All About the Super Food Chia Seeds – the Ultimate Ancient Endurance ‘Running Food’

A while ago I came across something you may find interesting, and perhaps consider adding to your daily diet because it seems to have so many benefits it would be hard to ignore.

If I told you that there was something that is easy to prepare, pleasant to eat, and really good for you too then you would take notice yes? From searching the internet and talking to health professionals I am happy to introduce you to the Chia Seed. ‘Chia’ being the Mayan world for strength, is from the ancient plant Salvia hispanica and is a member of the mint family originally grown in southern Mexico.

Researchers have a number of studies supporting the claim that this food is now a “super food”. In fact what the research has found is that chia seed has one of the broadest ranging profiles of scientific benefits of any known food, including:

• Lower blood sugar levels
• Lowered insulin sensitivity
• Improvement in diabetes
• Lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure
• Decreased High Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein- a marker in the blood indicating inflammation
• Decreased gaseousness
• Increased energy and endurance
• Improved cardiovascular health
• Improved colonic health and bowel regularity
• Decreased gastro-oesophageal reflux and heartburn
• Weight loss
• Relief from Rheumatoid Arthritis

According to Spanish manuscripts the Aztecs consumed the seeds to improve their endurance and it was a staple part of the early Incan, Mayan and Aztec cultures. Documents surviving the Spanish conquest of Mexico indicate that Aztec warriors called chia their ‘running food’ as they ran for days eating nothing but chia seeds, and ate them during battles to supply all the energy they needed for such a task. According to the history books chia was prized more highly than gold and they offered it to their gods. And again today an increasing number of people seem to be adding it to their diets as a significant food source.

Superior Nutritional Value

Chia gram for gram is more quality food value than any other known food. It contains 19 amino acids. Just two tablespoons of chia offers an amazingly balanced ration of macronutrients, oils and fibre.

Chia seeds have been shown to have:-

• 6 times more calcium than whole milk
• 15 times more magnesium than broccoli
• 3 times more antioxidant capacity than fresh blueberries
• 3 times more iron than spinach
• 2 times more potassium than bananas
• More fibre than flaxseed…
• More protein than beans, soy, or peas
• Good source of B vitamins and the bone building minerals (a combination of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, boron, and copper)
Rich source of the antioxidants chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and flavanol glycosides
• High Omega 3 (ALA) content
• No gluten
• Low GI

Energy & Endurance Builder:

If you are interested in this seed then I recommend that you read the book ‘The magic of Chia: Revival of an ancient food wonder’ by James Scheer. A wealth of information, in it he describes how Paul Bragg devised a 36 hour mountain hiking endurance test by dividing a group of volunteers into two teams: one ate only chia seeds, the other ate what they wanted. The chia seed group won the contest by arriving at their destination, the peak of Mt. Wilson in California, over 4 hours ahead of the other team.

Aids Glucose Intolerance/Diabetes Management:

When the seeds are mixed with water they produce a gelatinous hydrophilic colloid. When these are mixed with water or stomach juices, a physical barrier is created between the carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down. The carbohydrates are thus digested and converted into glucose (blood sugar) at a slow, uniform rate with no insulin surge or spike needed to lower the blood sugar level. This also, coincidentally, aids endurance.

High Fibre:

About 2 tablespoons (25 g) of chia provides 7 g of fibre. The insoluble fibre gently “scrubs” debris and toxins from your colon walls, banishing blockage and build-up and the soluble fibre soaks up water, so stools don’t get too loose.The seed’s outer layer is rich in mucilloid soluble fibre (chia possesses 5% soluble fibre and 2% insoluble – in ideal balance) and absorbs up to 10 times its weight in water.
The fibre in chia seed can help alleviate numerous digestive distresses, including:

• Diarrhoea
• Bowell Discomfort
• Irritable Colon
• Constipation
• Gas
• Bloating

Chia’s high fibre content also contributes to a healthy heart and circulatory system as well as modulating blood sugar levels and hydrating our body with the insoluble fiber. This high fiber also aids in weight loss because it is so filling.
Muscle Builder:

Chia seeds are especially effective when rapid development of tissues is needed ie. during growth periods of children and adolescents; growth and regeneration of tissue of a woman during pregnancy and lactation; or during any athletic training or competition and during rehabilitation from injury or illnessThis is because, as a source of protein, the seeds are easily digested and absorbed resulting in a rapid transport of nutrients to the tissue for utilization by the cells.

