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Chia seeds are native to South America, but have now become the superstars of the superfood movement and have gained popularity throughout the world. These tiny black seeds may not look like much but the truth is that they are one of the healthiest foods in the world.

Chia seeds have a very mild, almost neutral, flavour and can easily be added to smoothies, salads, yogurt, stews, soups, cereals and desserts. Many people prefer to eat them soaked, but they can be eaten dry too, or even ground up. They absorb liquid rapidly and can become 10 times their size in a short amount of time. Their absorbent nature makes them a great thickening agent and can even replace eggs in baking.

Here are some of the benefits of chia seeds:

• Chia seeds are wonderful for athletes to use for endurance, and were used by the ancient Mayans and Aztecs before they went into battle.

• Chia seeds are highly nutritious and provide generous amounts of fiber, protein, fat, calcium, zinc, B vitamins, magnesium and potassium.

• Chia seeds are rich in soluble fiber and are actually one of the world’s best sources of fiber. This means that they are beneficial to the digestive tract and may help to alleviate symptoms of IBS, constipation or diarrhea. The beneficial bacteria in the gut feed off healthy fiber so chia seeds will help to keep these colonies strong.

• Since chia seeds absorb about 10 times their weight in liquid they expand in the stomach and make us feel full. They also slow the digestion of food, which means we are fuller for longer and this may help us to eat fewer calories and lose weight.

• They are rich in antioxidants and may help to fight aging and disease.

• Chia seeds have a very low carbohydrate content which makes them Banting-friendly.

• These special seeds are about 14% protein by weight. This is a very high value for a plant-based food and their amino acid profile is fairly balanced which means they are a great food for the elderly, the chronically ill, athletes and those looking to build muscle.

Chia seeds are one of the highest omega 3 containing foods in the world. They actually contain more omega 3 fatty acids than salmon, which may sound surprising! However, the omega 3 found in chia seeds is in the form of Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) which needs to be converted into the useable forms of EPA and DHA. This conversion process is rather inefficient in humans but grinding the chia seeds may help speed it up.