Chia seeds are among the few trendy “superfoods” that are actually worthy of that term and are among the healthiest foods on the planet. They are loaded with nutrients that can have important benefits for your body and brain.
Here are 7 major health benefits of chia seeds that are supported by human studies:
1. Chia Seeds Are Loaded With Antioxidants
Another area where chia seeds shine is in their high amount of antioxidants. These antioxidants protect the sensitive fats in the seeds from going rancid and although antioxidant supplements are not very effective, getting antioxidants from foods can have positive effects on health.
Most importantly, antioxidants fight the production of free radicals, which can damage molecules in cells and contribute to ageing and disease within the body.
2. Chia Seeds Deliver a Massive Amount of Nutrients With Very Few Calories
Chia seeds are tiny black seeds from the plant Salvia Hispanica, which grows natively in South America and is related to the mint plant. Chia seeds were a very important food for the Aztecs and Mayans who prized them for their ability to provide sustainable energy. In fact “chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength.”
Despite their ancient history as a dietary staple, only recently did chia seeds become recognised as a modern day superfood. In the past few years, they have exploded in popularity and are now consumed by health conscious people all over the world. The seeds are quite small, but don’t be put off by the small size, these tiny seeds pack an incredible nutritional punch.
A 28 grams (two tablespoons) serving of chia seeds contains:
Fiber: 11 grams.
Protein: 4 grams.
Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).
Calcium: 18% of the RDA.
Manganese: 30% of the RDA.
Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
Phosphorus: 27% of the RDA.
They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.
This is particularly impressive when you consider that this is only two tablespoons, which contains only 137 calories and one gram of digestible carbohydrate! It gets even better if you subtract the fiber, which may not end up as usable calories for the body, chia seeds only contain 101 calories per ounce.
This makes them one of the world’s best sources of several important nutrients, calorie for calorie.
Chia seeds are a “whole grain” food, are usually grown organically, are non-GMO and naturally free of gluten.
Despite their tiny size, chia seeds are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. They are loaded with fiber, protein, Omega-3 fatty acids and various micronutrients.
3. Almost All The Carbs in Them Are Fiber
Looking at the nutrition profile of chia seeds, you see that an ounce has 12 grams of “carbohydrate.”
However… 11 of those grams are fiber, which isn’t digested by the body.
Fiber doesn’t raise blood sugar, doesn’t require insulin to be disposed of and therefore shouldn’t count as a carb.
The true carb content is only 1 gram per ounce, which is very low. This makes chia a low-carb friendly food.
Because of all the fiber, chia seeds can absorb up to 10-12 times their weight in water, becoming gel-like and expanding in your stomach.
Theoretically, this should increase fullness, slow absorption of your food and help you automatically eat fewer calories.
Fiber also feeds the friendly bacteria in the intestine, which is important because keeping your gut bugs well fed is absolutely crucial for health.
Almost all of the carbohydrates in chia seeds are fiber. This gives them the ability to absorb 10-12 times their weight in water. Fiber also has various beneficial effects on health.
4. Chia Seeds Are High in Quality Protein
Chia seeds contain a decent amount of protein.
By weight, they are about 14% protein, which is very high compared to most plants. They also contain a good balance of essential amino acids, so our bodies should be able to make use of the protein in them.
Protein has all sorts of benefits for health including being the most weight-loss friendly nutrient in the diet. A high protein intake reduces appetite and has been shown to reduce obsessive thoughts about food by 60% and the desire for night time snacking by 50%.
Chia seeds really are an excellent protein source, especially for people who eat little or no animal products.
5. They Are High in Many Important Bone Nutrients
Chia seeds are high in several nutrients that are important for bone health.
This includes calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and protein.
The calcium content is particularly impressive… 18% of the RDA in a single ounce (28 grams).
Gram for gram, this is higher than most dairy products.
Chia seeds may be considered an excellent source of calcium and can replace dairy as your main source of calcium.
6. Chia Seeds Can Cause Major Improvements in Type 2 Diabetics
The most successful application of chia seeds to date was in a study on type 2 diabetic patients
In this study, 20 diabetic patients received either 37 grams of chia seeds, or 37 grams of wheat bran, for 12 weeks.
When they got the chia seeds, they saw improvements in several important health markers.
Blood pressure went down by 3-6 mm/Hg and an inflammatory marker called hs-CRP went down by 40%. A risk factor called vWF also decreased by 21%.
7. Chia Seeds Are Easy to Incorporate Into Your Diet
This is not a health benefit, but very important in that being able to consume them easily makes it more likely they will become part of your everyday diet.
Chia seeds are incredibly easy to incorporate into your diet, because the seeds themselves taste rather bland you can add them to pretty much anything. They also don’t need to be ground like flax seeds, which makes them much easier to prepare.
They can be eaten raw, soaked in juice, added to porridges and puddings, or added to baked goods. You can sprinkle them on top of cereal, yogurt, vegetables or rice dishes. Because of their ability to absorb both water and fat, they can be used to thicken sauces and even used as egg substitutes in recipes. They can also be mixed with water and turned into a gel.
Adding chia seeds to recipes will dramatically boost the nutritional value.
If you want to buy chia seeds, then there is an excellent selection on Amazon with thousands of customer reviews.
They do seem to be well tolerated by most people… but if you’re not used to eating a lot of fiber, then there is a possibility of digestive side effects if you eat too much of them at a time.
A common dosage recommendation is 20 grams (about 1.5 tablespoons) of chia seeds, twice per day.
Main image courtesy of Stacy on Flickr