Chia (Salvia hispanica L.) was originated from Mexico and Guatemala and has been consumed as food for about 5500 years. Aztecs and Mayas people used chia seeds as a whole and grounded form along with its oil in the preparation of folk medicines, food, and canvases. Chia is considered a superfood due to the high nutritional value it possesses. The nutrients in chia include protein (16%), fat (30%), carbohydrate (41%), and dietary fiber (34%) along with many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Chia seeds contain calcium, phosphorous, and potassium in many folds higher than in wheat, rice, oats, and corn. Macrominerals in 100g chia seeds contain calcium-631mg, potassium-407mg, magnesium-335mg, phosphorus-860mg, iron-7.7mg and zinc-4.6mg. Chia seeds contain vitamins E and B-complex vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, and thiamine.
The rich nutritional value of chia offers great potential to be used in wide applications like food, medical, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, and feed purposes. Including chia seeds as a part of the diet is beneficial in preventing and managing a number of health disorders for better health and longevity. Many studies have been reported for their role in health-promoting properties like cardiovascular health, immune system health, bone health, antihypertensive, antioxidant, and antimicrobial activities. The Omega-3 fatty acid in Chia is ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is helpful in the prevention and management of obesity-related parameters like hyperlipidemia, hyperglycemia, and hypertension.
The increased concentration of serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels is associated with the development of cardiovascular diseases. Studies involving the consumption of chia seeds in humans have been shown to reduce serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels due to their high dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. A recent study has reported that chia proteins and chia bioactive peptides can block an enzyme of cholesterol synthesis called HMG-CoA reductase, thereby helping in reducing cholesterol levels. Also, chia seeds are shown to prevent myocardial infraction and strokes by inhibiting platelet aggregation and lower systolic blood pressure.
Consumption of chia seeds has been reported to reduce blood sugar levels, thereby helping in managing diabetes. The hypoglycaemic properties of chia are attributed to their high dietary fiber content. The dietary fiber helps in slowing down the digestion process and release of glucose into the blood stream.
Calcium is an essential mineral for maintaining bone health. A hundred grams of chia seeds provides 63 % of the daily calcium requirement. Long term feeding with chia seeds has been shown to increase bone mineral density in rats. Hence regular consumption of chia seeds may help in preventing osteoporosis and other bone disorders.
The high dietary fiber content in chia seeds help in improving gastrointestinal health. It helps in increasing the peristaltic movement of the intestine, thereby inducing a laxative effect and helping in timely excretion of waste from the body.
A study has shown that feeding of rats with chia seeds for 1 month increased IgE antibody levels significantly. Hence regular consumption of chia seeds may help in improving immunity. Also, the phytosterols in chia may be beneficial in acting as antimicrobial thus preventing infections.
Chia seeds are packed with antioxidants like chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid in large quantities. They also contain myricetin, quercetin, kaempferol, and flavonols in small amounts. Antioxidants protect cells from oxidative damage of free radicals and are believed to have cardio and hepatic protective, anti-carcinogenic, antihypertensive, and neuron protective effects.
The use of chia oil has been shown to significantly improve skin hydration and also cure other skin diseases.
Consumption of chia seeds has a satiety effect and thus may help in reducing body weight.
Consumption of chia seeds:
Traditionally chia seeds are consumed after soaking in water. The seeds absorb 10 times their weight of water. Chia seeds can be consumed by combining with other foods as follows:
- Fruit juices
- Protein shakes
- Toppings in oatmeal, yogurt, salad, and porridge with chia seeds.
- Chia pudding
- Breakfast bars and cookies
- Rahman Ullah et al., (2016). Nutritional and therapeutic perspectives of Chia (Salvia hispanica): A Review. Journal of food science and technology. 53 (4), 1750-1758
- Katarzyna Marcinek and Zbigniew Krejpcio (2017). Chia Seeds (Salvia hispanica): Health promoting properties and therapeutic applications – A review. Roczniki Panstwowego Zakladu Higieny. 68 (2), 123-129.
- P Prathyusha et al., (2019). Chia seeds for nutritional security. Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry. 8 (3), 2702-2707.
- Kulczyński B, Kobus-Cisowska J, Taczanowski M, Kmiecik D, Gramza-Michałowska A. The Chemical Composition and Nutritional Value of Chia Seeds-Current State of Knowledge. Nutrients. 2019 May 31;11(6):1242.
- Grancieri, M., Martino, H.S.D. and Gonzalez de Mejia, E. (2019), Chia Seed (Salvia hispanica) as a Source of Proteins and Bioactive Peptides with Health Benefits: A Review. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 18: 480-499.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chia_seed