Why And How To Use Chia Seeds In A Smoothie
Chia seeds are seeds from a flowering plant called salvia hispanica. This plant is part of the mint family, Lamiaceae. The chia plant is native to Central America, around the Guatemala and Southern Mexico area. Chia seeds have been harvested and used by American Indians well before European contact. Today the chia seed continues to be valued for its high nutritional values and its use has spread well beyond Central America.
One of the easiest and best ways to get the full nutritional value of the chia seed is to add it to a smoothie. Find out why you should be eating chia seeds and how to add them to your favorite smoothie recipes.
The chia plant is native to Central America. American Indians valued its high nutritional value. They consumed chia seeds whole or ground up into a floury meal. Chia seeds were valued so much that they were one of the main parts of the economic system of the Aztecs. Some historians believe that chia seeds were as important as maize was to the Aztecs. To this day the people of Guatemala and Mexico use chia seeds as part of their diet.
Chia seeds continue to be cultivated in the Americas and as far away as Australia.
Chia Seed Nutrition
Chia seeds are a superfood packed with dense nutritional value. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, the word “chia” comes from an Aztec word meaning “oily”.
Along with these healthy amino acids Chia seeds are a great source of thiamine (vitamin B1). Thiamine is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system.
Chia seeds are also an excellent source of niacin. Niacin, also known as nicotinic acid, is part of the vitamin B3 complex. Niacin is used to help treat high blood cholesterol, pellagra, and pandemic deficiency disease. A lack of niacin in the diet can cause nausea, skin and mouth lesions, anemia, headaches, and tiredness. This is just one of the many essential nutrients found in chia seeds. Without these essential nutrients, our bodies would become sick.
Chia seeds also contain good amounts riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc.
Chia seeds have a high amount of protein and fiber, and do not contain any cholesterol. The lack of cholesterol, along with the high amount of nicotinic acid makes this a great food for someone who has high cholesterol.
Finally, it is important to mention that chia seeds are a good source of lasting energy. They contain a great ratio of proteins, fats and carbs. Legend has it that Aztec runners would eat a spoonful of chia seeds and that would give them enough energy to run all day.
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Chia Seeds and Weight Loss
Chia seeds are often marketed as a weight loss tool. As you know, weight loss has to do with calories and not what specific foods you eat. So adding chia seeds to an existing diet will not help you lose weight.
However, because they have a relatively high content of healthy fats and fiber, chia seeds can be used to help create a healthy weight loss diet.
Fats and fiber make us feel more full than protein of carbohydrates do.
Fats are more filling. Chia seeds can help us feel more full even though we consumed less calories. In this way chia seeds act as a natural hunger suppressor, making it easier to eat less. So in that sense, yes, chia seeds can help you lose weight.
Chia seeds, like most plant foods are high in fiber. Dietary fiber is really important for our health, but it is not directly consumed by us. Fiber helps you feel full without adding additional calories to your diet.
This does not mean that those of us who want to gain weight should avoid chia seeds. Just be mindful, that fatty foods like seeds, nuts, etc. are going to make you feel more full than other types of foods.
Adding Chia Seeds To A Smoothie
Chia seeds are relatively flavorless, so you can add a tablespoon to most smoothie recipes and it will not alter the taste of the smoothie very much. This means you can add them to just about any recipe you enjoy.
I recommend using no more than a tablespoon per one cup of smoothie. Otherwise the texture of your smoothie might change to be too thick.
The form that your chia seeds come in does not really matter. You can use a chia seed gel, whole chia seeds or a chia seed powder. Personally I use a chia seed powder, because then I do not get little pieces of seed in my smoothie. It just blends right into the other ingredients for a smoother texture.
If you want to add more nutritional value to your smoothies, get some chia seed meal and just add it into your blender. I always add my chia seed powder last. That way it never gets stuck at the bottom of the blender.
Chia Seeds Versus Flaxseed
Both seeds are rich in omega fatty acids. Both are a decent source of protein. The nutritional make up of each of these is fairly similar.
Chia seeds tend to last longer. So if you notice that your flax seeds begin to go bad before you can use them, try out chia seeds instead.
Another positive of chia seeds is that you do not need to grind them up in the same way you do flaxseed. Flax seeds are consumed as a floury meal, while chia seeds can be eaten whole.
One negative of chia seeds is that they tend to be more expensive than flaxseed.