The seeds come from Salvia Hispanica plant, which is native to southern Mexico and Guatemala although they are cultivated in many other places now especially in Australia, which is probably the worlds largest producer. The seeds can be black, brown or white and the nutritional value is more or less the same, although the darker seeds have a slightly higher concentration of antioxidants.
One serving of chia seeds - that's around 15g or a level tablespoon - should contain 75mg of calcium, 43mg of magnesium and 75g of potassium. That may not seem like a huge amount, but it's a lot for a relatively small amount of food.
The antioxidant content which includes quercetin, caffeic acid and chloregenic acid result in chia seeds having an impressively high ranking on the ORAC scale (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) at over 10,000 per 100g (blueberries have 9,000). Soaking the seeds in water overnight can double this, it also doubles the size as chia absorbs water quite easily, which it should be pointed out is not ideal for some people's digestion.
Chia seeds are a complete protein as they have all the essential amino acids and so are useful for vegetarians and vegans who will need to work a little harder to get enough protein than carnivores. They also have a very good amount of fibre too, some 37g per 100g.
It's the fat content of chia that seems to be the main point for its fans. It is the richest seeds source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a member of the omega 3 essential fat family.
ALA is not quite the same in its chemical make-up as the other forms of omega 3 that are derived from fish as the human body can't always convert them into the useable form so easily. However, it must be noted that chia seeds are still a good source of omega 3 even if we can't use all the ALA.
Best eaten: Chia seeds are great to have sprinkled on salads, oatmeal, soup, yogurts, protein shakes and smoothies.
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