Chia seeds are among the healthiest and most nutrition packed functional foods available today. It is chock full of the basic building blocks of a healthy diet – protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and a lot of vitamins and minerals. While the same has been said about a lot of other fruits, vegetables, and health foods, chia seeds are set entirely apart by the sheer variety, quantity, and density of the nutrients that it contains. For example, milk is considered to be one of the best sources of calcium around, which is why most people use it to meet their daily requirements of this essential mineral. However, a simple comparison reveals that the calcium content of chia seeds is about six times that of milk. And calcium is just the beginning.
Chia seeds are also a rich source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are the substances that help protect our cardiovascular system, promote brain function and development, and prevent heart disease and strokes. It is commonly associated with fish oil, and tuna and salmon are often marketed largely on their high omega-3 content. What you probably don’t know is that chia seeds contain more omega-3 than any fish out there, equivalent to about 8 times what is normally found in pink salmon. And scientific studies have shown that omega-3 from plant sources is both safer and more effective than omega-3 derived from fish oils.
On the virtue of its high calcium and omega-3 content, chia seeds would already be considered as something of a superfood. But what is more surprising about it is that its health and nutritional benefits do not stop there. Consuming a handful of chia seeds is very much the nutritional equivalent of eating several bunches of vegetables. It has thrice the iron content of spinach, 9 times the phosphorous content of whole milk, double the amount of potassium as bananas, 15 times more magnesium than broccoli, two times more dietary fiber than bran flakes, and 9 times more selenium than flax seeds. It is also rich in antioxidants, the compounds that prevent cell damage, slow aging, and protect against the development of certain cancers. Few other foods can even begin to provide this type of complete nutrition the same way that the chia seed does.
Chia is made even more special by a unique thing that it does when it is exposed to water – its complex structure of dietary fiber absorbs the water and turns into a gel. When this gel gets into our digestive system, it does two things: first, it effectively scours and cleans our intestinal tract, which improves our body’s nutrient absorption; secondly, it acts as a barrier between the walls of our intestines and any carbohydrates we consume. This barrier slows down and stabilizes the absorption of sugar into our blood stream. This means that the energy from this sugar lasts longer and is used more efficiently by the body. This is particularly beneficial to people suffering from diabetes, for whom the constant monitoring and maintenance of blood sugar levels is an essential, if tedious, fact of life. Also, this gel’s ability to hold water and make the body feel full for longer make chia seeds an attractive alternative for athletes and dieters alike.
Chia seeds come in two varieties: black seeds and white seeds. White chia seeds are rarer than black chia seeds, occurring only about once every ten seeds. While its relative rarity has made white chia seeds more expensive, scientific study has shown that there is no significant nutritional difference between the two varieties, with the white seeds actually containing slightly less antioxidants than black seeds. However, there still remains some demand for all white chia seeds, as people are still drawn to it because of its rarity and its aesthetic value in the preparation of chia-based dishes.
In order to enjoy all the health and nutritional benefits of chia seeds, it is recommended that at least 1 to 4 table spoons be consumed daily. The chia seed’s tiny size and mild nutty flavor make it easy to integrate into any dish, and also lends itself well to culinary experimentation. The seeds can be ground into flour and used to make baked goods and as a thickener for soups. It can also be added to water or a favorite beverage, and allowed to turn into a gel to consume as a novel snack item. They can also be sprinkled directly onto food or even consumed directly on their own. Chia seeds are also gluten-free, which makes it a prime source of nutrition for people suffering from celiac disease.
- 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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