Chia seeds are obtained from the chia plant and are native to Mexico and Guatemala. They were a staple food for the ancient Aztecs and Mayans and in the ancient Mayan language, Chia, meant strength. They were considered medicine and prized more than gold due to their health enhancing properties. Ancient civilisations used Chia in the form of flour, beverages, and pressed oil. Many ancient warriors attributed their strength and stamina to these tiny seeds. The Mexican Tarahumara tribe has been known for their long distance runners and they used to consume a combination of chia seeds, lemon and water prior to running for kilometres.
Today, Chia seeds are readily available globally and have been found to contain high amounts of fibre, omega 3 fatty acids, protein and are one of the largest vegan sources of tryptophan. Each 28gram serving of chia seeds provides 201mg of tryptophan.
Chia seeds can be found in either a black or white variety and there is no real difference in their nutritional profile and both contain the same amount of protein, omega 3 fatty acids, fibre and tryptophan. These seeds, although they pack a nutritional punch, are quite flavourless, which allows them to be added to many meals, without effecting the flavour.
Due to their highly fibrous nature, particularly containing large amounts of soluble fibre, they can aid with improving satiety and may assist with maintaining healthy cholesterol levels as well as healthy digestive function.
Tryptophan, is known as an essential amino acid meaning, it is required daily as our bodies are unable to manufacture it. Tryptophan is a crucial building block for Vitamin B3 and is essential to produce serotonin. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter and has a strong role in controlling sleep patterns and moods.
Tryptophan is found in large amounts in protein rich foods and this amino acid relies heavily on carbohydrates to be utilised by the brain. Chia seeds contain a balanced nutritional profile of carbohydrates and protein and are a great option to include in the everyday diet not only for its nutritional profile but also for their indirect benefit on sleep patterns.