Body & Soul

Chia, the superfood that helps you inside and out

Marta Burgues

With elements like fiber, antioxidants, Omega 3s, calcium and protein, chia has become a food which you can't exclude from your diet.

Versatile, nutritional, with several minerals, vitamins and benefits. Let’s talk about chia, the superfood that is making waves around the world: from New York to Los Angeles, to Paris and London.

Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber and antioxidants — most notably, Omega 3 fatty acids, which are beneficial to the heart. This is one a favorite supplements for celebrities and those seeking to live a healthy lifestyle. If you don’t already know why it’s good for you, we are here to fill you in.

Banana Chia Seeds Smoothie Blueberry Pomegranate

Chia, also known as chan or salvia hispanica, is a  flowery plant from the Lamiaceae family. Related to mint, it traces its origins to central and southern Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. For thousands of years, chia served as a staple food for the Maya and Aztec civilizations, to the extent that the word itself means strength — perhaps why it’s been dubbed a superfood. Now, thanks to its popularity, it is found in the trendiest restaurants around the world.

Magda Carlas, doctor in medicine and surgery, master of nutrition and nutritional sciences, tells azuerazure that chia, in addition to being a pioneer of healthful foods, is in vogue. “First, healthy eating is popular in general. It’s in everyone’s best interest to know what we are consuming and how it can benefit us. But also, there’s a search for a sort of ‘miracle food’ that will help us fix our health problems. What’s true is that chia, like many other foods, is a seed with a lot of virtues.”

Surprising Benefits 

Chia seeds contain about 40% carbohydrates. Of these, 30% is insoluble fiber, 3% is soluble fiber, and the rest is composed of essential starches.

When it comes to maintaining one’s figure or starting a diet, chia is a wonderful option. A major component of its carbohydrates are fiber, a unique and distinctive feature: 100g of chia contains 34.4g of fiber. Conversely, one can consume 100g of fiber in only 290g of chia seeds.

“One of the problems with Western diets is that fiber intake is insufficient. Fiber is not only useful to invigorate the intestines — it has many other physiological benefits” explains Dr. Carlas. “Among these, for example, is that it can regulate glucose and cholesterol levels.”

Fiber also helps control hunger, ensures that the digestive process functions properly, and helps in feeling satiated. Reaching one’s goal weight thus becomes a more manageable task.

Vitamins and minerals 

To be better prepared for everyday life, one must consume the vitamins and minerals that will best provide an extra boost in energy. Chia seeds have two times more protein than other seeds, five times more calcium than whole milk, two times more potassium than bananas, three times more antioxidants than blueberries, three times more iron than spinach, more protein than vegetables, twice the fiber of oatmeal, and seven times more Omega 3 than salmon. If that weren’t enough, “Let’s not forget the calcium, zinc, vitamin B1, and more,” adds Dr. Carlas.

The levels of stress caused by modern life are not healthy. With the goal of protecting heart health, one should consume foods that are rich in healthy Omega 3s. Chia, as mentioned, has these in spades. The fatty acid is important for regulating the central nervous system.

“As we can see, at a nutritional level, it’s recommended. Including chia daily would be a good complement to our diets. But, always remember that eating it won’t make miracles happen,” Dr. Carlas is sure to stress. Eating chia should be combined with a healthy diet and daily exercise.

A study published by the British Journal of Nutrition found that consuming this type of seed can reduce triglycerides and increase good cholesterol.

The virtues of antioxidants 

Thanks to its vitamin C content, chia is also packed with antioxidants, useful in defending against free radicals and infections. At the same time, they prevent celular oxidation, stalling aging.

The New York Times explains that chia could be one of the reason that the Raramuris, an indigenous tribe native to Chihuahua, Mexico famous for their long-distance running ability, are able to do so. Chia is excellent at preventing dehydration: “It absorbs thirty times its weight in water, and can provide slow release hydration to the human body, especially during long periods of physical activity in humid or hot conditions.”

The seeds are also high in energy, and according to one study done by the University of Alabama, they are a viable option for better athletic performance when tested for periods of greater than 90 minutes.

Dr. Carlas explains that chia, in general, will benefit all sorts of people, but even more so for those that have cardiovascular or intestinal issues. “If taken in moderate doses, there are no associated risks, unless the individual has some sort of specific pathology or intolerance to chia.” ■

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