Chia - What's in a Seed?

If you watched any television during the 1980’s chances are you first learned about chia seed via the now infamous terra cotta Chia Pets that appeared in television commercials.  Nearly forty years later, the ch-ch-ch-chia catchphrase seems to have lasted and the popularity of the seed itself has never been greater, and for good reason. The small little seed that comes from the Salvia hispanica plant packs a powerful nutritional punch, and has the science to prove it. 

The beneficial effects of eating chia include healthy immunity, blood sugar control, lipid-lowering, vision improvement, constipation prevention, anti-inflammatory activity, antianxiety, and blood pressure lowering. Chia seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, all of which contribute to its status as a “superfood.”

In clinical trials of so-called “chia seed interventions,” one study demonstrated a significant decrease in blood pressure and inflammatory markers like C-Reactive Protein (CRP)in study participants. Another study demonstrated a decrease in triglycerides and inflammatory markers. And yet another demonstrated a decrease in blood sugar occurring after a meal.

The little chia seed is most commonly found as a dark brown or black seed, though white varieties are also used. They can be eaten whole or ground and both appear to be equally nutritious. A hallmark quality of chia seeds is what happens to them in a liquid environment. If you put even just a teaspoon of chia in water or any other liquid, in just a few minutes you will observe a very gelatinous texture develop.  Chia can swell up to 25 times its weight! This comes from the soluble fiber in chia, which creates a mucilage when exposed to liquid. This mucilage has a protective and cleansing effect on the gastrointestinal tract.

Soaking chia in liquid helps to activate this mucilage and to obtain the most nutritional benefit from the seeds. Like many nuts, chia seeds contain a natural substance called phytic acid, which can interfere with the body’s absorption of certain nutrients like iron, zinc, and calcium. When you soak chia seeds in liquid before eating, you eliminate this issue. 

So why waste chia seed on a terracotta figurine when you can be eating it and enjoying a vast array of health benefits!? Add a teaspoon to smoothies, salad dressings, baked goods, yogurt, and/or pudding and you’ll soon be part of the chia craze sweeping the nation.

One final note or perhaps more of a "tip." I find it handy to have a toothpick on hand when I'm consuming chia because those mischievous little seeds love to lodge themselves in between my teeth or behind my permanent retainer. 

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