Chia seeds are obtained from the Salvia hispanica plant, belonging to the Lamiaceae family and native to Mexico and Guatemala. These precious seeds were already known to the Aztecs, who used them as a source of sustenance and as an ingredient in medicinal mixtures. Nowadays, science has elevated chia seeds to a true superfood, as they are rich in nutrients and health properties. So let's try to understand the benefits of chia seeds, based on the most recent scientific studies.
Chia seeds, nutrients and properties
Chia seeds provide fiber, including precious mucilage, and omega 3 fatty acids, especially alpha linolenic fatty acid. Not only that, chia seeds also contain antioxidant substances, such as catechins, phenolic acids, flavonoids and isoflavones, proteins and amino acids (Grancieri et al, Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf, 2019). Finally, chia seeds provide vitamins, such as A, C, group B and E, and mineral salts, such as phosphorus, iron, potassium, manganese, calcium, magnesium and selenium (Motyka et al, Molecules, 2022).
Chia seeds against hunger attacks and obesity
Chia seeds are an excellent snack for breakfast or mid-morning as they satiate and nourish and help counteract hunger attacks (Ayaz et al , Nutr res Pract, 2017). The satiating action of chia seeds is due to the fibers, which slow down stomach emptying and reduce the glycemic increase, and the omega 3 fatty acids, which regulate appetite (Ayaz et al, Nutr res Pract, 2017). Chia seeds have also been shown to counteract overweight and obesity, by inhibiting adipogenesis, which is the formation of adipose tissue, and by reducing a protein, called PPAR gamma, which is present in high quantities in the case of obesity (Motyka et al , Molecules, 2022).
Chia seeds for heart health
Chia seeds protect heart health with a multiple action. First, these seeds have been shown to help reduce post-prandial blood sugar. It is believed that this property is due to the presence of fibers in chia seeds, which slow down digestion and thus the absorption of dietary sugars (Ayaz et al, Nutr res Pract, 2017). Then, chia seeds also have a hypotensive action. In fact, it has been observed that regular intake of chia seeds for at least 3 months has led to a reduction in blood pressure in hypertensive people (Motyka et al, Molecules, 2022). But chia seeds also help reduce triglycerides and bad LDL cholesterol, while increasing good HDL cholesterol (Motyka et al, Molecules, 2022).
Chia seeds for gastro intestinal well-being
Chia seeds also protect the digestive system. In fact, thanks to the presence of fibers and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substances, these seeds protect and support the microbiota and prevent the development of gastrointestinal diseases and dysbiosis that happens with symptoms such as abdominal cramps, flatulence, constipation or diarrhea. Not only that, chia seeds stimulate the absorption of some nutrients, especially zinc and iron (Motyka et al, Molecules, 2022).
Chia seeds and bones
Chia seeds protect and strengthen our bones. In fact, regular and prolonged intake over time, at least for 10 months, has made it possible to improve bone density. This action is due to the presence of omega 3 fatty acids, which inhibit the action of osteoclasts, which are cells responsible for the resorption of bone tissue (Montes Chani et al, Nutrients, 2018).
Chia seeds and inflammation
Chia seeds are anti-inflammatory. Studies have observed that their intake helps in case of rheumatoid arthritis, which is a chronic inflammatory disease, but also helps to counteract inflammation of the intestinal tract, such as colitis (Barsby et al, Peer J, 2021).
Chia seeds, how to consume them and warnings
Chia seeds have the particularity that they form a gel when they come into contact with a liquid. So, in the evening before going to sleep, you can pour a tablespoon of chia seeds and 4 tablespoons of a juice of your choice, such as blueberry or pomegranate, without added sugar, into a small bowl, mix and let it rest. In the morning you will have a delicious jam to spread on brown bread. Or you can add chia seeds, always a tablespoon, to 3-4 tablespoons of water or vegetable milk, mix and let it rest for half an hour, you can then add it to the smoothie or yogurt. According to the fashion of the moment, chia seeds can be added to biscuits, cakes or preparations such as vegetables or pan-fried fish. However, chia seeds should always be eaten raw. In fact, studies have observed that exposure to high heat, between 160 and 200 °C, for 15-30 minutes, such as during baking or roasting, induces in seeds the formation of acrylamide, a carcinogenic substance (Mesias et al. al, Food Chemistry, 2023).