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Dual Delights for Your Health: Chia and Sabja Seeds Unveiled as Kitchen Pantry Powerhouses

From Chia's omega-3 power to Sabja's fibre punch, these seeds are not just culinary sidekicks but nutritional superheroes in their own right, offering health benefits and delicious possibilities

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09 Feb '24
6 min read


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Remember Alia Bhatt’s internet-breaking chia seed pudding in 2021, hailed as a weight loss revelation? Well, what if we spill the beans that you can whip up an equally nutrient-packed pudding with the desi sabja seeds – yes, the same ones floating in your favourite falooda. Brace yourself for a nutritional powerhouse that challenges the misconception that one seed rules them all. Intrigued? Let's explore how both chia and sabja seeds are heavyweight champions when it comes to your health, and better yet, they can both find a cozy spot in your kitchen pantry. 

We are all familiar with the confusion surrounding chia and sabja seeds, with some folks mistakenly thinking they're twins. In reality, these seeds not only differ in origin, nutrient content, and culinary use but also come with their cool quirks. Let's unravel the mystery, shall we?

Origin

Chia seeds have deep roots in the ancient diets of the Mayan and Aztec civilizations, originating from Central America (Guatemala) and Mexico (central and southern regions). These seeds, derived from the flowering plant Salvia hispanica in the mint family, are alternatively known as Mexican Chia or Selba Chia. In the Mayan language, 'Chia' translates to strength, reflecting its historical role as a source of energy for Mayan warriors.

Chia seeds come from the plant Salvia hispanica 

On the other hand, Basil seeds hail from tropical regions in South East Asia, including India, and Central Africa. Born from the flowering plant Ocimum basilicum, also recognized as sweet basil or Thai basil in the mint family, they are commonly referred to as Sabja seeds or sweet basil seeds.

Sabja seeds comes from the flowering plant Ocimum basilicum

Despite their distinct origins, the confusion between chia and basil seeds arises from their shared membership in the mint family. This botanical connection not only explains their similar appearance but also the frequent misconception of these seeds being the same.

Appearance 

But despite the similarities, there's still a noticeable distinction between the two seeds. Basil seeds are small, round, and black. On the other hand, Chia seeds are slightly larger, have an oval shape, and come in an array of colours, such as grey, brown, white, and black.

Chia seeds, in contrast to Sabja seeds, require some time to absorb water. On the other hand, Sabja seeds exhibit rapid swelling immediately upon soaking. Chia seeds can absorb up to 10 times their weight, typically settling down as a gel-like texture at the bottom of the container. As a result, the former will immediately float when poured into water while the latter will settle down. 

Nutritional content 

Let’s break the myth. Both chia and sabja seeds can aid in weight management by promoting a feeling of fullness and supporting a balanced diet. Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, they play a crucial role in promoting heart health. The fibre content in both seeds may contribute to regulating blood sugar levels and curbing those cravings. However, it's important to note that each seed type possesses unique qualities.

Sabja seeds in water

Sabja seeds are like tiny nutrient powerhouses, packing in dietary fibre, vitamins like vitamin K, and essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron. It's the good stuff your body craves for overall health and feeling awesome. Plus, these seeds are great cooling agents – they bring a chill vibe by reducing body heat, thanks to their believed cooling effect. 

They've got alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that's all about supporting your heart health. 

Chia seeds are a nutritional powerhouse, as highlighted in a 2020 review published in Molecules. Packed with carbohydrates, protein, and a range of vitamins (A, B1, B2, and B3), minerals, and antioxidants, they offer a multitude of health benefits. According to Sarah Schlichter a well-known American dietitian nutritionist, chia seeds excel in promoting digestion, satiety, and cholesterol reduction.

Moreover, as a plant-based source of essential micronutrients like iron, zinc, and calcium, chia seeds contribute to overall well-being by enhancing immunity, blood flow, body temperature regulation, and bone formation. 

Culinary ways

Chia seeds can also be eaten dry — for example, sprinkled on a salad — while basil seeds typically aren’t eaten dry, as they’re hard to chew. 

Regarding culinary use, sabja seeds bring their A-game to Indian desserts. Pop them into a falooda for a cool, gel-like texture and a refreshing touch during hot days. Dive into beverage experiments by adding soaked sabja seeds to lemonades, fruit juices, or sherbets – a game-changer for a twist of freshness. 



Get further creative by adding them to dips, chutneys, salads, and marinades for a burst of texture and subtle nuttiness. Elevate baked goods like breads and muffins with their mild flavour and satisfying crunch. During festivals, make colourful thandai for Holi or unique barfi for Diwali, showcasing sabja seeds for a festive twist.

For chia seeds, the safest bet is mainstream Chia pudding – just mix them with plant-based milk, sweeten it up, and let it chill overnight for a creamy treat. Throw a spoonful into your morning smoothie for an extra crunch and a boost of fibre and protein.  Make a chia jam by mixing mashed fruit, chia seeds, a touch of honey, and spices and freezing it overnight. 

Chia blackberry jam

And, if you're on a plant-based diet or dodging eggs, chia seeds got your back as a fantastic egg substitute in baking. 

Looking to experiment with frying? You might be surprised by chia coatings. Grind chia seeds into a coarse powder for a healthy, nutty-flavoured coating on chicken, fish, or veggies before baking or pan-frying. Protein-packed and delicious!


 

Don't shy away from combining these powerhouse seeds! Create energy-packed overnight oats with both sabja and chia seeds, or use them together in protein bars for a double dose of goodness. 

Watch out for 

Too much of the sabja seed party might bring some uninvited guests like diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, acne, acid reflux, headaches, tummy troubles, loss of appetite, and even a sugar dip for some folks. Eating these like candy might also cause digestive hiccups and, trust me, you don't want to deal with choking, especially if you're going all-in with the raw version. 

Heads up – if you're pregnant, or just got out of surgery, it's probably best to skip the sabja seeds to dodge those potential side effects.

Chia seeds are like the cool cats of the seed world – usually, no drama. But, if you go on a chia binge, you might feel a bit bloated. No biggie, just make sure to stay well hydrated as these seeds pack a fibre punch. So, bottom line, drink enough water to keep things smooth, and you'll be rocking with the chia crew just fine.

So in the grand debate between chia and sabja seeds, the key takeaway is moderation. Both seeds contribute distinct benefits to a well-rounded, healthy diet. Whether sprinkled atop a salad or incorporated into a dessert, the key lies in savouring their unique qualities in moderation, enhancing the overall nutritional tapestry of a balanced lifestyle.

So let’s make that pudding with both nutrient powerhouse. 

 

 

 

Category : Health and Wellness


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Written by Madhuwanti Saha

Writer, Journalist , Photographer