High Omega 3:

Omega 3 fatty acid (ALA alpha linolenic fatty acid) is so important because our body must have it. Omega 3 fatty acid we cannot create in our body, we must ingest it. The omega 3 fatty acid is used to build every cell membrane in our body. These membranes formed without the proper nutrients will not function properly. This leads to sickness, disease and mutated cells or free radicals. When you start to realize the chia seeds health benefits at a cellular level you’ll wish you found out about them years ago.

More than the well-known popular flax seed Chia seeds offer the highest known natural percentage of alpha-linolenic fatty acid (60-63%) or ALA, with a very favourable Omega 3:6 ratio of 3:2. And unlike flax seed Chia seeds do not need to be ground to use; a distinct advantage as grinding exhibits rapid decomposition due to a lack of antioxidants, and which has a distinct taste.

Fatty acids are necessary for absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, & K and normal glandular activity particularly for the adrenals and thyroid gland. They also nourish the skin and are essential for nerves, healthy mucus membranes and normal functioning of the reproductive system. They can also be important in reducing cholesterol deposits.

Weight Control:

Drinking a glass of chia gel before meal times can significantly reduce hunger; decrease the need to eat; as well as decrease the craving for sweet foods. This is because the chia seed contains a significant amount of soluble fibre and quickly absorbs up to 10 times its weight in water. So, you can put it into a drink and in about 10 minutes you have a weak gelatinous, neutral tasting nutritious drink/gel ready for you to consume. This chia gel coats the stomach, slows down absorption of carboyhydrates and digestion gradually delivering the broadest ranging nutrient profiles of any food available as it travels through the stomach and intestines, slowly releasing its nutrients into the system. This helps create a feeling of satisfaction over a significant period of time because so many of the body’s nutritional requirements are being fully met.

Electrolyte Balancer:

As chia seeds can hold up to 10 times their weight in water there is a greater efficiency in the utilization of body fluids and the body’s electrolyte balance is far better maintained. This also means better nutrient absorption while allowing for more efficient bowel regulation. This ability is especially of interest in cases of severe diarrhoea, high fevers, vomiting, or excessive sweating where vital fluid retention is minimal.

Medicinal Uses:

The Aztecs and other native, American cultures used chia medicinally to relieve joint pain, muscle soreness and skin conditions. They also used it for healing wounds, for sore throats and colds, upset stomachs, prostate problems, constipation and even body odour. Recent research (see below) has also shown that chia helps to control blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

Vitamin Boost:

As well as everything already mentioned Chia also contains calcium, Iron, Potassium, Magnesium & Phosphate, Protein, Selenium, Antioxidants and Phytonutrients.

Storage

Unlike flaxseed and most other seeds, chia can be stored for at least 5 yesrs without them going rancid. Even after you grind or cook them chia’s antioxidants still keep them fresh. This is because they contain powerful antioxidants that protect tehir heart-healthy oils. An ideal “survival food.”

Incorporating Chia into your Diet

So … now you have heard all about how good they are for you, are you ready to start using them in your everyday diet? OK, they do look a little like tadpoles eggs once soaked, but I must admit that once I’d heard all of it’s good qualities I could not resist giving them a go!

However, first I wanted to check out any side effects before going on any further … so this it what I found out:

• People who are suffering with heart problems must avoid these seeds as it has addictive effects on its users.

• People who take blood thinners like warfarin should exclude this from their diet as Chia seeds raises the risk for bleeding.

• It may be allergic and the reason behind this is that it is the member of the salvia genus.

• It can lower the blood pressure of body, especially in aged people. Be careful as Chia seeds are capable of lowering the pressure of the blood to the dangerous level.

