The Benefits of Black and White Chia Seeds: Another key ingredient to longevity and the fountain of youth
Copyright 2012 - Kris Heeter, Ph.D.
The first thought that comes to mind when one hears "chia" here in the United States are “Chia Pets” ™ – and if you are old enough, you may remember that quirky little “ch-ch-chi-chia” jingle that went with those Chia Pet commercials!
Chia Pets were very popular in the 70’s and 80's. They were sold as molded figures that had embedded chia seeds. When the “pet” was watered it grew into a decorative living statue for any room or office.
Who knew that you could eat your Chia Pet too?
Chia has come along way since those pop culture “pet” days.
Chia sprouts are edible and the seeds have recently started to make their way into mainstream U.S. food culture.
Chia seeds come from the species Salvia hispanica, a member of the flowering mint family.
The seeds are very tiny and come in a variety of colors. The most popular variety is black, but white is fairly common and there are various shades of brown and speckled.
The color difference is based on the plant variety within the species.
The use of chia seeds dates back to the Aztecs of Mexico and the Indians of the Southwest of America. These tiny seeds were a part of their staple diet and often used as currency.
History has it that Aztec warriors ate a small handful of chia seeds to give them high energy during a conquest.
Are black chia seeds nutritional identical to white chia seeds?
In many respects, the answer is yes.
However, a recent report from the Nutritional Science Research Institute indicates that black chia seeds contain 12%-15% more antioxidants that the white seeds.
The more abundant antioxidants in chia are: quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin, chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid.
Quercetin is considered to be one of chia's most powerful antioxidants and it has been shown to significantly boost energy and endurance. Quercetin has specifically been shown to increase the supply of energy to brain and muscle cells.
Quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin are antioxidants that are thought to protect against heart disease, cerbrovascular disease, several different cancers (e.g., lung and prostate), Type 2 diabetes, and asthma.
Chlorogenic acid has also been found have anti-cancer properties.
Are chia seeds really an energizing "fountain of youth" that promote longevity and anti-aging?
While it’s been believed for centuries that the seeds have energizing effects, it’s only been recently that the factors that give an energizing effect have been unraveled.
New research places chia seeds as a superfood that can have positive effects on health. Many argue that chia seeds can promote longevity through what is believed to be their anti-aging nutritional properties.
One source of energy comes from the fact that chia seeds are 20% protein. The other energy source is related to the high antioxidant content.
The seeds contain a wide variety of antioxidants that can be easily absorbed when eaten. (Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds do not need to be ground up to release their nutrients and antioxidants.)
Antioxidants in recent years have been strongly correlated with anti-aging and cancer prevention. Recent research suggests that some classes antioxidants have properties can prevent the oxidation of cells.
6 Additional Benefits of Chia Seeds
1. Promotes Heart Health
The seeds contain very high amounts of essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6). These fatty acids are linked to lowering blood pressure.
2. Stabilizes Blood Sugar
The soluble fiber in chia seeds help stabilize blood glucose levels.
3. Anti-Inflammatory Effects and Pain Relief
The high concentration of omega-3 helps to lubricate joints. This class of essential fatty acids can be converted into prostaglandins that are known to have anti-inflammatory effects.
4. Increased Metabolism
The essential fatty acids in these seeds can help to boost metabolism and promote lean muscle mass. Lean muscle and a higher metabolism can lead to weight loss with proper diet and exercise.
The fiber from the seeds helps absorb toxins and helps facilitate elimination from the body.
6. Improved Memory and Concentration
Research has shown that essential fatty acids can make cell membranes more flexible. This allows nutrients to become more readily available to the cells. In the brain, this translates to keeping the nerve cells healthy and allows for signals to transmit easily. This can increase memory and concentration.
Chocolatae Chia Pudding
Ways to Use Chia Seeds
Chia seeds can be used a variety of ways:
- On salads
- Used in smoothies
- Ground and made into a paste or dip for crackers and veggies
- Baked in breads
- Added as a garnish to soups
- Roasted on top of poultry
- Mixed with granola and yogurt
- Used to make puddings
- Used as an oil or butter substitute
The nutritional study done by the National Science Research Institute: http://www.nsrinews.com/nsriChia_research.html
Chia Seed as a Source of Oil, Polysaccharide, and Protein. Journal of Food Science. Volume 46, Issue 5, pages 1349–1350. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2621.1981.tb04171.x