Domesticated in the valley of Mexico as early as 2,700 B.C., chia seed served as a primary staple food of the Aztec, Mayan and Inca tribes. In fact, a spoonful of seeds in water supplied these ancient peoples with sustenance for an entire day of hard labor! Extremely high in omega-3s, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein, it is no overstatement to call chia seed a superfood. In fact, four tablespoons of chia seed supplies as much calcium as three cups of milk, as much magnesium as ten stalks of broccoli, as much iron as one-half cup of red kidney beans, 30% more antioxidants than blueberries, 25% more dietary fiber than flaxseed, and approximately the same amount of omega-3 as that found in a 32-ounce fillet of salmon. Show off.
Nutritionally speaking, chia is a powerhouse! Aside from consisting of about 30% protein, chia seed delivers an abundance of vitamins A, B, D, E and K. Chia also contains alpha-linolenic and linoleic acid, essential fatty acids that the body cannot manufacture on its own. The list of nutrients and minerals is lengthy—the run down in alphabetical order: calcium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, silicon, sodium, sulfur, thiamine, and zinc. And as we’ve mentioned before, chia seed is the richest plant-based source of omega-3 available anywhere.
If that weren’t enough, chia seed is also an excellence source of soluble fiber. By its very nature, fiber leaves you with a satisfying sense of fullness keeping you from overeating. But with chia, there is more too it. One of the unique things about chia is its ability to soak up water (also called hydrophilic properties) which means it can absorb up to 12 times its volume in water! Chia’s ability to hold water helps weight loss in three ways. First, it helps to keep the body hydrated, which is important for proper cellular metabolism and renewal. Secondly, it helps you feel full faster and remain sated for longer periods of time. Finally, chia slows down digestion and absorption of carbohydrates in the system, so you stay satisfied for longer, without peaks in blood sugar. Feeling full for longer, without peaks and lows in energy—simply amazing! You can see why our friend, Dr. Oz describes chia as being so effective for weight loss.
As exciting as this is, start slow! Gas, bloating and stomach cramping are the usual side effects of eating too much fiber too quickly. Gradually add chia to your diet to reduce the occurrence of these symptoms. The symptoms should subside once your digestive system adjusts to the increased fiber in your diet.
You can simply sprinkle chia seeds on salads and yogurt, add them to juice, smoothies or your morning oatmeal; or bake them into breads, muffins and biscuits. We plan to try this Chia Limeade recipe for our July 4th BBQ! But for weight loss (or weight maintenance after age 50), you can’t beat mixing 1 tablespoon of chia to a glass of water twice a day in the mid-morning and again in the mid afternoon. The healthy mix of fiber and protein helps balance blood sugar levels and ward off snack attacks for a better work day. (Be sure to mix them in and drink up though, or the chia seeds will expand in the glass as they absorb the water!) We like to keep Mila chia singles on hand. These pre-measured, individually packaged single servings of chia are the perfect solution for travel or when you are on the go.