Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency is one of the main nutritional deficiencies currently affecting residents of developed countries. Dietary sources of these fats are fairly rare. Chia seeds, native to Central America, 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 particularly valued by the Mayas and Aztecs and occupied a very important place in their diet, along with corn or beans. According to the Aztec writings that have come down to us, chia seeds were the food of choice for warriors and were even used for economic and religious purposes.
Chia seeds: Omega-3 fatty acids galore
From a nutritional point of view, chia seeds are really in a class of their own: they contain a large amount of fiber (25% of their weight), a large number of minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, etc.), vitamins and several antioxidant phytochemicals. However, one of the most interesting properties of chia seeds is their exceptional content of linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid: no less than 64% of the oils contained in the seeds are omega-3 fatty acids! This high level is important because linolenic acid is used by our cells to make EPA and DHA, long-chain omega-3 acids that play many essential roles in the proper functioning of our body. Whether it’s promoting better communication between brain cells, regulating heart rhythms, or acting as powerful anti-inflammatory molecules, these long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are absolutely essential to maintaining good health.
Anti-inflammatory and protective seeds
These benefits aren’t just associated with long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, however: several studies have shown that short-chain omega-3 fatty acids, such as linolenic acid, also have dramatic anti-inflammatory effects and are therefore an essential aspect of chronic disease prevention.
There are still few studies that have looked at the effects of chia seeds on chronic diseases, but the results obtained are extremely interesting. For example, researchers at the University of Toronto observed that adding chia to the diet of people with diabetes over three months resulted in a significant decrease (40%) in certain inflammatory markers, as well as a significant reduction in blood pressure.
How to consume chia seeds
Since both of these aspects are known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, these reductions suggest that adding chia is a simple and effective way to reduce your risk of being affected by these diseases. It’s very easy to reap the benefits of chia seeds, which unlike flaxseeds, don’t need to be ground to be absorbed by your digestive tract. You can add these seeds to cereal and salads in the morning, or sprinkle them on your snacks. Another way to consume chia is in the form of “Chia Fresca”, a drink very popular in Mexico and Central America: Mix two teaspoons of seeds in a cup of water (making a slightly gelatinous liquid), add a little lemon and enjoy. A great summer health drink!
Vuksan et al.: The addition of the novel salba grain (Salvia hispanica L.) to conventional therapy improves the most important and emerging cardiovascular risk factors in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. 30: 2804-2810.
* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace the advice of a doctor.
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