Chia seeds – they’ve become one of the world's most popular superfoods in the last few years – but do we really know all of the amazing health and nutritional benefits of chia seeds?
Chia seeds actually date back to the Aztecs in 3500 B.C, when they were used for both nutritional as well as medicinal purposes. The tiny seeds would be transformed in various ways, but always leading to great benefits – stirred into water or ground into a powder to be used as a medicine, or even squashed to make oil for cooking.
Because chia seeds are so long lasting, they could be stored for years or taken on long trips and used as a great, readily available energy source – they were so highly regarded, they were even offered to Gods in religious ceremonies!
However, Spanish conquerors landed in the 1500s, banished these traditions and as a result, chia only managed to survive in a very regional part of Mexico.
Then in the 1990s, American scientists, nutritionists and agriculturists began producing chia seeds in Argentina in the hope they could rediscover the much loved seed of Aztec traditions.
Now, chia can be found growing in Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico and Australia, which is likely to become the largest country to grow chia in the world – but what about the nutritional and health benefits of chia seeds? Being so rich in many vital nutrients, they have a lot to shout about:
One of the biggest benefits of introducing chia seeds to your diet is that they are mighty fiber sources – in just one serving they provide your entire recommended daily intake. When they’re soaked in water, the seeds bulk up, making them easily absorbed by your body, and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Just 2 tbsps of these little beauties contain 18% of your recommended daily intake of calcium – a crucial nutrient to help build bone strength as well nerve transmission and keeping your muscles as healthy as possible.
In a recent study, researchers in Mexico found that chia seeds could stop up to 70% of free radical activity because of the antioxidants that they contain – antioxidants reduce the rate of aging skin because they prevent free radicals from oxidising. Put simply, chia seeds speed up your skin’s repair system!
Chia seeds are a brilliant plant source of protein – in fact they’re a complete protein because they contain all 8 essential amino acids. This is particularly important in vegetarian and vegan diets where protein isn’t always as easy to come by (you just have to know where to get it from). Because they are also high in essential minerals such as phosphorus and manganese, a major health benefit of chia seeds is that they can help replace some of the nutrients lost whilst working out, and even help with exercise recovery.
How to use chia seeds:
These are probably the most popular way to enjoy chia! Mix them with water or you favourite milk (almond or coconut are great) and leave them to soak, from 30 minutes to overnight.
When mixed with water and left to soak, the seeds bulk up making a great replacement for eggs in vegan baking – just combine 3 tbsps of ground chia seeds with 3 tbsps of filtered water to make 1 ‘chia egg’!
These babies not only add a boost of minerals to your morning smoothie, but because of the liquid content, they are a great way to thicken them too – add enough chia seeds as needed to make a creamier consistency. Bon appetit!
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