Chia (Salvia Hispanica L) is a plant native from Mexico and Northern Guatemala. The plant is a flowering plant and produces small seeds known as chia seeds (Craig 2004). Chia seeds are oval, smooth, shiny, and have brown, grey, white, and dark coloured. Chia seeds are small, oval, and flat measuring 2-2.5mm long, 1.2-1.5mm wide and 0.8-1.1mm thick. The colour ranges from dark brown, black, and sometimes Gray or white. White chia seeds are greater in weight, width, and thickness (Hernandez,2014).
Content in Chia Seeds
Chia seed contain a high amount of protein compared to other grains, is free from gluten protein and contain dietary fibre (more than 30% of the total weight). In addition, chia seeds contain a number of antioxidant components such as chlorogenic acid, caffeine, myricetin, quercetin and kaempferol. Chia seeds are also a good source of vitamin B and minerals.
Chia seeds contain gum as much as 5-6% which can also function as a dietary fibre. It should also be noted that chia seeds are quite high in fat (30-40% by weight of the seeds) and nearly 60% of this fat is the form in linolenic acid (ALA/omega 3).
The omega 3 content is more than the omega 3 in salmon. However, the omega 3 found in chia seeds is inactive in the body through a series of elongation (increasing the number of c atoms) and desaturation (reducing saturation) into two other forms of omega 3 fatty acids namely EPA and DHA (ALA is converted into EPA and EPA can be converted into DHA) to have the same benefits as omega 3 found in fish. Just because its high in omega 3 fats doesn’t mean your body actually converts and uses it (Reyes et all,2008).
So, if you want to have the same benefits as omega 3 found in salmon, what you can do is increase your consumptions of chia seeds more than usual. The dose of chia seed consumption varies from person to person. Depending on their age and health condition. However, up till now there are insufficient scientific evidence regarding a safe and appropriate dose of chia seeds. We recommend that you consult to your doctor first before consuming high doses of chia seeds.
Benefits of Chia Seed
Although small, chia seeds have various health benefits. Chia seeds are reported to lower and maintain cholesterol levels. In addition, consumptions of chia seed have also been reported to have an effect of weight loss in obese sufferers. Consumption of chia seeds as a food supplement can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, inflammation, central nerve system disorders and diabetes (Brisette,2013)
Other than the health sector, chia seeds also benefit the food industry. Chia seeds have the ability to form gums. This gives chia seed the potential to be use as a thickener, stabilizer, and emulsifier. Chia seeds are also used as a mixture in food ingredients such as a mixture of composite flour with corn flour, raw materials for cookies, chips, bread, jelly products, and emulsions. In addition, chia seeds have been developed as health supplement products such as chia seed oil and supplies for postmenopausal women (Ali et al,2012).
Chia seeds are very easy to consume and can be processed with food ingredients such as cereal, oatmeal, cakes, eggs and can also be mixed into drinks such as juices or smoothies. To consume chia seeds you should first soak them for a while. The small shape will expand after being soaked for a while in water.
In the stomach, the chia seeds will expand again. That is when you feel full longer when you eat these foods. Their flavour, which tends to be bland, will not change the taste of the food and drinks you enjoy with chia seeds. Chia seeds also do not spoil easily and are safe to store for up to several month in a dry or cool place.
The Dose of chia seeds consumption is influenced by age and health conditions. Currently there is no scientific information that can be used as a definite guideline for the range of chia seeds that can be consumed. Chia seeds will be very suitable for vegetarians who need omega 3 intake but not from animal products. However, you will need a higher dose to get the same benefits from animal products.
Contributor: Nurul’Aidha MD 6th semester student Bachelor of Nutrition Program, Faculty of Public Health, University of Indonesia
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