If you havenât discovered the magic of chia yet, nowâs the time. These superfood seeds are packed withÂ health-boosting nutrients. âChiaâ comes from the Nahuatl word âchianâ, which means âoilyâ. The plant Salvia hispanica, whichÂ is largely cultivated for its tiny black and white seeds, is part of the flowering mint family. Chia seeds are thought to help reduce risk factors for heart diseases, andÂ their high nutrient content, however,does warrant it to be classed with other âsuperfoodsâ. Chia contains fibre, protein, fat, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B3,potassium, vitamin B1 and vitamin B3. History The Aztecs cultivated chia as a food crop as early as 3500 B.C. Theyâre reputed to have used theseÂ foods to give them endurance. Itâs still widely used in South America and Mexico, and the plant isÂ native to southern Mexico and Guatemala. The Aztecs used chia as a foodstuff. They mixed it with other foods, mixed it into beverages, groundÂ it into flour, used it as a component in medicines and pressed it for oil. With the arrival of the Spanish conquerors in the 16th century, many local traditions were lost and itÂ wasnât really until the 1990s that U.S. and South American scientists took a closer look at chia seedsÂ and their nutritional value and medicinal properties. Currently chia is grown in Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia and Peru. Itâs also grown in Australia by TheChia Company. In fact, Australia looks set to become the worldâs top chia producer. Benefits The following are purported to be the benefits of chia seeds, but, according to WebMD, moreÂ is research isÂ needed to confirm the extent of these claims:
- Lowering of heart disease and stroke risk in diabetics. Thereâs some evidence that aÂ particular type of chia, called Salba, can reduce this risk by lowering blood pressure. ItâsÂ also a marker for inflammation.
- The antioxidants in chia may help to fight cancer.
- Chia seeds are high in fibre, which is good for your digestion. Itâs also thought that thisÂ might help with weight loss, as the fibre absorbs water and contributes to a feeling ofÂ having a full stomach.
- Chia seeds are an excellent source of protein, especially for vegans and vegetarians.
- Although they contain omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds contain a type thatâs difficult forÂ the body to utilize.
- Chia seeds can promote bone health, as they contain phosphorus, calcium, magnesiumÂ and protein. Theyâre a good source of calcium for people who donât eat dairy products.