Chia is indigenous to Central America, mainly Mexico and Guatemala. This flowering plant was once one of the most important crops cultivated by the ancient Aztecs and Mayas, and its seeds are eaten widely in different forms even today. The seeds, which are tiny and oval-shaped and can range in color from brown, gray, black to even white, yield an oil which is rich in alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. The seeds can be eaten raw, and can be cooked with water to prepare porridge.
Finely ground chia seeds are also added to breads and cakes. The health benefits of these seeds are numerous, they are full of antioxidants, and they contain an abundance of essential minerals including phosphorus, calcium, manganese, and potassium. These seeds contain an oil which is known to repel insects, and thus these seeds are usually free of pesticides.
Using Chia Seeds to Fight Diabetes
Diabetes, afflicting more than 2% of the population worldwide, is a chronic ailment characterized by high levels of glucose in the blood. People detected with diabetes need to make certain dietary changes. Carbohydrates can make the blood sugar level rise faster than fibers, proteins or fats. Diabetics should cut back on excess carbohydrate intake and include more of proteins and fibers which can help to keep their blood sugar levels in check. Chia is high in proteins, and low in fats and carbohydrates. These seeds are hydrophilic in nature, meaning they can absorb water many times their own weight.
So when you consume seeds of chia, they form a viscous gel, and this retards the processing of food in the body. This in turn regulates food absorption. It also slows down the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar, an essential factor concerning diabetes.
Another benefit of chia seeds is their ability to control insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone that transports the sugar (glucose) from the blood into the muscles and the liver where it can be utilized by the body as fuel. With the insulin level in check, the sudden spikes in glucose levels are evened out, stabilizing the metabolism. Since the release of sugar is now controlled, you feel fuller and energetic for a longer period of time, thereby reducing food cravings.
A majority of people who suffer from diabetes suffer from type 2 diabetes, and it is more commonly seen in overweight people. Adding chia to the diet is an excellent way to lose weight. Being rich in dietary fiber and with their tendency to retain water, they fill you up faster and suppress appetite, curbing the desire to munch on unhealthy snacks. Unlike other grains, even a small amount of chia provides your body with enough fiber for a day. So including these seeds is beneficial, especially for diabetics, as just eating a small quantity of fiber-rich food can help you lose the extra flab.
A lot of people suffering from diabetes also have high blood pressure and increase in cholesterol levels, a precursor to cardiovascular disease. Eating chia provides your body with a healthy dose of alpha-linolenic acid, the heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acid found abundantly in them, which can improve cardiovascular health. This fatty acid also helps prevent the deposit of cholesterol and other fatty materials on the arteries, which can lead to atherosclerosis. Thus consuming seeds of chia leads to lesser amounts of fat accumulation in the body by keeping a check on the level of triglycerides and cholesterol.
With so many health benefits to boast of, it's hardly any wonder that these tiny seeds were considered to be of utmost significance by the ancient Mesoamericans. But you should be aware that chia seeds alone cannot fight diabetes. Treating diabetes means making a lot of adjustments to your lifestyle and food habits. It is equally important to follow all medication as advised by your doctor and exercise on a regular basis. But the addition of these seeds in your daily diet will go a long way in dealing with diabetes.
As they have a very long shelf life, storing them is not a hassle. They also do not have a unique taste of their own, so you can eat them in a variety of ways, by means of a porridge, or eating them raw just by sprinkling them over salads, soups, and yogurt. A powerhouse of nutrients, incorporating this superfood in your diet can definitely bring about a positive change in your overall health.