Chia Seeds - 'Ancient' Super Food Makes a Comeback

Jun 26, 2011 | Stacy Matson | Best of Best
Chia Seeds - 'Ancient' Super Food Makes a Comeback

image by: Federica Gioia

Chia is one of nature’s ancient and real super-foods. Ounce for ounce Chia seeds blow flax and soy out of the water So why aren't you taking them?

The typical Western civilization diet is terrible. It’s high in fat, salt, and sugar and usually low in fiber, vitamins, and nutrients. Deep down, we know it’s not good for us to consume vast amounts of junk food but we do it anyway.  Then we turn a blind eye to the latest study that warns us about the dangers of poor eating habits and the connection to various cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. 

That way of thinking has given Americans the distinction of being the only country where 1/3 of the population is at the same time both malnourished and obese, and the UK and Canada are not far behind.

Wellness involves both choice and action. The choices you make every day, and the actions you take regarding those choices, can lead to a longer, healthier life. I know it’s hard to be good all the time.  Sometimes an hour in the morning is better spent in bed rather than running like a hamster on the treadmill at the gym. And sometimes that cookie in the pantry is so much more tempting than the salad on the plate in front of you, right?  I know.

Healthy living may be a choice but it also requires learning how to “eat smart.”  Unfortunately though, it seems the more I read about nutrition the more confused I become.

Remember when soy was the superfood that could prevent most illnesses and save the world?  It was the ancient Asian secret that Americans were just beginning to discover.  It lowered your cholesterol, reduced your risk of heart disease and cancer, and, as an added bonus, put you in a better mood.  Well, now we know that soy turns boys into girls and basically guarantees that you will probably develop breast cancer at some point during your lifetime.  That’s terrific; I ate a lot of soy.

As we get older we become more aware of the damage we’ve done to our bodies and start looking for a quick fix. So when the benefits of soy became controversial something else had to take its place. 

Flax seeds took its place. For a while now flax has been hyped as the “latest and greatest” nutritional powerhouse.  Have you noticed that many products in the grocery store are getting a flax seed makeover?  It’s in everything from oils, crackers, candy, chips, bread, yogurt, cereal, tortillas, and eggs.  That’s great if you’re trying to incorporate flax into your diet, but if you’re trying to avoid flax it’s almost impossible. 

I know you’re probably thinking - why should I avoid flax if it’s supposed to be so good for me?  For the very same reasons we should avoid soy.  Both soy and flax contain something called phytoestrogens, which are a type of phytochemical that have estrogen-like effects on the body. Phytoestrogens mimic estradiol, the most potent form of estrogen in the body, and bind to our estrogen receptors.  

This may lead to a condition called estrogen dominance and the side effects are scary.  Young girls enter puberty prematurely which can be dangerous in their later years.  Women will experience very painful periods and a difficult menopause. But, estrogen dominance is not just limited to women; men who are estrogen dominant may start to grow the dreaded “moobs” aka man boobs. Estrogen dominance can also accelerates the aging process, cause breast cancer, breast tenderness, depression, headaches, hair loss, weight gain, irritability, infertility, polycystic ovarian disease, uterine fibroids, and prostate cancer, just to name a few. 

I’m sorry if I ruined your day with another super-food bombshell and like I said earlier it’s your choice to eat what you want. But for me, I’ve decided to stay away from flax and soy products.

So what’s the safe, superfood alternative?    

Chia, one of nature’s ancient and real super-foods – high in essential fatty acids, protein, soluble fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Chia is very similar to flax but without the estrogen and phytoestrogen elements. They require no special storage and have a 5 year shelf life. 

Chia seeds have a mild flavor and a texture similar to poppy seeds. The seeds are easily digested and do not have to be ground before using. Whole Chia seeds can be sprinkled on your cereal, soups, salads, or yogurt. Seeds can also be ground and mixed into smoothies or added to baked goods. Chia seeds can be sprouted and used in salads or sandwiches as well. And in Mexico, the seeds are mixed with water, a little bit sugar and some lime juice to make a drink called “Chia Fresca.”

  • Two tablespoons of Chia seeds contain:
  • 2 times the protein of any other seed or grain
  • 5 times the calcium of milk
  • 2 times the amount of potassium as a banana
  • 3 times more iron than spinach
  • 7 g of fiber
  • 3 times more antioxidants than a serving of blueberries
  • 5 grams of omega-3 and omega-6
  • 15 times more magnesium than a serving of broccoli

So what else makes Chia the super food?

The word “Chia” comes from the Mayan word for strength.  Chia is also known as “Indian Running Food.” Aztec warriors used chia seeds during combat or when they had to travel long distances because 1 tablespoon of chia along with water could sustain them for 24 hours.  Today, many athletes use Chia to help them perform at their peak level for long periods of time.

The essential fatty acids in Chia seeds boost metabolism and help build lean muscle mass. Also, Chia seeds absorb ten times their weight in water, keeping you hydrated and feeling full for long periods of time.  Chia seeds soaked in water create a gel and when mixed with food it becomes a food extender and calorie-cutter. For instance, when added to mayonnaise in an equal amount, chia gel doubles the volume of the mayonnaise without changing its taste.  More food, less calories…

The soluble fiber found in chia seeds lowers cholesterol, reduces blood pressure and shrinks belly fat thereby minimizing the risk of heart disease. And because the fiber is similar to psyllium fiber, it also helps to cleanse the colon, absorb toxins, and remove them from the body.

But that's not all. Chia seeds slow down the rate at which complex carbohydrates are digested and absorbed into the body and may promote weight loss. The water-soluble fiber in chia seeds helps to regulate blood sugars, reduces cravings for high glycemic carbs, and provides steady, sustained energy.

And a number of arthritis sufferers have reported reduced pain and inflammation after a few weeks of eating Chia seeds. The high concentration of omega-3 helps to lubricate joints and relieve inflammation. As a result, Chia seeds may contribute to increased joint flexibility, mobility and comfort.

The Bottom Line

Chia seeds are not just for pets anymore.  They are inexpensive, easy to use, taste great, and can become a valuable addition to your diet. Eating smart is a choice and I choose Ch-CH-Ch-Chia. So, why aren't you eating them?


Stacy Matson, a health enthusiast from Southern California, regularly blogs on Celebrity Health for A Healthier World, as well as contributing to the Best of the Best.

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