Chia Seeds

Chia Seeds
Food photo created by devmaryna –

Chia is a seed from South America used by the Mayans and the Aztec who, along with Native American Indians, all traditionally carried a small pouch of seeds and a gourd of water to allow them to run and hunt all day long.

All that’s perhaps a bit optimistic for me, but its ability to help prevent hunger could prove very useful!

If you’ve not tried Chia before, it’s suggested that you start with about a teaspoon either added to cereal or in juice for a couple of days, although there have been no recorded allergic responses. Then increase gradually to a to a tablespoon once or twice daily. Every time you eat chia, it’s advised that you have a glass of water as otherwise it could draw water from the body. It acts a bit like a bowl of soup, keeping the stomach feeling full for longer, and is also absorbed slowly. It helps to prevent hunger and keeps your blood sugar from dipping too much. Full of vitamins and minerals, chia contains an ideal balance of Essential Fatty Acids in the form of Omega 3 and Omega 6. Processed food tends to have an excess of Omega 6 and marine sources of EFA’s may contain heavy metals such as mercury, so are perhaps best not eaten to excess!

Chia can also use it in cooking, as when left in liquid it changes in texture and becomes a bit like jelly. Chia gel  is made using 1 part chia seeds to 8 parts water. The gel lasts in the fridge for up to a week and can be used in baking to replace up to 50% of the fat or eggs. Pancakes substituting chia gel for egg in the batter, and sponge cakes replacing half the fat and half the egg content with chia gel both work well. And you can make a ‘chelly’ jelly by leaving chia seeds in fruit juice – tastes great and looks less like frog spawn if fruit is chopped into it! It’s particularly good with breakfast cereal.

It absorbs up to 9 times its own weight In liquid and if you add fluid to it chia becomes a gel. This hygroscopic action is one of the ways it can help as one of the weight control methods, as it makes you feel full after you’ve eaten it. The gel can be used to thicken sauces or can replace up to 50% of the fat content in baking and some (or all) of the eggs in recipes. Perfect for vegans!

The other way chia can help as a weight control method is the high level of nutrients in the seed. The Omega fatty acid content is in an ideal balance of Omega 3 to 6, and helps lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol and maintain “good” HDL cholesterol. Chia also helps with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and the protein in chia is easily absorbed. It also has a wide range of vitamins and minerals in a natural balance and again, this may reduce appetite as the body doesn’t have to search in desperation through a whole box of doughnuts, convinced that if enough are eaten a vitamin might be found eventually…..

If you plan to try chia,the advice is to be cautious if you have allergies – try just a little and then increase gradually. As it can lower blood pressure, again the advice is that it needs to be eaten with caution. And it can thin the blood, so shouldn’t be eaten whilst taking any medication that does this. It would also be best avoided during pregnancy.

Chia is now used in the US and Australia where it’s eaten to improve nutrition and is believed to help with weight loss. However, in the EU it can only be used in bread making, to a concentration of 5%, and can’t be recommended for any other use.

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