Chia seeds are the edible seeds from a flowering plant of Salvia hispanica, which is from the sage family, native to central and southern Mexico. Chia seeds are considered "functional foods" and are among the most nutritious food. The seeds are loaded with fiber, protein, and omega-3 acids. They can also be consumed dry or mixed with oatmeal and yogurt and added to juices and smoothies as well. They can also be sprinkled on salads.
Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants and are considered extremely beneficial for the skin as they protect the skin cells against damage caused by free radicals. Applying the oil extracted from chia seeds improves skin health as it keeps the skin hydrated and prevents water loss. According to Ayurveda, applying Chia seed oil mixed with coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and honey on the hair and scalp helps control hair fall due to its Snigdha (oily) Ropan (healing) properties.
Chia seeds might also help in managing weight. Certain constituents such as omega 3-fatty acids and fibers present in Chia seeds play an important role in weight loss. Chia seeds might also help manage cholesterol levels due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and thereby reduce the risk of heart-related problems.
Look-wise, chia seeds are oval and grey with black and white spots on it. It has a diameter of two millimeters, and the seeds are hydrophilic. This is a molecule that is attracted to water molecules and tends to dissolve in water. The seed is capable of absorbing up to twelve times its weight in liquid when soaked. It develops a thick, gluey substance called mucilaginous, which gives the chia-based food and beverages its gel texture.
History of Chia Seeds
In the 21st century, chia seeds were grown and commercially consumed in its native New Mexico and Guatemala. Also, in Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Australia. Various varieties of chia seeds are also developed in Kentucky for cultivation in the United States' northern latitudes.
There is evidence that in the 16th century, chia seeds were cultivated by the Aztecs in pre-Columbian times, and historians say that this food was as important as maize as a food crop. In 21 of the 38 Aztec provincial states, chia seeds were given as a tribute to its rulers by the people and served as a staple food for the Aztecs. The society of Jesus, also known as Jesuits, a religious order of the catholic church headquarters in Rome, placed chia as the third-most important crop in the Aztec culture, only after corn and beans ahead of amaranth. Offerings to the Aztec priesthood were often paid in chia seed.
Ground or whole chia seeds are in wide use in Argentina, Bolivia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Paraguay for adding into nutritious drinks and food. Today, chia is cultivated on a small scale in its ancestral homeland of central Mexico and Guatemala, and commercially in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Mexico.
Benefits of Chia Seeds
According to scientific studies, chia seeds are quite beneficial in weight loss. The seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid, and fiber. These components aid greatly in weight loss and increase the high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Besides controlling high cholesterol levels, it also contributes to controlling diabetes. Both protein and fiber can temporarily suppress appetite by making an individual feel fuller for a longer period, and each serving of chia seeds contains only 138 calories. This makes it a low calorie and nutrient-dense snack. Chia seeds also reduce inflammation due to its antioxidant content; it controls blood sugar levels, which helps manage diabetes. It allows regular bowel movements, which will relieve the individual of constipation. It also prevents blood clots because of its omega-3 content, which results in thinner blood.
According to Ayurveda, chia seeds are quite useful in fighting obesity. As a demulcent, chia seeds absorb water and contain ample of soluble fiber. This is extremely helpful in bulking up stools and creating a satisfying movement, relieving constipation. Chia seeds provide the individual with a feeling of satiety and reduce cravings. This is mainly because it takes quite some time to digest because of its guru, which is the food's heavy nature.
Nutritionists recommend that you take some chia seeds and sprinkle it over your bowl of oatmeal with milk or coconut milk. To manage weight, it is advised to consume this food during breakfast.
The oil which is extracted from chia seeds is beneficial in managing itchy skin. The seeds can provide enough hydration to prevent itching related to dryness. It also manages scars and lesions caused because of itching.
These seeds are filled with antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight age, soothe inflammation, reduce acne scars, and keep the skin radiant and healthy. You can make your face mask by mixing two tablespoons of chia seeds with a half cup of coconut oil and a lemon juice tablespoon. After mixing everything together, let the mask sit on your face for about 10-12 minutes, and you will notice chia seeds forming a gel-like layer on your skin.
There can be numerous reasons for itchy skin. It can either be an allergic reaction to a particular food or environment or psychological. People who go through anxiety and depression also face itchy skin. This makes the individual feel highly uncomfortable and causes inflammation and redness. According to Ayurveda, the oil extracted from the chia seeds is quite beneficial and reduces itching and removes excess dryness. Excessive dryness and or itching is usually because of an imbalance of vata. Chia seeds can help with this problem because the seeds contain the property of snigdha, which is the oil. And this specific property helps to balance vata and reduce itching associated with dryness.
