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Eat This Now: Chia Seeds

The name chia comes from the Aztec word for ‘oily’, which is ‘chain,’ and this explains well one of the main benefits of chia seeds: They are very high in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of unsaturated fat.

It’s easy to mix up omega-3 and omega-6. Basically, omega-3s are the fats that are not so easy to come by. They’re in fish oils, flaxseeds, kiwi seeds, and chia seeds, among other things. Omega-6, on the other hand, is found almost everywhere you look: nuts, vegetable oils, avocados, etc. As important as omega-6s are to our health, the balance of omega-3 to omega-6 is equally important. Since it is so easy to consume plenty of omega-6s, it is equally easy to end up with an unbalanced consumption of the two.

When it comes to the amount of omega-3s in various seed oils, chia seeds have the most, followed by kiwi seeds, perilla, and flax.

Chia Seeds and Digestion

Most health-conscious people are familiar with linseeds — or flaxseeds. And if you’ve ever put a spoonful of linseed into water and left it for 30 minutes, you would have returned to find a glutinous solution. The same thing happens with chia seeds, which is another reason that they are so good for you. They improve digestion by providing a high amount of fiber and forming a gel-like solution that moves through the body, cleaning up as it goes. It’s also thought that this gel prevents the fast breakdown of carbohydrates by slowing the action of the enzymes on the carbs.

A Nutrient Powerhouse

Chia seeds were once a staple food of the Aztecs, and you could live off chia seeds almost entirely; they have 19 amino acids, with all of the essential amino acids except taurine. More facts about chia seeds:

  • Chia is gluten free.
  • It is super high in dietary fiber, making it great for digestion and healing digestion issues.
  • It contains 20 percent omega-3 ALA, making it a superfood for the brain and heart.
  • Chia has eight times more omega-3 than salmon.
  • It is 20 percent protein.
  • It is high in antioxidants — with four times that of blueberries.
  • Chia contains five times more calcium than milk.
  • Chia contains seven times more vitamin C than oranges.
  • It contains three times more iron than spinach.
  • It contains twice the potassium of banana.
  • It is food for healthy skin, hair, and nails.
  • It has a positive impact balancing blood glucose levels (making it awesome for diabetics).
  • Chia makes a great egg replacement. Just combine with water to form a gel and add it to recipes that call for egg.

So how do you consume it? Well, you can grind it up into a meal and add it to just about anything. In Mexico, they mix the whole chia seeds with water or fruit juice to make something they call ‘chia fresca.’ You can also sprout them in much the same way as you sprout alfalfa seeds and use them in salads.

This story originally appeared on Food Matters. It has been reprinted with permission.

Photo: White Caty

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