Chia seeds are grown from the salvia hispanica plant, which was first discovered thousands of years ago by the ancient Aztec and Mayan civilizations of Central and South America. Even then, it was considered a super food, so prized for its qualities that it was used as currency and even sacrificed to their gods. The techniques of modern scientific analysis have proven chia seeds worthy of the status they were given. When compared to other normal healthy foods, the chia seed has been shown to outclass all others in terms of nutritional content. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, containing 8 times the quantity normally found in pink salmon. These essential fatty acids are vital in promoting growth while protecting vital organs like the heart and the brain. The calcium content for every gram of chia seeds is equivalent to six times the amount found in milk. Calcium is best known for promoting strong and healthy bones, but it has other benefits, such as disease prevention and weight regulation. Chia seeds also contain 9 times the Phosphorous content found in whole milk. Phosphorous is an element the body uses for energy regulation and in building healthy bones. Iron is another essential nutrient that the chia seed has in abundance. The iron content found in chia seeds is thrice of that found in spinach. Potassium, which is vital to regulating cellular functions, is also found in significant quantity, with approximately double the amount found in bananas. The element magnesium is a vital catalyst in the body’s processes, and a diet deficient in it has been shown to be responsible for the development of illnesses such as asthma and ADHD. Chia seeds are a good source of magnesium, carrying 15 times more of it than broccoli.
Chia seeds also contain twice the amount of dietary fiber than one would find in bran flakes. Dietary fiber helps clean out the digestive system, and allows for greater absorption of the nutrients in our food. Protein, the building block of the body’s muscles and tissues, is also abundant in the chia seed, with the nutritional content being around six times that found in kidney beans. Chia seeds are also rich in antioxidants, the molecules that our protect cells from the damage brought about by free radicals.
Even among nutrient rich functional foods, the chia seed stands head and shoulders above the competition. For comparison, the flax seed is considered one of the healthiest foods available, but even it pales in comparison with the chia seed. To begin with, the chia seed contains more carbohydrates and dietary fiber than the flax seed. Carbohydrates are the foods that the body converts into sugars for energy. The phosphorous and calcium levels of the chia seed are also superior. The chia seeds also contain 9 times more selenium than flax seeds. Selenium is a micronutrient that helps regulate some of the body’s functions, most notably that of the thyroid gland. There are also significant amounts of riboflavin, niacin, and thiamin, along with trace amounts of all the other B-vitamins.
The chia seed also beats the flax seed when it comes to practical considerations of preparation, consumption, and shelf life. Chia seeds are not only more nutritious, but they are also easier to integrate into your diet. They may be consumed in any number of ways. They can be eaten as they are, without any preparation whatsoever. They may be added to water or any beverage to make a gel for eating or for adding to other meals. You can even grind up the seeds into flour and bake it into any number of recipes. Flax seeds, on the other hand, need to be ground into meal before it can be consumed. Eating a flax seed raw will simply cause it to pass through the digestive system without imparting any nutritional benefit. This limits the number of ways the flax seed can be integrated into a diet. Chia seeds are also easier to store for future consumption. Left in a sealed container, the seeds, whether in normal or ground up form, are good for consumption for up to five years. By contrast, flax seeds have a maximum shelf life of 12 months at the most. Grinding the flax seed into meal will only shorten the shelf life further to a mere 4 months maximum.
Chia seeds also have the unique advantage of being hydrophilic, or extremely water absorbent. When chia seeds come in contact with water, their fibrous structure allows it to absorb up to 10 times its weight in water. The seeds turn into a gel, which can be eaten on its own or added to different foods or beverages. Once ingested, the gel will form a barrier between the digestive enzymes and any consumed carbohydrates. This slows down the process of breaking down the carbohydrates into sugars, which in turn stabilizes the body’s metabolism and maintains steady blood sugar levels, which makes you feel fuller for much longer. This unique mechanism makes chia seeds an excellent diet food.
Given all the health benefits of chia seeds, there is little wonder that it is considered one of nature’s superfoods. The seeds are all natural, with no added chemicals or compounds. It is also gluten free and has only trace amounts of sodium, which makes it an ideal food for people with allergies or sensitivities to either substance.