Tiny but potent, chia seeds are brimming with benefits that can promote and sustain optimal health. Two notable properties of chia seeds are that they support deep hydration and are an excellent source of high quality fiber. These qualities allow chia seeds to improve and maintain our ojas (inner strength and vitality). Eating chia seeds regularly can also help quell inflammation, which is becoming increasingly understood as a causative factor in many degenerative diseases.
Chia supports deep hydration
Both the adequate intake of appropriate raw materials and the cultivation of proper internal intelligence are necessary for hydration. Our bodies need deep hydration at the level of our organs and nervous system; the following raw materials are necessary:
- Water at the correct temperature with the proper pH (slightly alkaline is superior) and derived from the right source. From an Ayurvedic perspective, drinking water that falls somewhere between room temperature to hot is much better for the body and for optimum health. Spring water is the preferred water source from an Ayurvedic perspective; different types of water have different medicinal uses in Ayurveda.
- Essential fatty acids (particularly Omega-3s) from foods such as hemp, borage, high lignan flax, evening primrose, and of course ch-ch-ch-chia.
In addition to these raw materials, cultivating proper intelligence of the body allows us to experience appropriate hydration. This is accomplished through some of the following:
- Maintaining kidney health is important for overall hydration. Helpful herbs for strengthening the kidneys include tulsi (Ocimum sanctum), punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa), and bhumyamalaki (Phyllanthus niruri).
- Hyaluronic acid has such a great impact on deep hydration that I often refer to it as the “face cream” of the nervous system. As a component of connective, epithelial, and neural tissues, hyaluronic acid functions as a lubricating agent in the body. It is found in areas such as synovial fluid, cartilage, and skin.
- There are a number of often mucilaginous plant sources that possess the innate intelligence of hydration. These include shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), aloe, organic psyllium, chia seeds, licorice root, cinnamon, slippery elm bark, or other demulcent, or soothing, herbs.
- Cultivating a grounded lifestyle, diet, and mind.
Chia is an excellent food that helps to improve hydration at all tissue levels. From an Ayurvedic perspective, chia attenuates, or reduces, vata (the air and space element), optimizes pitta (the fire element) and nourishes kapha (the water and earth elements). Chia seeds are also sattvic, or pure, in nature.
According to Ayurveda, sattvic foods are ones that cultivate and promote clarity and equanimity of the mind, while also benefiting the body. Cultivating deep hydration using sattvic foods and herbs also helps to encourage the building of ojas, which is your core vitality, endurance, sustainability, and the foundation of your immunity. Therefore, you can use chia seeds, or other Omega-3 sources like far northern organic biodynamic hemp or flax, as sattvic dietary sources to cultivate ojas.
Chia is an excellent source of fiber
For optimum digestion and overall health of the digestive system, our dietary choices must support short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) production, mainly acetate, propionate, and butyrate, which are produced in the colon by anaerobic bacterial fermentation of undigested dietary carbohydrates and fiber polysaccharides. Butyrate, of which organic ghee is by far the best dietary source, is considered the major fuel source for colon epithelial tissue. SCFAs clearly play a key role in the maintenance of colonic homeostasis.
Increasing colonic SCFA production by the addition of the appropriate dietary fibers is both a great idea and a primary treatment for many digestive issues. Hence using proper soluble fiber that can be fermented by intestinal flora to generate SCFAs is very important, and in my opinion, top sources of this particular soluble fiber are organic psyllium seeds, flax seeds, and chia seeds. Note that non-organic psyllium is one of the more toxic dysfunctional items you can put into your body, so make sure you only use organic psyllium.
Healthy fiber sources like chia seeds also control blood sugar and blood lipids. Therefore, these types of foods have been linked to the prevention and treatment of diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Additionally, according to Ayurveda, the chia seed creates a natural warming effect within the body-mind which supports a balanced metabolism including cognitive health and even joy.
Chia reduces inflammation
Chia seeds are shown to reduce inflammation in the body due to their ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids; they contain three times as many Omega-3 to Omega-6 oils in the seeds. The modern Western diet can skew as much as 30:1 Omega-6 to Omega-3; this is 200 times greater than the 1:6 ratio recommended in Ayurveda for an anti-inflammatory diet.
According to Ayurvedic principles and a growing number of clinical studies investigating the effect of ingestion of different ratios of fatty acids, high levels of dietary Omega-6 fatty acids correspond with increased levels of inflammatory markers in blood tests.
In order to counteract this inflammation-inducing imbalance, we should consume foods and herbs rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. These oils promote overall physiological balance and strengthen the immune system, encouraging an internal environment of overall health and well-being. A 2011 study at the University of Ohio School of Medicine corroborated other research showing that supplementation with Omega-3 fatty acids reduced inflammation as well as other adverse health issues including anxiety. This is just one example showing how our diet can affect the body and mind, one of the foundational tenets of Ayurveda.
In addition to chia, other foods that are rich in Omega-3s include flax, hemp seeds, walnuts, pecans, algal oil, fish oils, and purslane (a succulent green that often grows wild and can sometimes be found in farmers markets).
For these reasons, chia and the other fiber-rich mucilaginous seeds like psyllium and flax are vital foods for health and wellness.
By Prashanti de Jager
Based in Marin and in the Himalayas, Prashanti de Jager is a Vedic Science practitioner and teacher, a founder of Organic India, and author of several books on Vedic themes including The Truth Is, and Turmeric, the Ayurvedic Spice of Life. prashantidejager.com