Chia seeds are a complete source of protein, providing all the essential amino acids in an easily digestible form. They are also a fabulous source of soluble fibre. Like flax, chia is highly 'hydrophilic' - the seeds absorb water and create a mucilaginous gel. They can hold 9-12 times their weight in water and they absorb it very rapidly - in under 10 minutes. One advantage of chia is that because it has such a high antioxidant content, the seeds stay stable for much longer, whereas flax, for example, may turn rancid. Chia seeds can easily be stored dry for 4-5 years without deterioration in flavour, odour or nutritional value. You can substitute chia in any recipe that calls for flax.
The taste of chia is very mild and pleasant. That means you can easily combine it with other foods without changing the taste dramatically. People add chia to their sauces, bread batters, puddings, smoothies and more. The flavour is retained, plus masses more nutrition is added. Chia has been called a dieter's dream food because when added to foods, it bulks them up, displacing calories and fat without diluting the flavour. Thus, someone can eat a typical serving, yet only consume about half the calories they might have eaten, because the food has been bulked up with chia. PLUS, the eater gets a bellyful of nutrient-rich superfood goodness, which hydrates and sustains them.
Chia slows the impact of sugars on the system, if eaten together. Chia gel creates a physical barrier between carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down, which slows the conversion of carbs into sugar. That means the energy from the food is released steadily, resulting in more endurance. This is clearly of great benefit to diabetics in particular. It also means that you can combine chia with super-sweet tastes like apple juice and not get super-spiked. Due to the exceptional water-absorption quality of chia, it can help you prolong hydration and retain electrolytes, especially during exertion. Whole, water-soaked chia seeds are easily digested and absorbed. Their tiny dinosaur-egg-like shells break down quickly. They feel light in the body, yet energising. Their nutrients can be quickly assimilated into the body. Chia seeds bulk up, then work like an incredible digestive broom, sweeping through your intestinal tract, helping to dislodge and eliminate old accumulated waste in the intestines. Many people find their stools also become more regular once they eat chia.
Chia seed protein contains no gluten. This makes it ideal for anyone with a gluten sensitivity or simply wanting to find a replacement for gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, rye and oats.
Chia has been reported to be beneficial for a vast range of medical issues including, weight loss/balance, thyroid conditions, hypo-glycaemia, diabetes, IBS, celiac disease, acid reflux and lowering cholesterol. In the traditional cultures that consumed chia, like the Aztecs, chia was also regarded as a medicine. It was used in myriad ways - from cleaning the eyes to helping heal wounds, topically, to relieving joint pain and so on. It was considered extremely valuable for healing.
Chia can be used therapeutically to manage acid reflux. Because of the highly absorbent properties of chia, you can swallow a Tbsp of dry seeds with just a little water and they go into your stomach and absorb the excess acid. Make sure to drink a glass of water a few minutes later, as the seeds are so hydrophilic that if they do not find enough to absorb in the stomach, they will draw from the tissues instead. By allowing the seeds to first absorb the acid, then drinking some more water, you are able to very simply, effectively and cheaply manage acid reflux.
Chia aids rapid development of tissue, due to its incredible nutrient profile and easy assimilation. It can be very beneficial for those healing from injuries, people like bodybuilders who are always re-forming tissues and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
TS of stem of chia, Salvia hispanica, showing region of cortical parenchyma, phloem fibres, xylem and pith parenchyma. Cycling images of Calcofluor staining, red wavelength autofluorescence, LM10-FITC labelling of xylan in secondary cell walls and in scattered parenchyma cell walls