I'm sure you can guess by the title - this weeks' functional food is the Chia seed! I'm sure you've heard all about them by now, they're an extremely nutrient-dense superfood. Whats a "superfood" you ask? A superfood is defined as "a food that is rich in compounds (such as antioxidants, fiber, or fatty acids) considered beneficial to a person's health)". Chia seeds have so many nutritional benefits to offer your body and overall health, it's crazy.
I can't remember exactly when I first heard about Chia seeds, but I do know that I started eating them shortly after reading the book Born to Run, written by Christopher McDougall. In this book, Christopher talks about a small tribe of people called the Tarahumara. This tribe used Chia seeds as their fuel for hundred mile runs. I was absolutely fascinated when I learned this - how could little seeds possibly fuel their bodes for so long? That's when I became interested in the nutrition and health benefits they had to offer. Chia actually means "strength" in the Mayan language and the seeds are known as "runner's food". Now let's hop into the science behind this badass seed!
Health Benefits of Chia Seeds:
1. Plant-based Energy Source (Studies have shown that the performance of athletes is enhanced when they consume Chia seeds prior. This is thanks to the Zinc levels found in Chia, which help your body increase Leptin. Leptin regulates how your body uses it's energy and your overall energy levels. It also improves stamina and endurance!)
2. Weight Management (Chia seeds actually help boost your metabolism + specifically target belly fat tissues. Like I mentioned above, the Zinc found in Chia seeds turns into Leptin which helps the body regulate your appetite. Another fun fact - when you eat chia or put them into any sort of liquid, they take on water + form a gelatinous bubble around themselves. Which in turn, helps keep you full for longer and can curb cravings.)
3. Healthy Teeth (Chia seeds provide your body with vitamin A, zinc, calcium + phosphorus. Consuming food that contains calcium is crucial for the overall health of your teeth.)
4. Glowing Skin (The amount of antioxidants that Chia seeds contain is outrageous - meaning they can help stop free radicals from occurring within the body. In turn, this means they can repair damaged skin and keep your skin healthy.)
5. Heart Healthy (Thanks to their Omega 3 levels, these little seeds have the ability to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation and regulate cholesterol levels. Studies have also shown that people who consume Chia seeds on a regular basis are far less likely to develop atherosclerosis.)
6. Digestive Aid (Chia seeds are jam-packed full of fiber, just ONE serving of them can provide your body with the daily recommended amount. Since they are high in fiber, they help the body have regular + healthy stools.)
7. Holistic Treatment for Diabetes (Due to their linolenic acid + fiber content, Chia seeds can help prevent the build up of excessive levels of fat within the blood and balance blood sugar levels. Studies show that regularly consuming Chia can help prevent the diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes and even help reverse it.)
8. Boosts Bone Strength (Like I mentioned earlier, Chia seeds are a great source of Calcium + Boron which are both important components for healthy bones.)
9. Plant-Based Protein Source (Chia seeds are a great source of plant-based protein, they are at the top of the list!)
10. Hydration Station (Earlier, I talked about the fact that Chia seeds take on water and expand - they can actually absorb up to 10 times their own weight in water. Meaning, they have the ability to keep you hydrated!)
I don't know about you guys, but I still can't get over ALL the benefits these tiny little seeds have to offer. Chia seeds can be used in a variety of ways - you can toss them on top of salad or yogurt, put them in smoothies, bake with them or even just toss some into water and drink them. Keep an eye out for a variety of recipes using chia seeds!
*One thing of mention - people who suffer from Diverticulitis should not consume Chia seeds (it's best to not consume seeds in general if you have this disease).