Grown and traded for centuries in Latin America, chia seed were an important source of energy in the Aztec on expeditions to hunt and barter.
Despite of their discovery , there is this several thousand years we have witnessed the growing popularity of chia seed .
Chia seed is a tiny seed of light or dark color, variable depending on its origin, and is derived from the plant Salvia hispanica L. The intensity of taste varies depending on the color, the darker seeds having a stronger taste. But what are the nutritional characteristics sought in such seed?
Omega-3 fatty acids
Chia seed is rich in omega-3 fatty acid. One tablespoon (15 ml) of these seeds provides 2.45 g of alpha-linolenic fatty acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 from plants. By cons, which is harder to find in our diet are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA), two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. These are the omega-3 fatty acids, not ALA, which help prevent heart disease and keep our brain healthy. Only a small amount of ALA can be converted in the body into EPA and DHA.
Does this mean there is no need to consume chia seed as a source of omega-3? No. We need omega-3 because our diet provides too much omega-6 fatty acids compared to total omega-3 fatty acids. But omega-3 plant origin must not be the only source of omega-3. fatty fish consumption twice a week is the best way to get EPA and DHA in sufficient quantities (ie 500 mg for the prevention of heart disease).
We must not forget that omega-3 fatty acids are fats. One tablespoon (15 ml) of chia seed contains a little less than 4 g of total fat, equivalent in quantity (not quality) of a pat of butter.
dietary fiber and other nutrients
The chia seed is an important source of fiber. One tablespoon (15 ml) of these seeds contains about as much fiber as two slices of whole wheat bread, 4 g. This seed is also known for its considerable content of calcium, iron and vitamin C.
Chia seed or flax?
The omega-3 fatty acids chia is comparable to that of flax, but chia is a little richer in fiber and antioxidants. By cons, flaxseed contains phytoestrogens (lignans) which are good for heart health. Also, flax remains a greener choice as it requires less transportation; production of chia seed are not made in Canada. The price of chia seed is between that of linseed and that of Salba.
Although not essential for good health, chia and flax seeds are valuable supplements to increase the fiber content and omega-3 vegetable to your diet. You choose according to your budget and your tastes!