Experts recommend that you take ½ - 1 tablespoon of chia seed oil and mix it with coconut oil. Mix it well and gently apply it to your face or affected area. Leave it on for the whole day to control the itching and the feeling of irritation.
Diabetes Mellitus (Type 1 and Type 2)
Chia seeds are a rich source of fiber that is beneficial for digestion. The gum-like fiber called mucilaginous in the sprouted seeds encourages regular bowel movement. The seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids is also quite effective for the heart and brain's health. They are gluten-free, rich in bone-building calcium and phosphorous too. They also happen to be a good source of magnesium. Magnesium helps relax the muscle and uplift your mood. Chia seeds are a great source of nutrition and must be included in a regular diet.
For a person with diabetes, it is advised by every healthcare professional that you strictly monitor your intake of sugar and processed food. People with diabetes should also include seasonal fruits and veggies in their diet, as they are rich in fiber. Fiber is not easily digested and metabolized so soon, and this enables the slow release of sugar in the bloodstream. Chia is said to be a wonderful addition to a diabetes diet. Chia seeds are a good source of dietary fiber that helps prevent blood sugar spike, and they are low in digestible carbs and are also anti-inflammatory. People with diabetes often complain about weight fluctuations, so chia seeds help in weight management as well. Since fiber keeps you full, you do not feel like eating too often.
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Chia seeds consist of important components like fiber, omega-3, and antioxidant polyphenols, which have a beneficial effect on the liver and circulation that can lower blood pressure. Alpha-linolenic acid or ALA is known to block the formation of oxylipins, which are the substances that cause blood pressure to rise. Chia seeds also contain fiber, lignans, antioxidants, magnesium, calcium, and potassium, which have a better effect against high blood pressure. This was tested using chia flour, which was prepared by grinding chia seeds to form a powder that could be added to water, yogurt, milk, or fruit juice of your choice.
Chia seed flour is said to reduce the levels of nitrites in the blood, and the seed also contains components that work as angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE-I) inhibitors. Therefore, the seeds are useful in regulating blood pressure in hypertensive patients.
Since chia seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acids, it is said to manage heart disease and strokes. The components that exist in the seeds help in maintaining regular heart rhythm and inhibit platelet aggregation. Therefore, preventing heart failure and stroke.
Precautions while using Chia Seeds
Breastfeeding - there is not enough scientific evidence that proves that chia seeds are safe for consumption for breastfeeding women. It is advised to consult with your healthcare professional before consuming chia seeds during breastfeeding.
Pregnancy – there is not enough scientific evidence available to prove that it is safe for pregnant women to consume chia seeds. Therefore, it is highly recommended to consult your healthcare professional before consuming chia seeds during pregnancy.
It is important to keep in mind that you should always consult your healthcare professional before adding chia seeds into your diet for a long period. You should also seek advice from experts while consuming the seeds if in case you have prostate cancer.
- How much should Chia Seeds be consumed in a day?
Since chia seeds are high in fiber content, there are chances that it may cause digestive problems. It is recommended to consume about three to four teaspoons of chia seeds in a day.
- How to make Chia water?
First, you need to take two cups of water in a jar and add two tablespoons of chia seeds to it. After this, you can add one tablespoon of lime juice and one tablespoon of honey. Mix all the ingredients properly, put the mixture in the refrigerator, and let it chill for about two to three hours. Take it out of the refrigerator after the mentioned time and drink it for desired results.
- Do Chia Seeds cause constipation?
Yes, there is a high probability that chia seeds can cause constipation, but this will only happen if consumed without water. This happens because the seeds will absorb water from the intestines and produce a sticky substance that sticks to the intestines' walls and causes a delay in the movement of the bowels. Therefore, it is recommended to drink plenty of water while consuming chia seeds.
- Do Chia Seeds need to be soaked before consumption?
Chia seeds do need to be soaked in water before they are consumed because this makes the seeds easily digestible and absorbed. This usually happens because the seeds contain a high level of fibers, leading to digestive problems.
According to Ayurveda, the chia seeds must be soaked before they are consumed because soaking the seeds make it Laghu. This means it makes the seeds easy to digest and easy to absorb.