In "Fat Flush for Life," certified holistic nutritionist Ann Louis Gittleman, Ph.D., names chia seeds as one of the world’s most fiber-rich foods. Although relatively unknown in Europe, these seeds are a traditional food in Mexico and the southern regions of the United States. Often regarded as a "superfood," chia seeds provide several health benefits due in part to their fiber content.
Chia has a Native American history as a nutritious flavoring for soups and beverages, Phyllis Balch, a certified nutritional specialist, writes in "Prescription for Dietary Wellness." Aztec warriors also consumed these carbohydrate-rich, high-protein seeds to boost their energy, Balch notes. There are two chia varieties -- one native to California and the other to Mexico.
As one of the richest sources of soluble fiber, chia is an ideal supplement if you suffer from diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, Dr. Nicholas Perricone writes in “Forever Young.” The dietary fiber content is approximately 56.5 g per 100 grams of seeds -- 14.1 grams being soluble. Unlike dietary fiber from cereal grains, the soluble fiber content of chia seeds takes more time to travel through the intestinal tract, which helps add bulk to the stool and provides a slower rate of glucose absorption, Dr. Perricone notes. Men 50 and younger to consume 38 grams of fiber a day; women, 25 grams.
Chia seeds are an excellent natural source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3s is three to one, which is ideal in food, Dr. Perricone writes. A mere 3 tablespoons contains as much omega-3s as a 32-ounce piece of salmon. These seeds are approximately 20 percent protein and contain the essential vitamins and nutrients calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, and vitamins A and E.
Chia seeds are also rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and the amino acids glutamic acid and serine. Glutamic acid aids in protein synthesis, and serine plays an important role in building cells throughout the body. The phytochemicals in chia seeds include caffeic, ferulic, myristic, P-coumaric and vanillic acids, which are all antioxidants that may inhibit the onset of disease.
The health benefits of chia are numerous. The soluble fiber content helps to regulate blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol and encourage digestion. Soluble fiber absorbs cholesterol and eliminates it through the stool. The liver then releases more cholesterol to replenish the loss, which results in an overall reduction of cholesterol in the body, Robert Wildman writes in "Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods." Additionally, the slow release of the seeds' nutrients allows the digestive tract to slowly absorb and utilize the energy over an extended time period, which helps endurance.
The abundance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids also helps reduce cholesterol levels that can lead to heart attack, stroke and coronary heart disease. These fatty acids, especially in their ideal ratio, are naturally anti-inflammatory and encourage arterial health and strength.
- "Fat Flush for Life"; Ann Louis Gittleman; 2009
- "Prescription for Dietary Wellness"; Phyllis Balch; 2006
- “Forever Young”; Nicholas Perricone, M.D.; 2010
- “Plant Biotechnology for Sustainable Production of Energy and Co-Products”; Peter Mascia; 2010
- “Handbook of Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods”; Robert Wildman; 2007