Chia seeds are omega-3 rich, unprocessed, whole-grain food that can be absorbed by the body as seeds. These seeds are nutrient dense and pack a punch of energy boosting power. It enhances skin health, reduces signs of aging, and aids in building stronger bones and muscles.
Chia seeds can prevent premature skin aging due to inflammation free radical damage. The ability of this seed to reverse inflammation, regulate cholesterol and lower blood pressure makes it extremely beneficial to consume for heart health.
Chia Seeds: Black or White?
You must have seen Chia seeds in two colors: black and white. Both the colors contain similar amounts of nutrients like omega-3s, protein, and fiber, although the darker chia seeds may contain more antioxidants. Consuming a mix of the two colors is likely ideal.
How to Eat Chia Seeds
Chia seeds have a mild nutty taste and can easily be added to most dishes as a garnish. Still, chewing them generally doesn’t make the omega-3’s and other nutrients readily available for digestion and assimilation. Hence, the best way to access their vitamins and minerals is to either grind or soak them.
Raw vs. Soaking:
Few people prefer chewing dry chia seeds rather than soaking them in water. Chewing dry seeds won’t be harmful, but soaking them in water releases the “enzyme inhibitors” that are used to protect the seed. Benefits include:
- This makes it much easier to digest.
- Our body will access the dense nutrients inside the seeds.
It’s much better to get the most nutrition out of any food that you eat, hence soaking the chia seeds before adding them to any recipe is the preferable method.
Mix 1 part of chia seeds in 10 parts of water i.e. maintain a 1:10 ratio chia to water. Approximately 1.5 tablespoons these seeds in one cup of water. Then let them sit for about one to two hours.
Since chia seeds can hold up to 12 times its weight in water, they are wonderful to prevent dehydration. However, if you choose not to soak them, then they can also absorb water from you during digestion. So make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your body hydrated.
Another option is to grind chia seeds in a coffee grinder or Vitamix to break down the hard outer shell before eating them. When pulverized, chia seed flour can be used in most gluten-free recipes like pancakes, muffins, bread and even pasta. However, when grinding these omega-3 rich seeds, it is very important to store them in a sealed glass container in a refrigerator or freezer. Always consume plenty of water while having chia seeds.
There are very few reported side effects of chia seeds. There has been some conflicting research about the effect of these seeds on prostate cancer. A study done with ALA and prostate cancer showed that this fatty acid could increase the risk of prostate cancer, but this study was later shown to have some bias. And according to a recent study in 2010, ALA not only did not increase prostate cancer risk but actually decreased the risk in participants.
Few people may experience stomach discomfort when consuming chia seeds, especially in large amounts due to the high fiber content. As with any food, one should eat the seeds in moderation and always drink plenty of water unless soaking your seeds.
Case Study: Caution
If you have some trouble swallowing or you are having dysphagia, you should be cautious especially when consuming dry chia seeds. In a case study of a patient who swallowed a tablespoon of dry chia seeds with water, he experienced intense dysphagia. These seeds have the tendency to quickly form a gel-like ball that may partially block your esophagus, requiring some medical treatment to remove the blockage. These seeds when added to liquid, immediately begin to form a hydrogel capsule, absorbing up to 27 times their weight in water.
Patients on blood thinners should not take chia seeds.
Drink plenty of water while chewing Chia Seeds to avoid dehydration or soak them for approx. 1 – 2 hours in water before consuming them.