Madness over chia seeds!
Everybody is talking about the health benefits of chia seeds. These seeds are tiny in size and come from the plant Salvia Hispanica that is native to Mexico and Guatemala. They became known to North America a few decades ago and have become increasingly popular in the UK.
The main beneficial nutrients of chia seeds are provided below. These values refer to a portion of 2 tablespoons or 30 grams.
- Calories: Two tablespoons is 140 calories.
- Fibre: 30 grams of chia seeds provide 40% of your recommended daily fibre intake. They contain insoluble fibre, which promotes healthy bowel movement by increasing the water content and bulk volume of your stools. It is very important that we meet our daily recommended amount of fibre because it reduces constipation, slows sugar absorption in our blood stream and prevents the development of bowel cancer.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Chia seeds are a great vegetarian source of omega 3 fatty acids and provide more than half of the recommended daily intake.
- Chia seeds are a good source of calcium, phosphorus, manganese and selenium, which are all essential for optimal growth and function of our bodies.
What does the science have to say?
We should clarify that chia seeds are no magical food and they cannot be solely responsible for improving our health or protecting us against disease. There is also limited scientific research to verify that chia seed consumption is associated with significant health benefits. However, their nutritional profile suggests that they are a very good source of fibre, calcium and omega 3 fatty acids. These nutrients have been rigorously studied in other foods and are consistently found to prevent and/or improve various health problems. Therefore, we are in little doubt that adding Chia seeds to your diet is good for your health. Vegetarians and vegans will particularly benefit from Chia seeds due to the high omega 3 content.
How do we eat them?
Chia seeds have a subtle nutty flavour and can be used in many different ways.
Raw: You can eat Chia seeds raw and dry by adding them to breakfast cereals, yogurt and salads.
Chia gel: You can also make a chia gel by soaking them in water. Add ½ cup of chia seeds into two cups of water, and leave for 15 minutes. A tastier option is making chia seed pudding by using almond, rice or soya milk instead of water and topping up with honey, nuts or dried fruit.
Grinding: As chia seeds do not taste much on their own, but offer a range of nutritional benefits, you could grind them and mix into homemade nut butters or smoothies for a nutritional boost.
Baking: If you make your own bread you could add chia seeds. You can also use chia seeds in home baked muffins and cakes.
Chia porridge: This offers a gluten free alternative to quinoa porridge. Place ½ cup chia seeds into a bowl, add 2/3 of a cup of water or milk and leave for 20-30 minutes for the mixture to thicken before adding honey, seeds and/ or dried fruits for taste.
Egg substitute: Last but not least, chia seeds can be used as an egg replacement in vegan recipes. For every egg in the recipe, mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and leave for 15 minutes before adding to your mixture.Where can I buy them? You can buy them in most big supermarkets in the nuts section, as well as in most health shops. For more information on chai seeds, check this out: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3061/2 Written by P Vlachou (RD) and L Auckland (PhD)