But before running into the nearest health store for buying chia seeds, let us first understand what critical ingredients make chia seeds so indispensible to a sound mind and a healthy body.
A chock-full of fiber
Of the 12 grams of carbs present in one ounce of chia seeds, 11 belong to the category of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is a class of complex carbohydrates which remain undigested in the body. How can these be of any help if they aren’t broken down during digestion?
The very fact that they remain intact and undigested is what makes fibers a healthy element of our diet. Everything that you consume is broken down into fats or glucose. This means that every bite of food that you take you, very slightly, increase your blood’s glucose content and insulin to control that sugar spike. This over period translates to high blood sugar and insulin resistance or in simple words, diabetes in many cases.
The advantage of consuming fiber is that since it is not broken down or digested, it doesn’t increase your glucose levels. Due to the same reason, it stays in your digestive tract for a longer time thus keeping you fuller for longer periods. Not only that, fiber adds bulk to your bowels and helps in easy and smooth bowel movements.
In short, high fiber foods help you prevent blood sugar spikes, hunger pangs, and constipation. Thus, adding healthy doses of chia seeds in your daily diet can help you improve your entire digestive system.
Oxidative stress – what is that?
Whenever there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants (which get rid of the aforementioned free radicals), your body undergoes the dreadful process of oxidative stress. This stress is responsible for a plethora of diseases beginning from ADHD, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s to sickle-celled anemia, atherosclerosis, and even cardiac arrest.
In essence, everything that can go wrong with your body is associated with oxidative stress. Now, how do chia seeds come in the picture? Chia seeds are brimming with antioxidants; the enemies of free radicals. These counter the degenerating effects of free radicals and help rejuvenate the body overall. With lesser oxidative stress your body ends up retaining more of its youth and health. In essence, chia seeds contain active biocompounds that delay the process of aging and can largely prevent the onset of chronic diseases (the ones mentioned above).
Pro for massive protein content
Did you know that chia seeds contain 14% protein by weight? Though this figure looks small on the surface, it actually denotes a massive protein content when compared to other plant-based products. Not only that, but chia seeds are also replete with essential amino acids which science reveals that are the literal building blocks of life. Having a healthy dosage of amino acid in the diet ensures that the protein content is absorbed efficiently by the body during digestion.
Protein is an indelible part of the human diet. This is because this nutrient is involved in building and repairing tissues, regulating hormonal balance, and creating healthy body cells. Also, it is a macronutrient which means we need larger amounts of protein to sustain a healthy life.
Additionally, a high protein diet helps in keeping you full (just as fiber does) and reducing binge-eating tendencies. This implies that with the immense protein power packed in chia seeds you get the nutritional goodness of this critical nutrient and stay away from unhealthy snacking. It also means that with chia seeds, vegetarians get a great option for deriving protein from their diet.
Densely packed with nutrients
It’s not just high fiber and proteins which chia seeds can boast of. They are also brimming with the healthy goodness of numerable other nutrients such as:
- 9 grams of fats out of which 5 grams are omega -3 fats (more on that later)
- Vitamin B
Out of these, chia seeds can accommodate for roughly 30% of your daily dietary requirement for manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. That too, with just one ounce.
Manganese is essential in treating chronic musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis and general body weakness linked with anemia. Magnesium is critical to several key bodily functions such as protein synthesis, nerve function, and glucose control. Phosphorus, for those who don’t know, is the second most abundant mineral in the body. It is innately involved in regulating kidney functions and stimulating growth hormones. Essentially, with just one ounce, i.e, 28 grams of chia seeds you get innumerable benefits of essential nutrients that too in ample quantity.
Lose weight with chia seeds
Another surprising benefit of having a high fiber content in your food is that it helps you lose weight. Yes, there are foods such as chia seeds that can help you get rid of excess flabs and pounds. But how could eating something help you get lighter?
The answer, again, is hidden in the high dietary fiber content of chia seeds. 2 tablespoons of chia seeds contain roughly 10 grams of fiber. And that makes up for around 40% of your daily fiber requirement. Imagine, you get almost half of your entire fiber needs to be fulfilled with only 2 tbsp of these magical seeds.
One of the great things about fiber is that, as mentioned before, they don’t get broken down into simpler molecules such as glucose or fats. These remain undigested and move along the GI tract enabling better excretion of waste products and extra fats. Not to mention, they increase your satiety, i.e, the feeling of fullness after meals.
So there you go.
These three advantages associated with high fiber ensure that you gradually start following better eating habits, chuck off binge eating from your routine, and feel satiated much sooner. Thus, chia seeds owing to their high fiber content can be considered as nature’s boon when it comes to getting rid of those pesky pounds.
Say goodbye to inflammation
Chronic bodily inflammation is the root cause of a number of diseases – be it inflammatory bowel disease, Alzheimer’s, or even cancer. In order to combat this inevitable part of human biology, one must include lots of anti-inflammatory foods in their diet. One of nature’s best anti-inflammatory agents is omega-3 fatty acids.
You must be knowing that fatty fish such as salmon, for instance, is a rich source of omega-3 fats. Chia seeds, too, are teeming with this essential nutrient, in fact, in greater quantities when compared with salmon (by weight). These fatty acids are immensely effective in keeping your bodily inflammation at a low level in addition to increasing your cognitive abilities. Omega-3 is proven to be great for your brain as these are anti-inflammatory and enable the formation of new healthy brain cells. So with one simple ingredient in your kitchen shelf, not only are you keeping your body disease free but also your brain razor sharp.
Chia seeds: How to incorporate them in your diet?
Hands down, chia seeds are indeed a superfood and a health trend that is here to stay. Now that we know the countless ways in which chia seeds can bestow health to us, let us take a quick glance at the amazing and delicious ways you can include chia seeds in your diet from today:
- For starters, chia seeds can be consumed raw. You can sprinkle them on your morning cereal, yogurt, or vegetables.
- Nothing spells healthy diet better than a glass of fresh smoothie. You can mix chia seeds, 2 tbsp of it, with any fruit of your choice along with milk/yogurt and blend them together to get a great mix of nutrients. This serves as a great post-workout snack.
- Tired of thinking about great breakfast ideas that are easy to cook and yet good for your body? Go no further than chia seeds porridge which can be added with bananas and almonds to increase the taste and nutritional content.
- Chia seeds turn gelatinous when soaked in water. Thus, they can be easily added in your favorite cereals and other cooked/baked goods such as muffins and bread.
- Adding a dash of chia seeds atop your salad or sandwich will not only add into the rich nutrition but also lend a crispy crunchy texture which will make you an instant fan of chia.
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