It gives you twice as much iron as lentils, up to five times more calcium than milk and twice as much omega 3 as salmon. What superfood are we talking about? Bingo, it’s chia seeds!
Chia seeds come from a plant in the mint family known as Salvia hispanica. You will probably be surprised to read that it is a plant of Mexican origin that has been used since 3500 BC, although its use became more common in the 1990s.
The word ‘chia’ is of Mayan origin and means ‘strength’. In fact, it is precisely the term that gives its name to the state of Chiapas, in Mexico.
Since the 90s, chia seeds have spread to every corner of the world, and despite their undisputed popularity, they remain largely unknown.
Surely you did not know that chia has twice as much fiber as oats, in addition to countless nutritional and medicinal benefits. This is the main reason why it has become a trendy superfood.
Do you know what benefits of this superfood the food industry is pursuing? What benefits can it provide in cosmetic formulations? How is it consumed? In this article, we’ll answer all your questions.
Nutritional composition of chia seeds
Any product obtained from chia seeds will be rich in Omega 3, 6 and 9, and will contain flavonoids, caffeic acid, vitamin E, zinc and also essential trace elements. It is a seed suitable for celiacs since it does not contain gluten and is known for its effectiveness in preventing degenerative diseases.
Main nutritional values of 100 grams of chia seeds:
- 17 grams of protein
- 34 grams of fiber
- 31 grams of fat
- 490 calories
It is also a rich source of minerals such as calcium or magnesium. Por si esto no fuera suficiente, las semillas de chía también aportan una infinidad de antioxidantes.
As if this were not enough, chia seeds also provide an infinite number of antioxidants. These help us stop premature aging by fighting free radicals. Flavonoids stand out for their high presence.
Therapeutic properties of chia
As we have mentioned before, chia seeds have many beneficial properties for our health. In fact, it is one of the largest vegetable sources of omega 3.
Salmon and other fish are often talked about as essential sources of omega 3, but did you know that chia seeds have almost twice the amount of unsaturated fat per 100 grams? In another article we will talk about quinoa, which is unquestionably the number one source with 8.35 grams of omega 3 per 100 grams.
- It regulates blood pressure and cholesterol due to its high omega 3 and fiber content.
- The type of fiber present in chia is soluble and known as mucilage. It presses the walls of the intestine and helps improve intestinal transit and treat constipation.
- By absorbing liquids, chia seeds multiply their size tenfold, making us feel full for longer. This means they are a good ally for weight loss.
- The phenols present in chia seeds help stop the activity of free radicals, repair muscle tissue, and prevent aging.
- We cannot forget that chia seeds are also a natural source of calcium and boron. Calcium helps us maintain bone structure and boron helps us metabolize calcium and other minerals, so together they are much more effective.
How are chia seeds consumed?
The recommended daily dose of chia seeds is about 20-25 grams, which would be equivalent to about 2 tablespoons. The most common way to consume this superfood is to soak the seeds so that they multiply in size and soften.
You may have read before that chia is one of the few seeds which can be consumed “raw”. In other words, it doesn’t need to be ground for consumption, but it does need to be soaked.
As mentioned earlier, these seeds multiply their size by ten when they absorb liquids and, in fact, they can absorb up to 27 times their weight in water. What would happen if we consumed these seeds without soaking? Nothing good!
If we consumed them raw, chia seeds would still also absorb liquids, but they would be the liquids that we had previously drunk. When this happens, the soaked seeds can obstruct the esophagus and, in some cases, even cause breathing difficulties.
If you like to consume chia, remember to let it soak for a minimum of 15 minutes, although our recommendation is to soak it for at least 2 hours. In fact, it is quite common to prepare it the day before eating it and keep it in the fridge until it is time to enjoy it.
Uses of chia seeds in the food industry
Chia seeds were considered a treasure by the Aztec people. They were used as food for human consumption or as an oily raw material for decorative paints and cosmetic products.
In fact, chia, along with other plants, was one of the few resources that those populations had in hand to deal with health diseases thanks to its nutritional and medicinal benefits.
Although it is now more common to consume chia seeds in their whole form after pre-soaking them, it is still frequent to grind the seeds. It is important to mention that the omega 3 of chia is better absorbed and assimilated if the seeds are ground or chewed correctly before consumption.
Beyond its great benefits for our health, the reality is that the food industry pursues chia for its gelatin.
When soaked for a couple hours, chia seeds develop a vegetable gelatin, something known as the gelling process. The soluble fibers present in chia absorb liquid and multiply its size.
Chia gel is very easily extracted and has great potential in the food industry. It is a perfect thickener that you can also use in your homemade sauces or jams, and it also acts as a stabilizer.
Its ability to retain water makes it a perfect emulsifier to add consistency to any dish, reducing caloric intake and fat content.
Within the frozen food industry, chia gel could be equated to guar gum and gelatin for its ability to freeze and thaw, and its use is becoming more widespread.
In the confectionery sector, it has been shown that chia gel can be an alternative to oil or egg whites, improving the nutritional properties of the final product without worsening the flavor in any way.
Uses of chia seeds in the cosmetics industry
The benefits of chia seeds also extend to the cosmetics industry. Just as this superfood is beneficial when ingested, it is also beneficial for our skin and hair.
- Omega 3 helps increase collagen production
- Its minerals and vitamins hydrate our skin
- Vitamin E is antioxidant and rejuvenating
- Fatty acids soothe the skin and reduce inflammation
- Linoleic acid is antiaging and firming
- Chia oil is perfect for atopic dermatitis and also helps to hydrate hair and prevent breakage