Let’s bring out the elephant in the room – social media. As we all are blessed with super-fast internet connectivity and countless creators fighting for views, we are running out of content to create. So, people are shifting to domains which differ greatly from entertainment. They are becoming health advisors, doctors, ambassadors of our ancient Ayurveda etc. This being said, a lot of information that these people provide are nothing but baits to lure you guys in increasing their reach. We are not going to discuss what all things are disingenuous and which are genuine. We are going to focus here on the talk of the town which is Chia.
Chia seeds have been considered very crucial part of diet in Mesoamerican populations since 3500 BC. It was also consumed by Central American colonies in pre-Colombian era. This crop was considered as important as corn and beans. Slowly the trend of consuming chia is returning in this era too due to its countless benefits. But is it really worth the hype? Let’s find out.
First of all, what exactly are chia seeds?
They are tiny little seeds which grow on a shrub like plant. They belong to the family of Lamiaceae which includes other herbs like Ocimum and mint. Its roots lie in the countries of Northern Guatemala and Southern Mexico. The height of the plant is between 100 to 150 cm and the leaves are green in colour, ovate shaped with a sharp tip and serrated edges. The seeds grow in a bunch on a spike just like Tulsi.
The seeds are very small (only a few mm in length), oval yet somewhat flat in shape. Their colour may range from black to grey or white, but all of them carry a pretty lustrous shine on them.
What makes chia seeds so special?
As we have learnt what exactly chia seeds are, it is time to reveal their special feature. Chia seeds are very unique as they have the ability to absorb water. Wait a second, even other seeds like chickpea, mung etc. have the capacity to absorb water. Yes, each and every other seed can absorb water but chia seeds can absorb water upto 12 times their weight!! Now that is something fascinating. They have an exclusive property of making a film of water around them. Which makes them appear like a mucilaginous substance after being soaked in water for a few hours.
What about nutritional benefits?
Coming back to the topic, chia has been known as a superfood due to the enormous amount of nutrients present in them. There are countless studies conducted which have proven the benefits of consuming chia regularly. Let us go through the minerals and nutrients which they provide us:
According to USDA (2004), chia contains on an average 42.14% carbohydrates, 5.80% water, 31% fat and 16.54% protein.
The seeds are rich in omega acids, vitamins like thiamine and niacin, and several other dietary minerals such as iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, zinc and phosphorous.
Even the oil of chia is full of PUFAs (Poly unsaturated fatty acids) and MUFAs (Mono unsaturated fatty acids). Besides this, chia seed oil is also rice in omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9 fatty acids. It is full of unsaturated fatty acids. All these components will keep your heart up and running for a long time. They will also help our body in fighting various infections and will make our immune system strong.
Now towards the big question – How to consume them?
Chia seeds have been widely used in the culinary sector as complete seeds, flour, seed mucilage or for oil purposes. They can be simply showered as toppings on other foods for aesthetic as well as nutritional purposes. You can also flavor your milk with the help of them. Soak these seeds overnight in water and you can directly drink them in morning for maximum benefits.
Now a days it is very common to see chia seeds been sprinkled on top of desserts or icecreams which give them a distinct flavor and texture.
What about diabetic patients?
Chia seeds are known to have a positive effect on blood sugar levels of people suffering from diabetes. They are rich in fiber and contain several antioxidants which may help in controlling spike in blood sugar levels. Some scientific trials have also been conducted in which supplementing chia seeds in diet may help in aiding weight loss and lowers inflammation in patients with type 2 diabetes.
To conclude, there are very rare chances when a trend actually proves to be good and this is one of them. In this day and age, many people are turning vegan and most of our Indian population is vegetarian. Including chia in our diet will provide us with a good amount of protein and vitamins. Veganism is gaining popularity day by day and people are following on the trend. Here plant-based proteins will be in high demand and chia will be the perfect solution for that.
In the end I would like to say that chia can be considered as a true superfood. It belong to the same family as Tulsi and we all know how much valuable it is in our culture. However, many studies are yet to be conducted to decide its dosage, therapeutic effects, side effects, allergies etc. Until proven otherwise, one can surely enjoy these tiny little seeds and reap their benefits.