• This seed is a great source of vitamin B-17. If you are from a regimen of B-17, then you should be cautious before taking the seeds. You may overload your body system with phytonutrients.

• If you have reactions when you eat Chia seeds or any product which contains Chia seeds, then you must evade Chia seeds totally.

• Overdose of Chia should be avoided as it can be harmful for you.

• A research conducted by The Netherlands’ Wageningen Centre for Food Sciences in 2004 concluded that Chia seeds increase the risk of prostate cancer in men. However, more researches are needed to support the findings of this study.

• Utilization of chia seeds can be addictive so chia seeds should be consumed in short phases.

• For people who are planning to undergo a surgery or are taking aspirin or blood thinners should consult a medical practitioner before using chia seeds.

So, with all that to consider, assuming you are in a risk free group and have decided you are happy to take them, then it is time to think about how to eat them! …

I have to admit I have taken the easy route and simply add them to my morning juice or smoothy. Many people cook many exciting and really rather sumptuous looking meals with them and if this is something you would like to do then do a search on the internet to find out more. There are so many out there! I won’t pretend here that I have tried any of these recipes yet so go your own way here and try what jumps out at you.

A good place to start …

• 2 tablespoons of chia into a glass of water or a juice of your choice. Let stand for 10 minutes and then stir again. Start the day with this drink and repeat again before each meal if you are trying to lose weight.

• You can add it to your porridge, muesli, soups, stews, dips, spreads, sauces, gravies, salad dressings, smoothies and home-made breads.

• In fact you can blend or grind the seeds into just about any dish and you can even add it to a salad.

• You can also use it as a snack, perhaps mixed with nuts.

WARNING: Always soak the seeds for at least 10 minutes before you consume them. They soak up a lot of liquid and if you put them dry into your body you could become very dehydrated!

Chia Smoothie

To 1 cup liquid of choice, add 1 banana, 1/2 cup other fruit (orange, apple, pear, berries, grapes, pineapple etc.) and 1 tablespoon chia seeds (or 2 tablespoons gel); blend and drink.

VARIATION: add 1 tablespoon green powder (spelt or green barley) or handful of fresh greens for added nutrition. Using less liquid makes smoothie more like a thick shake or pudding.

SUMMARY OF RESEARCH

In the first major study of Salvia hispanica, using the US patented white variety named Salba, Prof. Vladimir Vuksan of the University of Toronto and colleagues baked the seeds into white bread and assessed their effects on hospital patients with well-controlled diabetes. Subjects eating this chia based bread for three months (compared to controls eating wheat-bran bread) had a dramatic six-point reduction in blood pressure and a 40 percent decrease in C-reactive protein levels, the inflammation marker that is a predictor of heart disease. According to Dr. Vuksan there was an impressive glucose-lowering effect of up to 40 percent after meals, depending on how much chia- based bread was eaten. It was found that on average, each gram of chia reduced blood sugar levels by 2 percent. It was shown that chia can be consumed either as the whole seed or finely ground because both forms are equally effective in lowering glucose levels.

At the University of Antwerp in Belgium, independent researchers found similar improvements when healthy people added chia to their diets for one month. Data showed reductions in blood pressure and triglyceride levels, but also that the subjects’ waistlines became smaller, even though none of them actually lost weight overall.Dr. Vuksan and his Toronto colleagues considered this to be a significant finding because it is well known in medical circles that accumulating fat around the abdomen is one of the main factors implicated in the development of heart disease and diabetes.

Most recently, a study conducted at the University of Litoral in Santa Fe, Argentina, and published in the British Journal of Nutrition identified further benefits associated with eating Salvia hispanica. Rats were fed for months with a sucrose-rich diet causing them to develop metabolic syndrome and obesity. However their condition was reversed when chia was added to their diet. Their triglyceride levels came down, and abdominal fat was reduced. Additionally, their blood levels of omega-3 EPA increased.

