Chia seeds are rich in fatty acids, anti-oxidants (chlorogenic acid, caffeic acids, myricetin, quercetin, kaempferol, flavonols), alpha-linolenic and linoleic acid, dietary fibre and are a complete protein (providing all 9 of the essential amino acids).
Chia seeds are very similar to flax seeds (high fatty acid content), with the exception of Chia's high anti-oxidant content. This is not only a nutritional bonus but means the valuable oils will not go rancid. They are hydrophilic - meaning when mixed with water they form a gel - this makes an excellent vegan egg replacement and a great thickener for gravies, soups and stews.
These nutritional powerhouses also contain valuable B Vitamins and are especially mineral dense, with more Iron than spinach and more Calcium than milk. Magnesium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Potassium and Selenium make up the rest of their impressive nutrient profile.
Chia seeds benefits also come from the high fibre and protein content. Fibre is essential to the health and muscle tone of the intestines - a major route for expelling toxins from the body - together with the wealth of anti-oxidants, this makes chia seeds a must have ingredient in any detox program.
Folklore and history
Native to Southern Mexico and Guatemala, where they have been cultivated for thousands of years, chia seeds benefits are legendary. Historical records surviving the European invasion of the Americas suggest they were farmed as long ago as 3400 BC.
In Aztec times they were the 3rd most cultivated crop (behind beans and maize), with taxes often paid in chia seeds. Aztec warriors carried chia seeds with them as standard rations, trading them with tribes as far north as the Apache.
Unfortunately, the European invaders attempted to wipe out chia production altogether as part of their oppressive religious regime. They only appear to have escaped complete extinction because they were cultivated by renegade groups of indigenous people in secret mountain locations.
Today they are produced openly as a staple food once again in their native Mexican and Guatemalan landscapes. Indeed, a region of Mexico, The Chiapas, is named after them.
Ancient South American civilisations believed that chia seeds provided supernatural powers. They were used by the Mexican Tarahumara Tribe for endurance - after ingesting a mixture of chia seeds, lemon and water (Iskiate), they were said to run for hundreds of miles. In Mayan, the word chia means "strength", to these people they were considered medicine and prized more than gold due to their incredible health enhancing properties.
2 - 4 tablespoons per day
Chia seeds can be left in a pint of water, stirring occasionally, to form Chia gel which can be used to replace other fats to make nutritious dips or dressings.
As with any high dietary fibre food, exercise caution when treating severe constipation.