Chia is an ancient grain from South America which was once so highly valued by the Aztecs and the Mayans who believed It had religious significances. They used this super grain as an endurance food when covering long distances.
Today it is grown in the Western Australian Ord River region and is now once again highly regarded for it’s nutritional health benefits.
From the Chia Co. website the benefits of Chia include:
Fats & Omega 3
Fats are the most concentrated form of energy for the body. There are three major types of naturally occurring fats – saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Chia is particularly rich in polyunsaturated fats – ‘good fats’ that contain essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals.
Two types of polyunsaturated fats Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) from the Omega 3 family and Linolenic Acid (LA) from the Omega 6 family are deemed essential fatty acids as they can’t be made by the body but are essential for human health.
Omega 3 ALA is especially important for a healthy heart and research has shown it can be beneficial for lowering cholesterol, maintaining artery function and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. The other function of ALA in the body is to be partially converted to other Omega 3 fatty acids – Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) which studies have shown can be beneficial for brain function, mood disorders and cardiovascular health.
Omega 6 LA is important for healthy skin and to be partially converted to Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) and Arachidonic Acid (AA) which research has shown can be beneficial for anti inflammation, joint mobility and heart function.
Chia is a fantastic source of both soluble and insoluble dietary fibre.
Soluble fibre is ‘soluble’ in water. When mixed with water it forms a gel-like substance and swells. Soluble fibre has many benefits, including moderating blood glucose levels and lowering cholesterol.
Insoluble fibre does not absorb or dissolve in water. It passes through the digestive system in close to its original form. Insoluble fibre offers many benefits to intestinal health, including regular gut function and can reduce the risk and occurrence of colon cancer.
Antioxidants are substances that can protect the body’s cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Because oxidation is a naturally occurring process within the body through external sources such as exposure to the sun or pollution, a balance with antioxidants must exist to maintain cell health. Chiatah is an excellent source of antioxidants.
Studies have shown a diet containing antioxidants can slow the process of aging in both the body and the brain such as lessen the effects of chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and muscle degeneration. The level of antioxidant within foods is measured by their Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity or ORAC score.
Protein & Amino Acids
Protein occurs in all living cells. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. The human body uses protein to build and repair tissues, to make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. The human body needs relatively large amounts of protein and must draw on it from the diet as protein isn’t stored in the body.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Of the amino acids found in proteins, some can be made by the body while others are essential in the diet. Amino acids are used for the synthesis of body proteins and can also be used as a source of dietary energy. Chia contains all 8 essential amino acids and more.
Vitamins, Minerals, Trace Elements & Gluten
Chia is wholefood packed with wide range of vitamins, minerals and trace elements, in particular:
- Calcium – ensures strong bones and teeth as well as the proper functioning of neuromuscular and cardiac function.
- Iron – is a component of a number of proteins, most importantly haemoglobin which transports oxygen to tissues throughout the body, in particular from the lungs to the muscles and other organs.
- Magnesium – aids in the body’s absorption of calcium and also plays a key role in the strength and formation of bones and teeth. Magnesium is also vital for maintaining a healthy heart by stabilising heart rhythm and helping prevent abnormal blood clotting.
- Phosphorus – supplies the body with phosphate, and phosphate is a main component of bone structure. Phosphorus is necessary to maximise the benefits of calcium and can also help maintain the health of the kidneys and regulate fluid levels in the body.
- Potassium – helps to regulate blood pressure, to keep the right balance of water in fat and muscle tissues and ensures the proper functioning of cells.
Chia is gluten free. Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley. Some people cannot tolerate gluten when it comes in contact with the small intestine in a condition known as celiac disease.