Chia seeds - The 'superfood' on the rise

Substitutes for animal products are now no longer a real novelty and have found their way into supermarkets and discount stores. Nevertheless, there is still plenty of room for innovation in this area. One such innovation is the chia plant - a nutrient-rich alternative to meat and the like. Already known in the USA as a so-called 'superfood', it is finding more and more fans in Germany as well.

So much power is in Chia seeds

The gluten-free chia seeds are part of a sage plant native to Mexico. They are easy to prepare and provide a balance of the main nutrients. The list of healthy ingredients is still expanded by numerous fibers, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Especially for vegans, they thus form a significant advantage over animal products, both from a nutritional and ethical point of view.
Chia seeds are a high-quality source of protein and iron. The proportion of main nutrients contained in them - i.e. carbohydrates, proteins and fat - corresponds almost exactly to the recommendations of the German Nutrition Society (DGE).
Chia seeds contain almost 8 milligrams of iron per 100 grams, four times as much as is found in meat. They provide around five times more omega-3 fatty acids than are found in fish, such as salmon. A daily dose of chia seeds can meet the needs of an adult. They are also a valuable source of calcium. On average, 100 grams of chia seeds contain 630 milligrams of this mineral. This means they contain five times as much calcium as conventional whole milk.

The integration into the daily menu

If you want to buy chia seeds, you will quickly find them. For example, they are regularly carried in the (organic) assortment of drugstore chains and are easily available online. Chia seeds have a shelf life of years without any loss of nutrients. In principle, chia seeds can be combined with all foods and incorporated into a wide variety of dishes, for example as an ingredient in bread, muesli, smoothies or desserts. Since they are almost tasteless, there are no adverse effects in this respect. One of the most outstanding properties is revealed when chia seeds are mixed with water. As a result, they swell and form a gel-like mass. This can be used like gelatin. Chia seeds can also serve as a binder and substitute for egg, for which they must be finely ground. A mixture of one tablespoon of seeds with three tablespoons of water, which swells for a few minutes, is equivalent to one egg in the preparation.

The recommendation of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is that around 15 grams of unprocessed chia seeds can be ingested per day. For baked goods, the recommended dose has been a maximum of 10 percent since 2013. Caution is advised if there are known allergies to herbs such as sage or mustard, or mustard seeds, respectively. Then an allergic reaction to chia is also possible. Since the seeds are rich in dietary fiber, hypersensitivity may occur when consumed, which manifests itself in bloating and flatulence.Recipe for a green chia smoothie:

- two handfuls of pluck lettuce
- 1/2 banana
- 1 apple
- Juice from one orange
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds

Note: This green smoothie can be varied in many ways with a constant mixing ratio of 1/3 'greens' (ex. spinach, fresh herbs, etc.) and 2/3 fruit.

Possible health effects of chia seeds

Chia seeds are a natural blood thinner and have a regulating effect on blood sugar levels. Thus, they can be supportive for diabetics, for example, as both hypoglycemia and a sudden rise in blood sugar levels are absent. Chia seeds can also be used for weight loss. Although they do not have a weight-reducing effect, they provide a long-lasting feeling of satiety. This makes it possible to reduce calorie intake without depriving the body of important nutrients. Caution: Chia seeds themselves contain a lot of calories due to their natural fat content. Therefore, the best way to lose weight is to combine them with other healthy foods. Since chia seeds absorb many times more liquid, the following applies in parallel to their consumption: drink a lot! This way they can have a positive effect on the digestive tract. Although side effects are possible with chia seeds, as with all foods, the probability of their occurrence is very low. The further health effects of Chia seeds cannot be determined in detail, since appropriate long-term studies are missing for this so far. However, if the corresponding instructions for consumption are considered, this is at least harmless.