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Chia Seeds

September 2018

By Garry Messick

Native to southern Mexico and Central America, chia is a flowering plant that is part of the mint family.

Chia seeds are a popular food, particularly in the southwest U.S. and western areas of Mexico and South America.

Historical evidence shows the ancient Aztecs and the Mayans consumed chia seeds as a source of energy, and modern science has uncovered a number of other health benefits for this tasty snack.

Oxidant Reducer

With their high content of phenolic compounds, chia seeds are excellent free radical scavengers.1

Fiber Content

Almost all of the carbohydrate content of chia seeds consists of fiber,2 which is good for your digestive tract and helps lower cholesterol levels. The high-fiber content probably also accounts for why chia seeds are so filling and often sold as an aid to weight loss.

Lower Cardiovascular Risks

A study in the journal Diabetes Care found that chia seeds improved major and emerging cardiovascular risk factors in patients with type II diabetes.3

The study compared two groups of type II diabetics over a 12-week period. In addition to their normal treatments, one group was given wheat bran, the other chia seeds.

The scientists found that, compared with wheat bran, the chia seeds conferred benefits beyond what was expected from conventional therapy alone, including lower systolic blood pressure and lower C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation.

Energy Enhancer

Researchers have found that, just as the ancient Aztecs and Mayans believed, chia seeds work well as energy boosters.

A study comparing sports performance in strenuous events lasting 90 minutes found no statistical difference between subjects who consumed chia seeds and those who ingested typical high-carbohydrate energy drinks.4

The researchers suggested that substituting chia seeds in this manner could allow athletes to reduce their sugar intake.

References

  1. J Chromatogr A. 2014;1346:43-8.
  2. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/truth-about-chia. Accessed May 29, 2018.
  3. Diabetes Care. 2007;30(11):2804-10.
  4. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(1):61-5.
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