Hello my dear readers,
Ready to discover another super healthy and nutritious food?
Today let’s find out more about the Chia seeds.
The plant: Salvia Hispanica
Salvia Hispanica is part of the mint family and grows mainly in the deserts of Southern Mexico.
This plant is lucky not to be particularly liked by insects, for this reason it is easy to find in areas where it grows spontaneously, quickly and solidly.
What are the chia seeds?
Chia seeds, are tiny black, brown or white seeds, produced from the blue and purple flowers of Salvia Hispanica plant and are rich in nutritional properties.
Chia seeds are one of the most powerful, functional and nutritious foods in the world.
Until recently they were known mainly in Central and South America for their important nutritional properties.
Pre-Columbian civilizations recognized chia seeds as being able to attribute “strength and courage” to the extent that they were used before a battle.
Then exported to Europe by the conquistadors they were never very successful in the old continent and were soon forgotten.
Only in 2009 did Europe recognize chia seeds as a nutritional food, thus allowing marketing on the EU market.
The word chia derives from ‘chian’, which in the Uto-Atzecan Nahuatl language means oily. The current Mexican state of Chiapas derives its name from the expression chia water or chia river.
According to the Mayan population the word “chia” means strength.
The history of chia seeds
Chia seeds in ancient times were the staple food of the Aztec diet, which cultivated this plant in large quantities.
Chia seeds were such a fundamental part of the life of this pre-Columbian society that the populations conquered by the Aztec Empire had to pay an annual tribute of 4,000 tons of seeds.
In fact, it was believed that these seeds had special properties that confer extraordinary strength to those who ate them so as to win all the fights and battles.
The Aztecs also used chia as a medicine to relieve joint pain and skin diseases.
Other indigenous peoples, such as the Maya, were also large consumers and admirers of chia seeds.
In addition to cooking, they also used them in religious ceremonies as an offering to the gods to have a favorable harvest and a favorable season.
Chia seeds were imported into Europe by Spanish colonists after the discovery of America and contact with the customs and habits of the indigenous pre-Columbian populations.
In the 16th century a large harvest was made in Central / Southern Mexico but after the Spanish conquest, it was forbidden to harvest, as the chia was associated with the cults of the Aztec pagan religion.
Over the past few decades, chia seed production has resumed mainly in Latin America.
Now, these seeds are witnessing a real boom in diffusion in all cuisines around the world, thanks to the new healthy diets that use them in many vegan and vegetarian recipes and a more conscious lifestyle.
The benefits of Chia seeds from the Aztecs to today
Nutritional properties of Chia seeds
Chia seeds have beneficial properties already known to pre-Columbian civilizations.
Their calcium content is considered to be 5 times higher than that of milk.
Chia seeds are considered oilseeds and this means that up to 25-30% of oil could be extracted from them. More than half of this percentage is composed of Omega 3 fatty acids, 18% from Omega 6 and 10% from Omega 9. In the Omega 3 group we mainly find α-linolenic acid or ALA and this high content means that chia seeds are recognized as the best plant source of Omega 3, even better than flax seeds!
Chia seeds are really a panacea, in fact they are rich in fiber, containing 42% of fiber.
Two tablespoons, approximately 25 g, provide 7 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 205 milligrams of calcium and 5 grams of omega 3, this means that the intake of “good” fats is about 5 times more than the amount present in the supplement capsules and 8 times more than the salmon. (Source: Nutritional Science Research Institute).
Their intake of vitamin C, iron and potassium is also remarkable. If the content of vitamin C is 7 times higher than that of oranges, the potassium content is double compared to bananas and the presence of triple iron compared to spinach.
But that is not all! Chia seeds contain other minerals, such as selenium, zinc and magnesium, vitamins A, E and B6.
The minerals contained in chia seeds play an important function to keep the body’s vital functions active.
Naturally rich in amino acids necessary for the formation of proteins by the body and antioxidants, chia seeds contain quantities 4 times higher than blueberries.
They are considered capable of carrying out an action to control the level of sugar in the blood and benefit the cardiovascular system.
They help reduce blood pressure and slow down the speed with which our body converts carbohydrates into simple sugars, bringing benefits to diabetics.
They help to keep blood cholesterol levels under control. Omega-3 and Omega 6 fatty acids carry out anti-inflammatory activity, promote the balance of the immune system, increase the values of good HDL cholesterol.
There is a use of chia seeds deemed particularly beneficial for cleaning the intestine and for promoting its functioning. By soaking them in water at room temperature, the chia seeds release a beneficial gel that can be taken as such in the morning, preferably on an empty stomach. This gel collects slags and toxins that will be eliminated through the feces while, at the same time, it favors intestinal transit by fighting irritable bowel syndrome and constipation.
Being hydrophilic, meaning, they absorb water as if they were sponges, the use of chia seeds can contribute to weight loss as the seeds reduce the desire for food by preventing the absorption of some foods, thus limiting the calories ingested.
In addition, the large amount of fiber content increases the sense of satiety.
They have moisturizing properties for the body, which is why they are recommended for athletes.
Use of Chia seeds in the kitchen
Thanks to their beneficial nutrients, chia seeds are perfect for integrating a healthy and balanced diet, and for completing many delicious dishes.
Directly from Central America and pre-Columbian populations, chia seeds bring a healthy and natural touch to our tables.
Chia seeds are very small and crunchy, the rather neutral flavor makes them combinable with different recipes.
They can be added to breakfast muesli, accompanied with cereals and other seeds for a snack or used as a condiment for many dishes including salads, pasta, risotto, barley, millet, quinoa, legumes and other cereals.
A healthy idea is to mix them with flour when making muffins or other baked goods.
Chia seeds can also be used to prepare tasty and healthy omelettes, meatballs, smoothies.
Excellent is the bread enriched with these precious seeds.
Some recipes include the addition of chia also in soups, creams, sauces or puddings.
Try adding them to fruit salads or fruit and vegetable smoothies or to use them as a nutritious decorative element on croutons and canapes or as a garnish for biscuits and cakes, preferably after cooking.
Ideal pairing with cooked apples or pears or in the completion of soups, creamy and velvety vegetables or mushrooms.
By keeping them in water or other juice for at least 15 minutes, a sort of gelatinous pudding is obtained, excellent in addition to yogurt, mousse, or fruit compotes.
Thanks to their high digestibility, they can be consumed at any time of the day also as a snack.
Chia seeds do not contain gluten. They are therefore an ideal food for those suffering from celiac disease or other types of gluten intolerance.
They are a staple food for vegetarians and vegans.
Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds do not go rancid and can also be kept for years in a pantry inside a tightly closed container.
The chia seed gel, which we have seen is produced by soaking them, can be used as a substitute for eggs in the preparation of cakes and biscuits.
Furthermore they are also used for the preparation of infusions and chocolates.
Dr. Oz, the celebrity, praised the properties of chia seeds in the New York Times bestseller “You: Staying Young: The Owner’s Manual for Extending Your Warranty” as well as in some well-known transmissions in America.
Where to buy the seeds
Chia seeds have recently been discovered which is why they are not always readily available in all countries.
Generally they can be bought in stores of organic and natural products in packs of different sizes. The price is still quite high. On sale they are found in jars or in vacuum bags.
They can also be ordered online. There are several Internet sites that sell them. But it is recommended to always pay attention to the country or origin and the BIO certification.
Thank you all for reading.
And if you would like to discover more about our food, you may enjoy my previous posts
Wish you a wonderful day!