References: Vuksan, Vladimir et al., ‘Supplementation of Conventional Therapy with the Novel Grain Salba (Salvia hispanica L.) Improves Major and Emerging Cardiovascular Factors in Type 2 Diabetes. Results of a Randomised Controlled Trial’. Diabetes Care, 2007, Aug 8, p.p.1-15.
Chicco, Adriana G. et al., ‘Dietary Chia Seed (Salvia hispanica L.) rich in a-linolenic acid improves adiposity and normalises hypertriacglycerolaemia and insulin resistance in dyslipaemic rats”. British Journal of Nutrition, Vol 101, Issue I, Jan.2009 p.p.41-50.
Fernandez, S. et al., ’Impact of Chia Seed (Salvia hispanica L.) on the Immune System: Preliminary Study’, Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, Vol.67. 12 May 2008.

TESTIMONIALS

From me:  I can say to you from my experience that I almost instantly gained more energy. It was quite subtle at first, but I must admit that now I am finding that I don’t need to sleep much any more! Also, the other day I was walking out in the fields with a friend, up a hill … and I stormed ahead all the way to the top much our surprise! I shall keep you posted of any further developments.

I have also searched the internet and found many testimonials that come from individuals who have incorporated chia into their diets, which I thought you would find interesting … so here is what I found:

• ‘I have used chia seeds for over 18 months almost every day and will never stop! they have helped with weight loss, pain loss, depression, and energy!’

• ‘This lady seems to be talking about a specific brand of chia seeds because she is selling them … but it is interesting to listen to the effects of the chia … start listening from about 3 mins 38secs in here.’

• ‘I suffer from psoriasis and after 4 days my lesions dramatically began to reverse!!’

• If you are a drinker, apparently good for curing hangovers! … follow this link to find out more.

• ‘In the middle of May this year the doctor said I had vertigo. I had a blood test and he was also concerned about my sugar levels (7.8). I had a glucose blood test on June 23rd after taking chia seed for 9 days and my test result was (7.4). The doctor wants me to have another test in about a month so I will be interested to see what the levels are then. Two weeks after taking chia seed I had energy back, I climbed North Quay steps without stopping and I wasn’t breathless at the top. I am sleeping better and I do not have aches and pains I had before. I woke up at 5 o’clock last Monday and my right eye was watering. It was very red and felt very itchy. I had researched chia seed and I read where one or two seeds placed in the eye helped sore eyes so I tried it. I went back to bed and when I woke up a few hours later my eye was normal. I had this same problem last year and had to use prescription drops every day for a week or more. So all in all for me it has been a great bonus and I hope it will be successful for everyone else as well. I have ou again for your kind assistance in helping me with your product.’

• ‘Wonderful, gentle, natural relief for constipation. No upset stomach and works on all family members. Don’t like it plain in water, but we add a Tbsp to our smoothy every morning and it works like a charm! Our Doctor recommended it’

• ‘I am very pleased with these seeds. Just learned about the benefits of taking chia seeds for both diabetes and thyroid. Since I started taking them, I had a blood test done and most of my numbers, including the thyroid, have dropped.’

• ‘I was hesistant to begin taking chia seeds, but read that it helps people who suffer from IBS with their fiber intake. I now take it every day and have felt much better.’

• ‘Seems to help stabilize my wife’s (as well as a friend’s) blood sugar levels, and anecdotally it seems to help a few of our friends lose weight as well. A little costly to use it though.’

Where do I buy them from?

Well, I am lucky that my local health food stock them. I have looked on the internet and there are a few sellers on Amazon.co.uk who sell them too from the UK and the US.  If you are in the UK and find that you can only get them for more than £6.00 let me know. I could always get you some and send them on to you, arranging for payment via PayPal. I would of course have to add postage to this price. Just private message me and we could sort something out.

© 2012 — Liz Shewan.
www.soulrebalancing.co.uk — All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

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One response to “All About the Super Food Chia Seeds – the Ultimate Ancient Endurance ‘Running Food’

  1. Pingback: Balancing Clouds (on my head) … | INSPIRE YOUR HEART

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