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Benefits of Chia Seeds and Basil or Sabja Seeds

About Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are the seeds of the plant Salvia hispanica. They are tiny and come in white, grey, brown, and black colors and have a mottled pattern.

Chia seeds were used by ancient Aztec and Mayan warriors during combat and by running messengers as an energy food. They have a very mild, nutty flavor and can be used whole or ground, added to yogurt, smoothies, soups, and juices. Sprinkle them on salads or bake into muffins. They can even be added to water, stirred a couple of times to break up the clumps, and consumed about 15 minutes later when they’ve turned into gel.

Chia Seeds and Basil Seeds

There is confusion about these two, very similar, seeds. Basil seeds are always black in color and they swell much faster in water.

Basil seeds belong to the sweet basil plant. In India theyare known as sabja seeds. Other names include tukhamaria, takmaria, and falooda.

In the video below, you can watch basil seeds turn into a gel in water in just a few minutes. Do watch it.

Watch Basil Seeds (Sabja) Form a Gel

A Great Source of Omega-3

Since chia seeds do not need to be ground into order to be metabolized, they are easier to use than flax seeds. Also, rancidity is not a problem with chia seeds, as they are more stable. They contain antioxidants that prevent spoilage and have a much longer shelf life than flax seeds. Just store them in a cool, dry place.

As a source of Omega-3 fatty acids, chia seeds are a great choice over flax seeds and other sources, including fish.

A two-month-old chia plant.
A two-month-old chia plant. | Source

Chia Plants

Chia belongs to the mint family and is native to central and southwest Mexico as well as Guatemala. Today, chia is grown commercially in Mexico, Argentina, Guatemala, Bolivia, Australia, and Ecuador, but Australia is the leading producer.

Benefits of Chia Seeds

  • Higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids than flax seeds.
  • Seeds have 20% protein, 34% dietary fiber, and high levels of antioxidants.
  • Gluten-free and low in sodium.
  • Long shelf life.
  • High in calcium and potassium.
  • Very hydrophilic in nature. They hold about 10 times their weight of water.
  • Easy to digest.
  • Inexpensive.
  • Versatile, with a very mild taste.

Nutrients In Chia Seeds (Source:USDA)

Nutrient
Unit
Value per 100g
1 oz / 228.35g
Water
g
5.8
1.64
Energy
kcal
486
138
Protein
g
16.54
4.69
Total Lipid (Fat)
g
30.74
8.71
Carbohydrate, by difference
g
42.12
11.94
Total Dietary Fiber
g
34.4
9.8

Minerals in Chia Seeds (Source:USDA)

Mineral
Unit
Value per 100.0g
1 oz/28.35g
Calcium, Ca
mg
631
179
Iron, Fe
mg
7.72
2.19
Magnesium, Mg
mg
335
95
Phosphorus, P
mg
860
244
Potassium, K
mg
407
115
Sodium, Na
mg
16
5
Zinc, Zn
mg
4.58
1.3

Vitamins in Chia Seeds (Source:USDA)

Vitamin
Unit
Value per 100.0g
1 oz/28.35g
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid
mg
1.6
0.5
Thiamin
mg
0.62
0.176
Riboflavin
mg
0.17
0.048
Niacin
mg
8.83
2.503
Vitamin B-12
micro mg
0
0
Vitamin A, IU
IU
54
15
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
mg
0.5
0.14

Lipids in Chia Seeds (Source:USDA)

Lipids
Unit
Value per 100.0g
1 oz/28.35g
Fatty acids, total saturated
g
3.33
0.944
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated
g
2.309
0.655
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated
g
23.665
6.709

Chia Seed Health Benefits

Cholesterol

Our bodies needs fat and healthy cholesterol in order to function properly. The high levels of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in chia seeds helps to lower the LDL and raise the HDL levels (the bad and good types of cholesterol). It is believed that the properties of Omega-3 fatty acids are almost on par with those of pharmaceutical statins that are prescribed for this purpose. Chia seeds contain long-chain trigycerides, which are large molecules that help to brush off the cholesterol deposits from the arterial walls.

