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Chia seeds: Superfood or just another diet fad?

Gabriella Cindy and Jasmine Harumi Sabini
Gabriella Cindy and Jasmine Harumi Sabini

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Jakarta | Wed, April 4, 2018 | 04:37 pm
Chia seeds: Superfood or just another diet fad?

There is extreme hype about chia seeds these days. (Shutterstock/File)

There is extreme hype about chia seeds, despite the fact that they have long been part of the Aztec and Mayan diets. Many still question the superiority of these small, crunchy seeds with a mild nutty flavor. Indigenous to Mexico, these nutrient-rich seeds have intrigued superfood seekers.

So, what makes these tiny black seeds so special that they are being labeled as a superfood?

Chia seeds are considered a superfood as they contain beneficial key nutrients. The good nutrients are believed to have these effects:

  1. Help skin repair

Researchers previously reported that antioxidant activity in chia seeds, mainly quercetin, myricetin, kaempferol, and also vitamin A, can stop up to 70 percent of free radical activity, which could help accelerate skin repair and inhibit further damage. Other than that, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), their high amount of vitamin E will slow down aging the aging of skin cells.

  1. Promote digestive health and help treat diabetes

The high content of dietary fiber (10.6 grams per ounce) in chia seeds benefit healthy stool and bowel regularity. Fiber is also crucial for the body to balance insulin levels. Chia seeds create a gelatin-like substance in the stomach that slows digestion and keep natural blood sugar in good balance.

  1. Improve heart condition

Chia is high in healthy fats, namely omega-3s and omega-6, which protect the heart by lowering bad cholesterol, blood pressure and reducing inflammation. 

  1. Boost the metabolism and lose weight

Consuming chia seeds can help speed up your metabolism as it is high in vitamin B. Other than that, their high content of omega-6 helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Chia seeds are also capable of burning belly fat since they reduce visceral adipose tissue, which is the component of obesity.

  1. Maintain bone strength and dental health

An ounce of chia seeds has 18 percent of the daily recommendation of calcium intake. Calcium is essential to maintain bone mass and strength. Moreover, calcium is the building block of teeth and decisive for tooth health. With the help of vitamin D in chia seed, calcium is capable of being absorbed by the body. Boron in chia is also a fundamental nutrient that helps metabolize calcium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus for the growth of bones, muscles, and strong teeth.

Looking at their many health benefits, high amount of nutrients from chia seeds are not mostly readily available for digestion. So what is the right way to consume them? The best way to ingress their vitamins and minerals is either to grind or soak them. Soaking them will result in gelatinous blobs. By doing this, it releases the enzyme inhibitors which make them much easier to digest and access their packed nutrients inside the seeds. 

  • Soak: Mix them in a 1:10 chia to water ratio and wait 30 minutes. To prevent dehydration, it is better to soak them, as chia seed absorbs water even during digestion.
  • Ground: Pulverizing them in a coffee grinder will break down the hard outer shells and can be used in most gluten-free recipes such as bread, pancakes, muffins, and even pasta. Although, when grinding chia seeds, it’s important to reserve them in a sealed, glass container.

There are various chia seed recipes so all their wonderful benefits are accessible. From chia pudding to smoothies, yogurt bowl, baked goods, healthy bars, to sprinkles on top of a salad; there are various ways to enjoy the goodness of chia seeds.

Besides those impressive nutritional benefits mentioned above, chia seeds have some adverse effects. Consuming chia seeds will provide a high amount of fiber. Fiber itself plays a crucial role inside our body, such as maintaining the balance of good bacteria in the gut, helping the vital nutrients to pass through to be absorbed by our digestive system, and slow digestion.

However, consuming too much fiber may result in digestion problems, such as bloating and excessive gas in the tummy, diarrhea, constipation, and pain in your abdominal region. These problems can be avoided by drinking plenty amount of water to help the digestion of fiber easier. In addition, chia seeds have the gelling properties, absorbing a lot of water and swell up to 12 times of their weight. Therefore, we need to stay hydrated to avoid getting dehydration.

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Gabriella Cindy and Jasmine Harumi Sabini are students at the Indonesia International Institute for Life Sciences (i3L), majoring in biomedicine. Both writers are interested in exploring the health benefits of food nutrition at the molecular level, believing that sharing information about the health benefits of food may guide people to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

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