The Marvelous Chia Seed
Chia, is familiar to most of us as a seed used for the novelty of the Chia Pet, clay animals with sprouted Chia seeds covering their bodies. Little is known, however, of the seeds tremendous nutritional value and medicinal properties.
For centuries this tiny little seed was used as a staple food by the Indians of the south west and Mexico. Known as the running food, its use as a high energy endurance food has been recorded as far back as the ancient Aztecs. It was said the Aztec warriors subsisted on the Chia seed during the conquests. The Indians of the south west would eat as little as a teaspoon full when going on a 24hr. forced march. Indians running from the Colorado River to the California coast to trade turquoise for seashells would only bring the Chia seed for their nourishment.
If you try mixing a spoonful of Chia in a glass of water and leaving it for approximately 30 minutes or so, when you return the glass will appear to contain not seeds or water, but an almost solid gelatin. This gel-forming reaction is due to the soluble fiber in the Chia. Research believe this same gel-forming phenomenon takes place in the stomach when food containing these gummy fibers, known as mucilages, are eaten. The gel that is formed in the stomach creates a physical barrier between carbohydrates and the digestive enzymes that break them down, thus slowing the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar.
In addition to the obvious benefits for diabetics, this slowing in the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar offers the ability for creating endurance. Carbohydrates are the fuel for energy in our bodies. Prolonging their conversion into sugar stabilizes metabolic changes, diminishing the surges of highs and lows creating a longer duration in their fueling effects.
As a source of protein, the Chia, after ingestion, is digested and absorbed very easily. This results in rapid transport to the tissue and utilization by the cells. This efficient assimilation makes the Chia very effective when rapid development of tissue takes place, primarily during growth periods if children and adolescents. Also for the growth and regeneration of tissue during pregnancy and lactation, and this would also include regeneration of muscle tissue for conditioning, athletes, weight lifters, etc.
Another unique quality of the Chia seed is its high oil content and the richest vegetables source for the essential omega-3 fatty acid. It has approximately three to ten times the oil concentrations of most grains and one and a half to two times the protein concentrations of other grains. These oils, unsaturated fatty acids, are the essential oils your body needs to help emulsify and absorb the fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, & K. Chia seeds are rich in the unsaturated fatty acid, linoleic, which the body cannot manufacture. When there are rich amounts of linoleic acid sufficiently supplied to the body trough diet, linoleic and arachidonic acids can be synthesized from linoleic acid.
The Chia seed is also a rich source of calcium as it contains the important mineral boron, which acts as catalyst for the absorption and utilization of the calcium by the body.
There are additional benefits from the Chia seed aside from the nutritive enhancements when used as an ingredient. It was also used by the Indians and missionaries as a poultice for gunshot wounds and other serious injuries. They would pack the wounds with Chia seeds to avoid infections and promote healing. If you place a seed or two in your eyes it will clean your eyes and will also help to clear up any infections. There is a wealth of benefits beyond the information outlined in this article and treasure-trove of benefits yet to be discovered. Chia seed, having a qualitatively unique situational richness along with a profound nutritive profile is one of man’s most useful and beneficial foods and is destined to be the Ancient Food of the Future.