The deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids is one of the main nutritional deficiencies currently affecting the population of industrialized countries. Dietary sources of these fats are very rare. Native to Central America, chia seeds are a simple and effective way to increase your intake of these essential fats.
Chia (Salvia hispanica) is a plant of the sage family (Lamiaceae) native to central Mexico. Chia seeds were especially appreciated by the Mayans and Aztecs and occupied a very important place in their diet, just like 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 3 galore
From a nutritional point of view, chia seeds are really a class of their own: they contain a large amount of fiber (25% of their weight), a large number of minerals (calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, etc.), vitamins and many anti-phytochemicals for oxidation. However, one of the most interesting properties of chia seeds is their exceptional content of linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. At least 64% of the oils in the seeds are omega-3! This high content is important because our cells use linolenic acid 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 the heart rhythm or by acting as powerful anti-inflammatory molecules, long-chain omega-3 acids are absolutely essential for maintaining health.
Anti-inflammatory and protective seeds
However, these benefits are not only related to long-chain omega-3s: several studies have shown that short-chain omega-3s such as linolenic acid also have dramatic anti-inflammatory effects and are thus an essential aspect of chronic disease prevention.
There are still few studies that have looked at the effect of chia seeds on chronic diseases, but the results obtained are very exciting. For example, researchers at the University of Toronto noted that adding chia to a diabetic’s diet for three months caused a significant decrease (40%) in certain markers of inflammation as well as a significant reduction in blood pressure.
How to consume chia seeds
Since these two aspects are known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, these reductions suggest that supplementing with chia is a simple and effective way to reduce the risk of these diseases. It is very easy to reap the benefits associated with chia seeds which, unlike flaxseeds, do not need to be ground for absorption in the digestive system. You can add these seeds to your morning cereal or salads, or sprinkle them on your snacks. Another way to consume chia is in the form of “chia fresca”, a very popular drink in Mexico and Central America: mix 2 teaspoons of the seeds in a glass of water (which causes a slightly gelatinous liquid), add a little lemon and enjoy. A great healthy drink for the summer!
Vuksan et al. Supplementing conventional therapy with new Salba beans (Salvia hispanica L.) improves major and emerging risk factors for cardiovascular disease in type 2 diabetes care. 30:2804-2810.
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