Few foods deserve the title of “superfood” as the chia seed does. No other grain on the planet comes as densely packed with vitamins, nutrients and essential fatty acids. Chia, bearing the scientific nameSalvia hispanica, is a flowering plant that originates from Central and South America. The humble plant’s seeds have long been recognized as a source of essential nutrients as far back as the ancient times of Aztec and Mayan civilization. No Aztec or Mayan warrior went into combat without first consuming chia seeds for the endurance that they imparted. So valued were the seeds for their health benefits that it was used as a form of currency, and Aztec priests and rulers demanded that the people pay them taxes and tribute in chia seeds. In fact, new evidence has come to light that chia seeds were looked upon as being so precious that they were served up as offerings to the Aztec gods in elaborate religious ceremonies.
Modern scientific analysis has gone a long way towards proving the Aztecs and the Mayans right in holding the chia seed in such high regard. The chia seed is one of nature’s most potent functional foods, being rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are also able to slow down the way the body converts carbohydrates into energy, stabilizing the body’s metabolic changes and helping to regulate and maintain blood sugar levels for diabetics. This metabolic stabilization also makes for significantly greater endurance for people who undertake strenuous or demanding tasks, such as athletes or soldiers. It is also a good source of protein, with its amino acids being absorbed readily by the body, facilitating rapid tissue regeneration. The seeds’ ability to absorb and retain up to 10 times its own weight in water also helps keep the body hydrated for longer periods of time. Once in the digestive system, it helps regulate the absorption of nutrients and maintain fluid and electrolyte balance. These many health benefits, along with other practical advantages, make chia seeds a true super food.
Chia seeds also have the advantage of being a mild tasting grain. This makes it far easier to integrate into many ordinary recipes than other health foods that have sharp, distinct flavors. Chia seeds can be ground up into flour for making healthier versions of common breads and other pastries. Its water absorbing properties can be used to make a chia gel, which acts as a food extender that displaces calories and makes the food more filling without sacrificing any flavor. Even tasty treats like brownies and muffins can have chia seeds mixed into them. Chia seeds have the added advantage of being completely gluten free, and of containing only miniscule amounts of sodium.
Chia seeds are predominantly black in color, though white ones may also be found in smaller number. Because of their relative scarcity, white chia seeds are often sold at a higher price. There is no significant difference in nutritional value between the differently colored seeds, though recent studies suggest that black seeds may contain slightly more antioxidants than the white variety. The choice between black and white seeds is more a matter of aesthetic taste than of actual nutritional value.
All people, regardless of age, have something to benefit from adding chia seeds to their diet. The seeds have been shown to improve mental acuity and focus, and are thus extra beneficial to the elderly in helping them keep their minds sharp and fighting off dementia. Expectant mothers can look to its high protein and nutrient content to ensure improved infant development and the energy to get through the rigors of pregnancy. Soldiers, athletes and other people in physically demanding jobs can rely on its metabolic stabilization and water absorption properties to improve performance and endurance.
- Chia Seed products are available retail at www.HidalgoFoods.com. Hidago Foods (USA) ships to any location within the following countries: USA, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, UK
- For manufacturers looking for Acai Berry and other functional food ingredients in bulk, please visit www.HV22.com.
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