Chia seeds characteristics

What are chia seeds?

Chia seeds are, as their name suggests, the seed of a plant called chia (Salvia hispanica L.). This plant belongs to the family of lamiaceae. It belongs to the same family of known spices such as mint and sage.

It is a plant native to tropical America and was part of the diet of the ancient Aztecs and Toltecs.

Chia seeds are oval shaped. They are very small, approximately 1.5 mm wide x 2 mm long. Its color is variable depending on the variety. They may be plain white, brown or black, or mottled with different colors ranging from dark brown to brown, cream, gray, black and white.

The word chia comes from the Nahuatl, the vernacular Aztec language, which means “oily.” In fact, this is one of the most striking qualities of chia, its content in essential fatty acids Omega 3.

More information on the botanical characteristics and composition of the chia seeds on the listing below

History of chia seeds

Chia seeds are native to Central America. They were consumed by indigenous people over 6,000 years ago. Archeological sites findings show that chia was grown in the Valley of Mexico Teotihuacan and Toltec civilizations before the Aztecs conquered the land, and between 1,500 BC and 900 B.C. chia seeds were a coin in Mexico.

Thanks to Florentinus Codex, written by Fray Bernardino de Sahagun, we know that chia was used as a whole seed and mixed with other foods. A refreshing beverage called “chia fresh water” was also made from it. People got oil from chia seed that served as base for paints and ointments used in the body and face.

However, as with the quinoa and amaranth, the arrival of Spanish colonizers banned the cultivation and consumption of chia because they considered it was part of pagan religious rituals.

Chia seedsPhoto of chia seeds

Importance of chia seeds nowadays

Chia is currently under investigation due to its high content of Omega 3. As a matter of fact, it is one of plant foods richer in essential fatty acids, and due to its great capacity to retain water because of the mucilage it contains.

We also study the introduction of this seed in the diet of farm animals to increase the Omega 3 content of eggs and dairy.


Chia Seeds

Chia seeds have a neutral taste that combines well with all kinds of foods and preparations, so that we should only dare to use it.

The most common way of using it is mixed in preparations such as fruit juices, yogurt, pastries and homemade ice cream.

Chia provides a crunchy contrast and has the property of thickening preparations with water, milk or other juices, due to the amount of mucilage which it contains.

The explorer Edward Palmer described, in 1871, the use of chia in the preparation of the drink “fresh water chia” by the indigenous population.

With just a daily tablespoon of chia seeds (10g), we are enriching our diet in omega 3, protein, fiber, calcium and folic acid.

cucharada chia

Main edible components of chia (10g)
Calories (Kcal)47,2
Carbohydrates (g)4,7
Proteins (g)1,6
Fat (g)2,6
Fiber (g)5
Vitamin B9 or folic acid (mcg)11,4
Calcium (mg)52,9
Sodium (mg)3,9

Chia Flour

Chia flour is obtained from the milling of chia seeds. The nutritional importance of this seed can be included in various formulations as breads, cakes, bars, drinks, sauces, etc..

Chia oil

Pressing of the seeds of chia produces chia oil, although it is unusual and its price is quite expensive. Like in chia seeds, chia oil is high in Omega-3.

Who is recommended to take chia seeds?

chia seeds

Photo of chia seeds

  • For the whole population. In a society where poor eating habits have led to a shortage of Omega 3 and acidifying diets low in fiber, chia seems to be the cornerstone of all these problems. Along with a balanced diet, chia plant provides a great amount of Omega 3. It also contains calcium and a high Percentage of fiber in its composition.
  • Pregnant women, to help control blood glucose, as an an extra intake of essential fatty acids Omega 3 and as a source of calcium, trace elements, vitamin B3 and folic acid.
  • Athletes, especially endurance athletes. Studies show that the capacity of chia to regulate sugar levels improves slow absorption being very useful for a long sporting day, improving athletic performance.
  • People with constipation: chia contains lots of fiber that regulate the bowel movement and is indicated for the prevention and treatment of constipation.
  • Diabetes. Chia has a large amount of soluble fiber that, along with a proper diet for diabetes, can help regulate the absorption of sugars and, thereby, improve diabetic controls outcome.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Chia, along with flax and walnuts, is one of the foods with more omega3 content in the world. This essential fatty acid has a major role in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension.
  • Menopause: chia helps regulate the absorption of sugars, helping to control weight loss. It is also a rich source of calcium and essential fatty acids.
  • Obesity: besides the already mentioned benefits on cardiovascular disease and glycemic control, the fiber of chia brings satiety, needing less food intake.

Dose of chia: how much to take?

  • Constipation: to benefit from the regulatory effects of this seed, it is recommended to take 2 to 4 teaspoons daily for 1 week, along with a glass of water. Once the intestinal transit normalized, we recommend keeping a supply of 12 teaspoons daily.
  • It should be noted that against constipation it is also important a proper hydration, lactic bacteria (that came from yogurt), a diet with abundant vegetables and fruits rich in whole grains and legumes. Additionally, walking helps to activate the intestinal transit. (See more information about diet for constipation)
  • Obesity: taking 1 teaspoon with a glass of water 30 minutes before each meal, three times a day, provokes the fiber present in the seed to be hydrated and multiplies its volume in the stomach. This will have a feeling of fullness and satisfaction, which will lead to eat less amount of food. Furthermore, the carbohydrates of food will be absorbed slowly preventing fresh desire to appear after eating. If, in addition, we accompany this remedy with a low fat diet, weight loss may be greater.
  • Hypertension: We recommend adding 2 teaspoons two to three times a day on dishes or with yogurt or in a glass of water before each meal. The importance of these seeds on cardiovascular health rests on their property to provide satiety (helping to maintain weight), their contribution in Omega 3 and its contribution to antioxidant minerals.
  • Diabetes: To control diabetes chia exerts its action through fiber. This fiber makes the sugars and starches from food to be absorbed more slowly, but we must take care of proper diet for diabetes. Add 1 teaspoon of chia on your salad, fruit, and along with legumes or cereals. This will help absorb sugars from food more slowly.

Where to buy chia seeds

They can be bought in the following premises:

  • Shops and ecological health food stores. Chia is still a novel food in many countries, so it is sold in specialty stores. Even sometimes we have to order them, as they are not well known in some regions.
  • In common stores and markets, especially in countries where it is part of the regular diet: Mexico, Peru, Bolivia.
  • On line, Internet is becoming the most practical choice when we do not find what we seek in the usual outlets.


Preserving chia seeds

Chia seeds should be stored in an airtight container, preferably glass, and stored in a dark, cool and dry place to prevent degradation. Well preserved, they are kept in top condition for a year.

punto rojoMore information about chia.

This article was endorsed by Elisenda Carballido - Dietitian nutritionist. Postgraduate in Phytotherapy and master in Nutrition and Metabolism.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

11 March, 2021

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