Chia seeds are type of food native to Mexico and Guatemala, and have enjoyed a growing popularity over recent years, particularly in the diets of vegans and health food enthusiasts. They come from a plant belonging to the mint family, whose seeds may be eaten on their own or even ground into a powder.
The chia plant is commercially grown for its nutritious seeds, which are rich in essential fats, and may also be pressed for their oil. They are currently cultivated in many parts of the world, from Bolivia and Ecuador to Australia, and are mostly known in the United States for being used to sprout the hair on Chia Pets.
Numerous health benefits have been associated with the consumption of chia seeds, among which the most prominent are:
- reducing food cravings
- providing a quicker feeling of satiation
- may be used as a reliable replacement for flax seeds (which may be hard to digest)
Chia seeds are best consumed in a raw state, and many people enjoy them this way for their slightly nutty flavor. Additionally, they may be added to breads and other baked goods, soaked in fruit juices for a flavor change, added to cereal meals, or even blended in fruit smoothies. Regardless of how you choose to incorporate them into your diet, you should keep in mind that, as with any other natural product, they may produce unwanted effects in some people. While easily tolerated by a healthy individual, people with low blood pressure or who are on medication meant to lower blood pressure should not consume chia seeds.
Aside from their ability to lower blood pressure, they have been known to cause bloating, which is due to their tendency to soak up and retain water that the body can use at a later time. This is useful in maintaining the body hydrated, while it can sometimes cause an uncomfortable feeling of fullness.