Introduction to Chia Seeds:
While most of us are familiar with chia from the popular novelty gifts that have been sold for decades, few know that these little seeds are actually quite healthy for you. Chia is a food that is naturally rich in omega 3 fatty acids, and has become nothing short of a craze in the health food market in recent years. These non-descript little seeds date back as far as the ancient Aztecs, and were in high use by the Indians of Mexico and the south west.
Chia was used as an endurance food because of the high energy they offered, which gave them the nickname, the running food. It was said the Indians would consume small amounts of chia, such as a teaspoon full, before starting on a forced march lasting up to 24hrs. Chia was once grown all across southern and central mexico up until the sixteenth century. After the Spanish conquest, the Spaniards believed that chia was part of the pagan religion and therefore banned the crop from production. In recent decades however, Latin America has since started growing chia again for commercial sale.
The Science Behind Chia Seeds:
The science behind these little seeds is rather intriguing. If you place a small spoonful of chia into a glass of water, in roughly 30 minutes you will return to find a form of gelatin in the glass. This effect is caused by the rich soluble fiber that the seeds contain. Research suggests that this same reaction takes place in the stomach. This gel then creates a barrier between the stomach acids and the carbohydrates, which slows down their conversion into sugar. It’s this slowing process that is attributed to the increased endurance effects that are offered. Since carbohydrates fuel our energy, slowing down the conversion reduces the highs and lows that are typically experienced, adding a much longer duration to their effects.
Another amazing quality of chia lies in its ability to absorb over twelve times its own weight in water. This exceptional quality offers the human body the ability to prolong its hydration over a period of time. By regulating your body’s moisture retention, the body is able to maintain a much better balance of electrolytes. Chia is digested and absorbed into the bloodstream rather easily, resulting in a rapid utilization by cells and tissue.
Health Benefits of Chia Seeds:
Chia is also said to contain anywhere from three to ten times the amount of oil concentrations that most grains have. Unsaturated fatty acids are used by the body to digest and absorb vitamins such as A, D, E & K. These fatty acids also promote better organ respiration and allow easy transport of oxygen through the blood stream.
Chia seeds can be stored for very long periods of time without spoiling, nor does it require grinding like flax seed. While there are only a few formal studies pertaining to the benefits of chia, researchers in Toronto did an early study where they gave twenty one diabetics a chia supplement, or other similar grains, and found that after three months the patients’ blood pressure measurably dropped while maintaining a steady blood pressure. Always consult your doctor before starting or changing a diet based on information you’ve found.
Novelty Gifts with Chia Seeds:
Chia Pets: Chia is also the basis for the wildly popular novelty item, the Chia Pet. Chia pets have been around since the early eighties and since their introduction have been produced in a wide range of shapes and figures. The first Chia Pet was sold in the shape of a ram that used the chia to grow fur. The way they work is the portion that is “growable” is etched with many small grooves. As you’ve learned above, chia seeds will form a type of gelatin when soaked in water; it’s this gelatin that allows the seeds to stick to the surface of the pottery. Chia pets are now produced and sold in all kinds of variations to suit your fancy. From cartoon characters to farm animals, if you are looking for a great novelty gift for a friend or even yourself, you are almost certain to find a style that will fit the person. There’s even a chia pet of Barack Obama!
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