Organic chia seeds are currently one of the UK’s most popular superfoods – indeed many of you will already be familiar with these tiny, gluten-free seeds that are greatly prized for their particularly high nutritional content. But did you know that you can readily increase their impressive nutritional value still further?
Below you’ll learn more about organic chia seeds and how you can demonstrably boost your nutritional intake with just one simple step!
Organic chia seeds at a glance
Organic chia seeds are the tiny black seeds of the chia plant (Latin: Salvia Hispanica) – a plant species that belongs to the mint family and predominantly grows in Mexico and Guatemala. Chia seeds were once a primary source of food for the Aztecs, long before Columbus discovered America. The Aztecs revered their chia seeds so much that they also used them as a form of currency and as a sacrificial offering to the gods. After the Spaniards finally colonised Central and South America, the cultivation and consumption of chia seeds was banned as the Spanish invaders considered them pagan. Today, however, chia seeds are still enjoyed by native tribes, who use them to make nutrient-dense flours, oils and drinks. And organic chia seeds have surged in popularity in both Europe and North America in recent years, thanks largely to their extraordinarily high nutritional value and of course, their exceptional versatility.
Why do chia seeds boast such a high nutritional value?
They might be tiny, but they pack a mighty punch – indeed, organic chia seeds contain a wealth of beneficial nutrients, including:
Omega-3 fatty acids
The word ‘chia’ is derived from the Nahuatl word ‘chian’, which means ‘oily’, and organic chia seeds yield around 25-30 percent extractable oil. They are especially rich in alpha linolenic acid (ALA) – a type of omega 3 fatty acid that is found in seeds and vegetable oils. ALA is considered an essential fatty acid, because your body cannot manufacture it itself and you must therefore obtain it from your diet.
Several studies have revealed that ALA is extremely beneficial for your health and can help to:
- Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (Kris-Etherton et al., 2002; Connor, 2000; Mozaffarian, 2005)
- Reduce anxiety and stress, and lower cortisol levels (Yehuda et al., 2005)
- Inhibit the growth of tumours (Deshpande et al., 2013)
- Reduce the risk of depression (Lucas et al., 2011)
- Reduce the risk of seizures (Auvin, 2012)
As can be seen from the table below, organic chia seeds contain more ALA than almost any other plant source.
Your body additionally converts ALA into EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA docosahexaenoic acid) – EPA has potent anti-inflammatory properties (Li et al., 2005), reduces the risk of depression (Huan et al., 2004; Martin, 2009), protects against certain types of liver disease (El Mowafy et al., 2011), reduces hyperactivity in children (Sorgi et al., 2007) and improves the effectiveness of chemotherapy (Hardman, 2004). DHA also has anti-inflammatory properties (Kelley et al., 2009), improves memory (Yurko-Mauro et al., 2010), delays the growth of tumours (Slagsvold et al., 2010), improves the effectiveness of immunotherapy (Shaikh et al., 2008) and increases sperm quality and fertility in men (Attaman et al., 2012).
Organic chia seeds consist of around 14% vegetable protein, making them a favourite with vegetarians and vegans who are unable to obtain their protein from meat. Protein is essential for the healthy growth and repair of body tissue, including your muscles, internal organs and skin, and is also a great source of energy.
Organic chia seeds are high in fibre, which makes them easy to digest (Weber et al., 1991). In fact they contain around 10 grams of fibre per every 2 tablespoons and are thus one of the finest sources of fibre on the planet. Fibre is an integral part of a healthy diet, which can significantly improve your digestive health and help to prevent heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and certain types of cancer.
Organic chia seeds also contain a variety of vitamins, including:
- Vitamin A (also known as retinol) – helps to strengthen your immune system, aid vision in dim light and keep your skin healthy.
- Vitamin B1 (also known as thiamin) – helps your body to release energy from carbohydrates during metabolism and is required for growth and muscle tone.
- Vitamin B2 (also known as riboflavin) – helps your body to release energy from protein, fat and carbohydrates during metabolism.
- Vitamin B3 (also known as niacin) – also involved in protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism.
- Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) – helps to protect your cells and keep them healthy, is necessary for the maintenance of healthy connective tissue and aids in the healing of wounds.
In addition organic chia seeds contain an impressive selection of minerals, such as:
- Calcium – which is necessary for healthy teeth and bones, blood clotting and nerve transmission.
- Magnesium – which aids your metabolism, muscle contraction and bone development. It is also involved in protein and DNA synthesis.
- Manganese – which is important for bone growth and the synthesis of complex carbs and proteins.
- Phosphorous – which helps in the formation of bone and teeth, and aids in the control of metabolic energy.
- Zinc – which is extremely important for your immune system and plays an integral role in enzyme activity.
Lastly, organic chia seeds are brimming with powerful antioxidants, such as chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid and flavonol, which help to reduce your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease (Taga et al., 1984) as well as the unwelcome signs of aging.
Organic chia seeds – how to boost your nutritional intake with 1 simple step
Organic chia seeds are deliciously crunchy, possess a similar flavour to poppy seeds and can be scattered generously over soups, salads and breakfast granolas, stirred directly into smoothies, shakes and protein drinks, or used as an additional ingredient in raw breads.
However, recent research (Nieman et al., 2012) now suggests that you can actively increase the nutritional value of your organic chia seeds, simply by grinding them before use. The study of 46 menopausal and overweight women revealed that those who had consumed ground chia seeds witnessed ALA and EPA levels that were some 58% and 39% higher respectively, than those who consumed whole chia seeds.
Enjoying ground organic chia seeds
Just like whole chia seeds, ground chia seeds can be sprinkled liberally over soups, salads and breakfast granolas, stirred into smoothies, shakes and protein drinks for added volume or used as a base for rawfood desserts and nut butters. Alternatively, try soaking your ground organic chia seeds in water, in order to create an exceptionally filling, gluten free breakfast porridge that can be topped with your choice of tempting superfoods, such as organic goji berries or organic cacao nibs.
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