Chia is an ancient grain used by the Aztecs to nourish them on long expeditions. In the 1990's farmers in Argentina continually bred white varieties of chia to produce a nutritionally superior grain, from which chia seeds are dervided. White in colour and slightly smaller than a sesame seed, Salba packs a powerful punch when it comes to the health benefits it imparts.
Chia's health benefits have been well documented, and it remains the only food to hold a medical patent for its effects on blood glucose regulation.
One of the largest studies to date, published in the journal Diabetes Care , found that when people with type 2 diabetes consumed up to four teaspoons of chia seeds daily for three months, they experienced a 30% drop in C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the body. They experienced a drop in blood pressure at levels usually seen only with medication.
Another study conducted in people with type 2 diabetes found that chia seeds reduced post-meal blood glucose levels. Its effect on blood glucose control and its ability to lower blood pressure makes this humble seed especially beneficial to people living with type 2 diabetes.
Chia seeds are an exceptional source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that's been linked to protection from heart disease. ALA is also found in flaxseed, walnuts and canola oil. Unlike flaxseeds, chia seeds don't have to be ground to reap their benefits.
Chia seeds also add fibre to your diet: two tablespoons (25 ml) delivers 4 grams of fibre.
Per 2 tbsp (25 ml) serving:
|Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA)
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, April 2018
There are over 180 registered and an estimated 800 wild varieties of Salvia hispanica L., or chia, the plant from which chia seeds are derived. Usually the plant produces white and black seeds, but after 14 years of selective plant breeding, chia is a variety of the plant with only white seeds. Chia seeds are grown in Peru's Amazon Basin without chemicals or pesticides.
You can purchase chia as a loose whole grain seed, ground grain, or in a variety of prepared foods such as bars, pasta, tortilla chips, salsa and peanut butter. Chia seeds are available in major grocery stores and natural food stores across Canada.
As with any product that is naturally rich in unsaturated fat, chia seeds should be stored in a cool, dark place. Excess heat or exposure to light may make the healthy fats in chia seeds susceptible to going rancid.
Chia seeds are as versatile in the kitchen, as they are nutritious. The seeds have a very mild taste and take on the flavour of whatever it is added to. Chia seeds are gluten-free, making then suitable for people with gluten senstivities. Ground chia is a convenient and healthy wheat flour substitute - one part ground chia replaces three parts wheat flour.
Chia seeds also double as an egg substitute - two tablespoons of ground chia mixed with 1/2 cup of water replaces one medium egg.
There are many ways to add chia seeds to your diet - from salads to smoothies and casseroles to cookies - chia a is nutritious, delicious and easy to use!
Healthy ways to enjoy
- Sprinkle ground chia seeds over your morning cereal.
- Mix chia seeds - whole or ground - into a bowl of yogurt and fresh fruit for a boost of fibre and omega-3's.
- Add whole or ground chia seeds to a veggie-filled omelet for a protein-rich breakfast to kick start your day.
- Top whole-wheat chia pasta with a homemade tomato sauce for a delicious mid-day meal.
- Sprinkle whole chia seeds on a spinach and walnut salad and drizzle with honey balsamic dressing.
- Add 1/4-cup of chia seeds to homemade burgers to help bind them together.
- Stir ground chia into homemade soup to help thicken it.
- Whisk ground chia with meat drippings and some red wine to make gravy rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Add a few tablespoons of whole or ground chia to baked goods, including cookies, breads, cakes and squares.
- Sprinkle a fresh fruit smoothie with whole chia for a crunchy texture.