The consumption of omega-3 is a growing trend amongst those in search of a diet that may help improve cardiovascular health, strengthen the nervous system and stop cell aging. Its consumption is recommended not only for elderly adults, but also for infants and pregnant women. Deep-water fish oil has historically been the source of omega-3. Alternative, vegetable sources have been investigated during the last few years due to issues in mercury and toxins found in fish derived products. Vegetarian sources include sea algae, flax and chia. Chia however, is far superior since it contains 18 grams of α-linolenic acid for every 100 grams of seeds, thus making it the greatest vegetable source of this essential fatty acid.
Besides omega-3, the chia seed offers many benefits for those who consume it:
- Soluble and insoluble fiber
- Protein of good biological value
- Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium, copper, vitamin A and those from the B-complex
- Cholesterol free
- Toxic and antinutritional factors free
- Gluten free
- Very low sodium contents
- Free of any “fishy flavor”
- Ideal for vegetarians
The chia seed can be consumed directly and does not require any kind of further processing. It can also be incorporated into salads, yogurt, soups, cereal, and even drinks, without altering the original flavor.
The chia seed is available in two colours: black and white and are often found mixed together. Apart from colour, there is no difference in nutritional flavour. There may be a difference in price if they are separated due to the labour involved in separating the seeds.
Sample Chia Seed Applications
There are many applications for chia:
- Basic ingredient for nutritional supplements
- Breakfast cereals
- Energy bars
- Confectionery and baking products
- Gourmet products
- Chia oil
- Chia oil softgel capsules
- Ingredients for the cosmetic industry and for animal nutrition
Chia (Salvia hispanica L) is an annual crop which comes from southeast Mexico and northwest Central America. The chia seed, according to scientific evidence, was first consumed by humans about 5,500 years ago. The whole seed was used in daily meals, mixed with other food and emulsified with water as a fresh drink, ground to become flour used in medicines, pressed to obtain oil, and later used as the basis for cosmetics. It was not until wartime when it was considered essential due to its fortifying nature.
Five hundred years later, its chemical composition and nutritional value as a source of fatty acids, omega-3, antioxidants and dietary fiber, has allowed chia to regain its premiere standing in human nutrition. At present, the consumption of chia is growing in countries such as the United States, Canada, Spain, Chile, and Argentina.