The lack of omega-3 fatty acids is one of the main nutritional deficiencies currently affecting the inhabitants of industrialized countries. Dietary sources of these fats are quite rare. Chia seeds, native to Central America, are a simple and effective way to increase the intake of these essential fats.
Chia (Salvia hispanica) is a plant from the sage family (Lamiaceae) native to central Mexico. Chia seeds were particularly appreciated by the Mayans and the Aztecs and occupied a very important place in their diet, in the same way as corn or beans. According to the Aztec writings that have come down to us, chia seeds were the food par excellence for warriors and were even used for economic and religious purposes.
Chia seeds: omega-3s galore
From a nutritional point of view, chia seeds are really in a class of their own: they contain a large amount of fiber (25% of their weight), a large number of minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, etc.) , vitamins and several antioxidant phytochemicals. However, one of the most interesting properties of chia seeds is their exceptional content of linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid: no less than 64% of the oils contained in the seeds are omega-3s! This high content is important because linolenic acid is used by our cells to make EPA and DHA, long-chain omega-3 acids that play many essential roles in the proper functioning of our body. Whether by promoting better communication between brain cells, by regulating heart rhythm or by acting as powerful anti-inflammatory molecules, these long-chain omega-3s are absolutely essential for the maintenance of health.
Anti-inflammatory and protective seeds
However, these benefits are not only associated with long-chain omega-3s: several studies have shown that short-chain omega-3s like linolenic acid also have dramatic anti-inflammatory effects and are therefore an essential aspect of chronic disease prevention.
Studies that have looked at the impact of chia seeds on chronic diseases are still few, but the results obtained are extremely interesting. For example, researchers at the University of Toronto observed that adding chia to the diet of people with diabetes for three months caused a significant drop (40%) in certain markers of inflammation as well as a significant decrease blood pressure.
How to consume chia seeds
Since these two aspects represent well-known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, these reductions suggest that the addition of chia is a simple and effective way to reduce the risk of being affected by these diseases. It’s very easy to reap the benefits associated with chia seeds which, unlike flax seeds, don’t need to be ground to be absorbed by your digestive tract. You can add these seeds to morning cereals, salads, or sprinkle them on your snacks. Another way to consume chia is in the form of “chia fresca”, a drink very popular in Mexico and Central America: mix two teaspoons of seeds in a cup of water (which causes the formation of a liquid slightly gelatinous), add a little lemon and enjoy. A great health drink for the summer!
Vuksan et al. Supplementation of Conventional Therapy With the Novel Grain Salba (Salvia hispanica L.) Improves Major and Emerging Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Type 2 Diabetes Diabetes Care. 30: 2804-2810.