Chia seeds are one of my favourite superfoods. "Super" meaning that gram for gram they contain more nutrients and minerals than your average food. Chia seeds originate from South America, and have been grown and eaten by the Mayans and Aztecs since as early as 3500BC. Aztec warriors and running messengers would use them as a high-energy food to maintain their strength and endurance in battle. That's why they were called 'Chia', which in fact means 'strength' in Mayan.Even back then the Aztecs were all over the power and versatility of these wonder seeds. They would mix them with water and drink them as a beverage, grind them into flour, mix them into their medicines, press them for oil and even use them as a base for body paints. Luckily for us these seeds are now being also grown in Australia too (organically in some places), thus increasing their accessibility, and reducing their food miles for us folk in this half of the world. Here are 7 great reasons you should check out chia, plus 8 ways to easily incorporate these beauties into your diet: 1. HIGHEST SOURCE OF OMEGA 3S (28X MORE THAN SALMON) Chia seed oil is the richest source of Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) on the planet, with almost 60% Omega 3 content. It's also rich in Omega 6 and 9, two other healthy fatty acids. This makes it a brilliant plant-based alternative to seafood and fish oil. In fact, chia seed oil gram for gram contains 28 times the Omega 3 found in salmon. Amazing! EFAs can't be produced by our bodies and therefore must be consumed, thus the term "essential". They are known for their role in encouraging healthy skin, hair, nails, joints, and brain function; improving post-workout recovery, cell regeneration and cardiovascular function; increasing metabolism and promoting fat-burning; and preventing heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and arthritis. In the modern Western diet, the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 consumption is well out of kilter at around 1:20. The ideal ratio recommended by the World Health Organisation is more like 1:3. Consuming more Chia oil and seeds can help you return to that ideal balance. 2. 20% COMPLETE PROTEIN Chia seeds contain a whopping 20% protein, and a complete protein at that, with all eight essential amino acids. This makes them great if you’re active or trying to build muscle. Add a teaspoon or two to your daily smoothie and you won’t even notice they’re there. 3. FULL OF FIBRE Chia seeds contain 37% fibre and are a whole grain in that the bran, germ and endosperm are present (the bran contains lots of the beneficial nutrients). 80% of this fibre is insoluble, which is great for keeping our digestive and intestinal systems healthy and regular, and lowering the risk of colon cancer. The remaining 20% is soluble fibre, which dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance – this can help moderate blood glucose levels and lower cholesterol. 4. HIGH IN ANTI-AGING ANTIOXIDANTS Chia seeds contain twice the amount of antioxidants found in blueberries, with an impressive ORAC score of 10,000μmol per 100g. ORAC scores measure the ability of a food to fight destructive free radicals from our environment and combat oxidisation, which is essentially the skin's aging process. Studies show that a diet rich in antioxidants can slow aging not only of the physical body, but also the brain, thus reducing the risk of illnesses such as Alzheimer's. 5. JAM PACKED WITH VITAMINS & MINERALS Chia seeds are packed with lots of healthy vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, potassium, calcium and magnesium. We don't often hear much about magnesium, which is needed for over 300 bodily biochemical reactions, however 60-80% of us don't get enough of it. Gram for gram chia seeds pack an incredible punch, with more calcium than dairy milk, more iron than raw spinach, and more potassium than bananas. 6. PROVIDE SUSTAINED ENERGY Chia seeds provide a sustained release of energy, so you’ll avoid that mid afternoon slump after a big pasta lunch. Athletes also use chia to improve their endurance, aid mobility, and help with muscle repair. 7. GOOD FOR WEIGHT MANAGEMENT & DIABETICS As well as releasing energy evenly throughout the day, the thickening agent in chia seeds can help keep you full for longer. Chia seeds absorb up to 12 times their weight in water, helping to curb your appetite. Recent studies have also shown that chia seeds were able to reduce the blood glucose levels of Type 2 Diabetics.
Buffy Gill is not only our resident greenie and food and beauty expert, she's also the founder and managing director of Be Good Organics.
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