It was said that Aztec warriors survived on Chia seeds during their warfare, and warriors from the south-western United States could go on a twenty four-hour march having eaten just one teaspoon of chia. The best way of understanding the properties of chia is to simply leave a teaspoon of the seed in a glass of water, come back to it, and the glass will be filled with what looks like gelatin.
The reaction is due to the soluble fibres contained within the seeds, and researchers believe the very same thing happens in one’s stomach. This means that the gelatinous fibres, or mucilages, form a kind of barrier between ingested carbohydrates and digestive enzymes, so the carbohydrate is broken down much more slowly. The chia seed is the ultimate in slow-release energy.
This slow breakdown of carbohydrates is obviously good news for you if you suffer from diabetes, as prolonging the conversion to sugar helps to stabilise metabolic changes, thus lowering the surges of ‘ sugar highs and lows’ which often catch diabetes sufferers out.
Chia seeds are also able to absorb twelve times their weight in water, meaning that when ingested the seed can help prolong hydration. The electrolytes present in fluids support body cells, so the more stable their hydration, the better. This is worth bearing in mind as we enter the warmer months of the year. The seeds also contain hydrophilic colloids, which are contained in most raw foods, and benefit the body in many ways.
However, when cooked, these foods lose their colloidal integrity. Uncooked foods contain enough hydrophilic colloid to keep gastric mucosa in the correct condition, so the uncooked chia seeds provide another benefit to the body’s digestion. Chia seeds also build muscle tissue so are a great snack in the gym or before any workout.
The seeds may also be used to aid the digestion of anybody who suffers with unbalanced gastric mucosa; special diets exist to help ease this condition, and chia seeds can be eaten to complement it and further help digestion. Sufferers are usually prohibited from eating raw vegetables, green salads and fruits because their fibrous and sometimes acidic makeup is difficult to digest, but with the introduction of chai into the diet, these may be eaten in small quantities.
Cactus juice, beetroot juice and agar (edible seaweed) also contain these digestion-easing properties, but these may be too expensive and have undesirable side-effects. Chia seeds are therefore the better option.
They also have a very high oil content and are the richest vegetable source of Omega-3 fatty acid. These fatty acids are what the body needs to emulsify and absorb soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Unsaturated fatty acids contained in these seeds are vital for organ respiration, and also aid the transportation of oxygen around the blood stream to cells, organs and tissues. Chia is also rich in Calcium, containing the mineral Boron, which utilises the absorption of Calcium into the body.
Additional benefits for eating Chia are as follows:
· It is thought to aid healing
· It helps clear up impurities, such as eye-related infections
· It is very rich so you do not need to ingest much if you’re not a fan of seeds
You don’t need to just munch on the seeds as they are to feel the benefits – Chia can be used in many recipes, such as banana bread, soups, puddings, salads, dressings, French toast and stir fries. Treat it as you would any other seed in terms of recipes, and just remember, it’s phenomenally good for