You may have heard that chia is considered a superfood, and you often hear people say to add a little chia to your diet for optimal health, but you may not know exactly what chia is and why it’s so good for you. So today, let’s dive a little deeper into the world of chia.
Chia’s technical name is Salvia Hispanica. It is an annual herbaceous plant of the Lamiaceae (mint) family. Its origin – as it’s technical name implies – is believed to be in Central America, where the seed (historically called “chian” or “chia”) was a staple in the ancient Aztec diet. The seeds of a related plant, Salvia columbariae (also called “golden chia”), were used primarily by Native Americans in the southwestern United States. The roots of another relative, Salvia miltiorrhiza (danshen), are used medicinally in China and other countries.
So why is chia so good for you? Well, there are many reasons. First and foremost chia is an excellent source of many nutrients and antioxidants. Let’s explore these in greater detail:
1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Chia is rich in unsaturated fatty acids, especially omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds contain about 60% omega-3’s, making them one of the best plant based sources of this important fatty acid. Omega-3 fatty acids have long been known to help reduce inflammation, and help in controlling cholesterol levels.
2. Fiber – Chia seeds are a terrific source of dietary fiber, containing over 5 grams per 2 tablespoons. That’s about a third of your daily recommended dose of fiber.
3. Vitamins and minerals – Chia seeds are reported to contain significant quantities of calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin C, magnesium, folate, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, and vitamin A.
4. Protein – The protein content of a chia seed is approximately 23%, making it an excellent source of dietary protein.
Some of the other benefits of chia include its ability to help you feel full, which lessens cravings between meals. The combination of protein, fiber, and the gelling process that occurs when chia is exposed to liquids, all contribute to this satiety effect.
Also, chia is a gluten-free seed and contains no grain, so anyone on a gluten-free diet can use chia. And, unlike flaxseed, which needs to be ground up to provide nutrients, chia seeds can be consumed whole.
Sudies have shown that chia may lower serum cholesterol, LDL (low density lipoproteins), and triglycerides while increasing HDL (high density lipoproteins). Furthermore, some studies have indicated that chia has been demonstrated to exhibit anti-tumor activity, as well as play an important role in regulating insulin levels.
While chia is generally considered to be perfectly safe, there are a few possible contraindications to be aware of:
Chia may lower blood pressure, so use caution if you have hypotension or are taking blood pressure medication.
Anyone with a known sensitivity to members of the genus Salvia and patients with food allergies (especially to sesame or mustard seeds) should use caution as cross-reactivity may occur.
There have been some reports of pharmacokinetic interactions between the related Salvia miltiorrhiza (danshen) roots and warfarin, so if you currently take blood thinners, just be aware that there may be some additive effects.
So now you know a little bit more about this wonderfully beneficial seed known as chia. It’s full of nutrients, fiber, and rich in omega-3’s, and I encourage you to try to make it a part of your healthy diet.
Michael Lenz RPh, is a partner in Fallon Wellness Pharmacy of Saratoga. He has over 10 years experience in custom compounding. Michael has received extensive training in Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) and Adrenal Fatigue. He is an advocate for healthy eating and proper nutritional supplementation, and speaks frequently on the subjects of hormone health, nutrition and wellness. Michael is currently enrolled in the Institute For Functional Medicine’s Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner Program. He lives in Saratoga Springs, NY with his wife and 4 children.
source: natural standard database