The source of Chia seeds is desert plant “Salvia hispanica” and it belongs to the mint family. Central America is considered as the origin of Chia seed where the seed was a staple in the ancient Aztec diet.
By Qamer Naseer, Athar Mahmood, Maria Naqve
Salvia hispanica is an herbaceous plant which belongs to the Lamiaceae family. It may grow up to 1 m height. Its serrated leaves are 4–8 cm in length and 3–5 cm in width. Its flowers (white or blue) are bisexual with the size of 3–4 mm and grow in whorls at the tips of shoot. After over blowing Chia forms round fruits which contain many small oval shaped seeds having a length of 2 mm and a width of 1 mm. The seed surface is smooth and polished with its colour ranging from white through grey to brown and also have irregularly arranged black spots. At first, Chia seeds were grown in hot or humid and subtropical climates. Owing to its importance, it is grown or cultivated worldwide particularly Australia, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Mexico, Nicaragua and Bolivia. It is grown in greenhouses in European region. It is not frost-
Chia seeds can be consumed in both cooked and raw forms, but they should be added to another food or soaked before eating.
It grows generally in mountainous regions. Salvia hispanica develops or grows appropriately in sandy loam or clay loam soils with good drainage conditions.
Many studies attempted to analyze the chemical composition of Chia seeds. Chia seeds have high nutritive value particularly due to the presence of high contents of dietary fiber and fat. It has approximately 30–34 g of dietary fiber out of which insoluble fraction comprises approximately 85–93% of its total content while 7–15% is soluble dietary fiber. Dried fruits, cereals and nuts in terms of dietary fiber content have been surpassed by Chia seeds. The Chia seeds are one of the excellent sources of healthy fats. They have high amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids mainly α-linolenic acid (ALA). Alpha linolenic acid accounts for around 60 percent of all fatty acids.
Chia seeds are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids and they also have higher amounts of omega-3 acids compared to flaxseeds. The beneficial ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (approximately 0.3:0.35) also needs to be stressed. Chia seeds are also considered as an excellent source of plant proteins comprising approximately 18–24% of their mass. Analyses of the amino acids composition emphasized or confirmed the presence of 10 exogenous amino acids. Arginine, lysine, leucine, valine and phenylalanine were found in greater amounts. Additionally, proteins in Chia seeds are rich in endogenous amino acids as well mainly serine, alanine, glycine, glutamic and aspartic acids. They are also beneficial for celiac patients as they are gluten free.
Chia seeds are also a rich source of phyto compounds which are characterized by high biological activity. They are mainly polyphenols including gallic acid, ferulic acid, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, cinnamic acid, apigenin, quercetin, epicatechin, kaempferol, rutin, and p-coumaric acid. Isoflavones (daidzein, genistein, genistin, glycitein) are also found in lesser amounts. Tocopherols (α-tocopherol, γ-tocopherol and δ-tocopherol) are also present in considerable amounts.
Chia seeds are beneficial for human health due to its unique combination of vital nutrients or other beneficial compounds. 1 ounce/ 28 grams of Chia seeds provides 138 calories. By weight, Chia seeds comprises of 6% water, 46% carbohydrates of which 83% is fiber, 34% fat and 19% protein.
Consumption of 1 ounce of Chia seeds on daily basis would fulfill 18 percent of body’s daily calcium requirements, 27 percent of phosphorus needs and 30 percent of manganese requirements. Apart from it, they can also provide the body with lesser amounts of potassium and copper.
Despite of their small size, Chia seeds are packed with vital nutrients. They are considered as a good source of:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Moreover, Chia seeds supply many minerals including:
- Phosphorus (860–919 mg/100 g)
- Calcium (456–631 mg/100 g)
- Potassium (407–726 mg/100g)
- Magnesium (335–449 mg/100 g)
Studies also confirmed the presence of some vitamins but they are provided in lesser amounts compared to minerals. The vitamins present in Chia seeds are:
- Thiamine/ Vitamin B1 (0.6 mg/100 g)
- Riboflavin/ Vitamin B2 (0.2 mg/100 g)
- Niacin/ Vitamin B3 (8.8 mg/100 g)
Some of the health benefits which are provided by the consumption of Chia seeds are listed below:
- Reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces the blood glucose levels
- Reduces chronic inflammation
- Improves bone health
- Helpful in weight loss