In decades past, the most popular uses for chia seeds were growing them on clay figurines. Now it’s known for being a superfood. So what are the advantages of eating them? Here are the biggest advantages to watch out for.
High Nutrient Value
These little guys prove that big things do come in small packages! 60 calories per tablespoon may sound high, but these seeds expand several times their size after they’re soaked in water. So you end up getting a lot more food (volume-wise) for that amount of calories.
Lots of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Contrary to popular belief, omega fatty acids aren’t always good for you – or at least, if you’re getting the wrong ratio of omega 3, 6, and 9. If you are eating a typical western diet, you are overdosing on omega 6 (omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids).
Even olive oil and coconut oil, which are assumed to be healthy really aren’t (although their high smoke point makes them good for cooking).
Anthropological research suggests that back in the hunter-gatherer days, we consumed omega 6s to omega 3s in a roughly 1 to 1 ratio. Today’s western diets are more like a 15 to 1 ratio! This excess of 6s promotes many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, and inflammation.
But there is good news! One of the most unique benefits of the chia seed is that its ratio of omega 6 to 3 is 0.3 to 1 (in other words, there are over three times more omega 3s than 6s). By comparison, almost all other seeds and nuts are high in 6s and contain almost no 3s. When comparing weight for weight, chia seeds contain more omega 3s than salmon!
High in Antioxidants
Anyone who is interested in nutrition has come across ORAC, with foods being high in antioxidants having a higher ORAC value, but what is ORAC? ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. It’s a lab test that attempts to quantify the “total antioxidant capacity” (TAC) of a food by placing a sample of the food in a test tube, along with certain molecules that generate free radical activity and certain other molecules that are vulnerable to oxidation. After a while, they measure how well the sample protected the vulnerable molecules from oxidation by the free radicals. The less free radical damage there is, the higher the antioxidant capacity of the test substance. The ORAC value of chia seeds is impressive. The black variety is 9,800 and the white variety is 7,000. To put those numbers in perspective, goji berries are 3,290, a typical orange is 2,103, blueberries are 4,669, and a gala apple is 2,828.
Keep in mind that the ORAC scale is based on 100 grams for the tested ingredient. An apple weighs somewhere between 150 to 200 grams. A tablespoon of chia seeds (1 serving) is only 12 gram. This means that the ORAC released from one serving would only be 12% of 9,800 for the black variety, which is 1,176.
Works as a Vegan Egg Substitute
Ever wonder how vegan cakes and cookies, made without real eggs, attain that same fluffy texture? Chances are, the recipe used is what we call a flax egg or chia egg. The recipe is quite simple. Your average egg (the kind from a hen) contains around 187 mg of cholesterol. Contrast that to the 0 mg in this vegan egg replacement and you have a healthy alternative!
Chia Egg Substitute
Makes one chia egg
- 1 tbsp chia seeds (whole)
- 2 ½ tbsp of lukewarm or room temperature water
- Using a small dish, combine the chia seeds with the water.
- Stir and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes, to allow the seeds to expand.
Sure, kale has oodles of advantages for health – but including kale in your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert is not feasible (or at least not palatable).
Perhaps the biggest benefit that these seeds offer is their versatility. They have an almost neutral taste. That makes it easy for you to toss some into just about anything. Oatmeal? Obviously. Spaghetti marinara? Absolutely!
Really, almost any dish you think of can easily incorporate chia. But for best results try some of these.
- If you have the time, pre-soak the seeds in water overnight. This starts the sprouting process, which makes them easier to digest and releases even more nutrients.
- For hot dishes, add the pre-soaked seeds in after you’re done cooking. Why? Because omega 3s are destroyed by heat.
- As with everything else when it comes to nutrition, don’t overdo it, consume them in moderation.
© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Daniel Petre