Chia are tiny black and white edible seeds that provide a rich source of many nutrients. These gluten-free, whole grain seeds are an excellent source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. They also contain protein and minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Chia seeds are produced by the salvia hispanica shrub, which is part of the mint family. Native to Central America, chia seeds were part of the staple diet eaten by the Aztecs. They remained popular in Mexico and Guatemala over the centuries, but their popularity has grown in the US over the past few decades due to their nutrient rich content that may provide additional benefits when incorporated into a healthy diet.
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There is some research that indicates including chia seeds in a heart healthy diet may contribute to good cardiovascular health. It is thought to potentially lower cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and blood pressure. Clinical studies have yet to prove these health benefits so further research is needed. However, there are many other reasons to add chia seeds to your diet. Whether added to other food or eaten on their own, chia seeds help to increase an individual’s intake of dietary fiber, which is essential for good digestive health. They also provide a good source of protein, omega-3s, and minerals which are all part of a healthy and balanced diet.
How Can I Use Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds have a mild, nutty flavor and can be eaten right out of the bag for a quick healthy snack. There are many ways to add chia seeds into your diet. These tiny seeds can be sprinkled on cereals, salads and yogurts to give them a nutritious boost. Because chia seeds have a glutinous texture when they are mixed with liquid, they can be used to thicken healthy smoothies, shakes and soups. They are also increasingly being used in vegan recipes as a thickening agent as a replacement for eggs and dairy.
Chia seeds are commonly used in baking in either milled (ground) or whole seed form. They can be added to batter or dough when baking muffins or cookies to enhance nutritional value. Ground chia seeds can also replace flour in many recipes for gluten-free baking.
Are Chia Seeds Safe?
Consult with your physician before incorporating chia seeds into your diet especially if you are taking blood thinners or medications for high blood pressure. Avoid chia seeds if you have a known allergy or hypersensitivity to chia or its constituents. Allergic reactions to chia protein are possible, as are cross-reactivity reactions in people allergic to sesame and mustard seed. You should read product labels, and discuss all therapies with a qualified healthcare provider before adding chia into your diet.