The anti-inflammatory action of chia seeds keeps the blood vessels dilated, thus reducing risk of heart disease.

Diabetes

Chia seed coats contain soluble fiber that is different from flax seeds and oats. Chia seed coats are hydrophilic in nature, which means they can absorb water, almost 10 times their weight. The gel that forms creates a barrier in the digestive system between carbohydrates and digestive enzymes. This results in slower conversion of carbohydrates into sugar, which keeps blood sugar levels from spiking.

Weight Loss

Soluble fiber is also a form of roughage, which slows down digestion and leads to a long feeling of fullness, thus controlling hunger and overeating. This also helps avoid spikes and falls in blood sugar levels as the carbohydrates are absorbed slowly. Steady blood sugar levels keep hunger at bay for a longer period of time, and a slow release of nutrients helps maintain energy levels for a longer period.

All these factors together can help control overeating and lead to weight loss.

How To Use Chia Seeds in Smoothies

Runners and Athletes

Blood sugar level dips can cause of dizziness and reduced performance in athletes. Since the carbohydrates in chia seeds are absorbed and released slowly, blood sugar levels maintain a constant level over longer periods.

The gel also holds an enormous amount of water, keeping the body hydrated for longer. This moisture retention enables the body to absorb nutrients, while maintaining electrolyte balance.

All these qualities give competitive athletes an extra edge, increasing endurance.

Osteoporosis

Chia seeds are a very rich source of calcium, with three to six times the calcium found in milk. The presence of boron also helps the body to absorb and assimilate the calcium.

Sleep

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that process and transfer information from nerve cells to other cells. Balanced neurotransmitters and stable neurotransmitter receptor sites ensure good sleep. Factors like stress, faulty nutrition, lack of exercise, and consumption of stimulants like tea, coffee, alcohol, drugs can throw neurotransmitters off balance. Emotional factors, like anxiety and depression, are also a result of disturbed neurotransmitter levels.

The most important neurotransmitters for great sleep are dopamine, GABA, norepinephrine, and serotonin. When we exercise, these calming neurotransmitters are released.

Also, consuming 5 to 10 grams of protein from superfoods like chia seeds corrects neurotransmitter imbalance. Chia seeds contain tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin, melatonin, and dimethyltryptamine.

How Much Chia Seeds to Consume

For adults, mix two tablespoons (about 20 grams) of chia seeds in a glass of water, allow to stand for 20 minutes, and stir a couple of times to break the clumping of seeds. This gel will last all day.

For children, use one tablespoon chia seeds.

Precautions

Some people may exhibit some allergic reactions to chia seeds, especially those who are allergic to mustard or sesame seeds.

Other precautions to note include:

  • The formation of gel in the stomach feels uncomfortable.
  • Medication is absorbed more slowly, so those taking medications should keep this in mind.
  • Chia thins blood, so those on blood thinners also need to take this into account. Consult your doctor about using chia seeds.
  • Though no untoward effects have been noted in healthy people, pregnant and nursing mothers should check with their doctor about the safety of consuming chia seeds.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician or health care provider before taking any home remedies or supplements or starting a new health regimen.

References

Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture: Chia

MyChiaSeeds: The Nutrition Facts for Chia Seeds

National Library of Medicine: Chia (Salvia hispanica) — A Systematic Review…; C. Ulbricht, et al.; September 2009

American Dietetic Association: What Are Chia Seeds?

“British Journal of Nutrition”; Dietary Chia Seed (Salvia Hispanica L.) Rich in Alpha-Linolenic Acid Improves Adiposity and Normalises Hypertriacylglycerolaemia and Insulin Resistance in Dyslipaemic Rats; A.G. Chicco; 2009

University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids

American Heart Association: Polyunsaturated Fats

Mayo Clinic: Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet

Office of Dietary Supplements: Calcium

 

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