Tiny yet super powerful and very easy to prepare. That is what I think of chia seeds. I discovered them a few years ago and I am so happy I did.
They give a massive amount of various micronutrients which makes them one of the healthiest and most nutritious food on the planet.
Discover the 10 health benefits of mighty chia seeds!
What are chia seeds?
Chia seeds are these teeny black seeds from Salvia Hispanica, a plant native to central Mexico and Guatemala, a flowering plant related to the mint family.
It was a very important source of nutrients for the Aztecs and Mayans. In fact, “chia” is an ancient Mayan word that means “strength” because they provided long-lasting vitality.
Chia seeds are in vogue and have been recently recognized as a superfood because they are a great source of important nutrients.
2 tablespoons (28g) of chia seeds nutrition facts
- 11 grams of Fiber
- 4 grams of Protein
- 9 grams of Fat: (5 of which are omega-3s).
- 18% RDA for Calcium
- 30% RDA for Manganese
- 27% RDA for Phosphorus
- They also contain vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 and B3 (niacin), zinc, copper, and potassium
Chia seeds also have all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot make, making chia a complete protein.
No wonder why the ancient Mayans felt super energized and strong!
They are also very low in calories, only 137 calories per once. But most of the fiber in chia ends up NOT being used as calories for the body, so in reality, there are only about 100 calories in 2 tablespoons.
To top things off, though chia seeds are carbohydrates, the digestible carbs are only 1g per 28g, making chia a friendly low-carb food.
10 awesome health benefits of chia seeds
The superpowers of chia seeds: fiber, protein, and omega 3s!
Chia seeds are whole-grain food and are super high in dietary fiber which make them one of the best sources of fiber on the planet. They contain 40% fibers.
Fiber intake is essential for a healthy diet. According to the Institute of Medicine, we should consume about 25-30g of fiber per day. Most people only consume about 15g which is half of the suggested amount.
What is awesome is that just ONE tablespoon of those little seeds provides 14g of fiber, half the recommended daily intake at once! That is why I have started to add chia seeds to my salad dressing! They don’t take much space in my little kitchen either.
So rich in fiber
1. Better detox and digestion
Fiber is the non-digestible component of plant-based foods like vegetables, fruit, seeds, nuts, and unprocessed whole grains.
Adequate insoluble fiber consumption prevents constipation and regulates your bowel movements, keeping your bowel and digestive system healthy. Stool regularity is essential for the daily flushing of the body toxins!
2. Healthy gut microbiota
Non-digestible fiber also called prebiotics, keeps your intestine flora healthy by feeding and stimulating the growth of the good bacteria. Several intestinal diseases like bowel disorders, obesity, and cancers are linked to unhealthy gut microbiota.
3. Weight control
When talking about weight loss, it is important to emphasize that adding one single food to your diet won’t make any difference if you don’t improve other lifestyle behaviors like working out, sleeping habits, and adopting a healthy balanced diet as a whole.
Read more if you want to discover why the French stay thin even though they eat fatty foods. Click here to read the article.
That’s said, many health experts believe that adding chia seeds to your weight loss diet plan can help with managing your weight.
There are almost 5g of high soluble fiber per tablespoon of chia seeds. Because chia seeds can absorb up to 12 times their weight in water, they swell and expand in the stomach. They become gel-like and it causes your body to digest and absorb food more slowly, making you feel full for much longer and helping you eat fewer calories.
Indeed, one study proved that consuming chia seeds for breakfast increased the sensation of fulness, reduced appetite, and food intake.
Also, Chia seeds contain by weight about 14% of high-quality protein which is a very large amount in comparison to most plant foods. Furthermore, they contain essential amino acids that can make use of that protein.
Protein is without any doubt the most beneficial weight management dietary macronutrient. An excellent protein source diet can greatly reduce food cravings.
Due to their high protein source, vegans love to use chia seeds to replace animal products in their diet.
4. Stable blood sugar levels
What is great about fiber is that its health benefits are so different from those of carbohydrates like sugar and starch. Fiber doesn’t boost up your blood sugar and it doesn’t need insulin to be eliminated.
Sugar spikes (blood sugar rises then fastly drops), in the long term, are bad for your health. They cause damage to blood vessels, organs, and nerves. For instance, people with diabetes are unable to use insulin adequately to keep their blood sugar levels under control.
High-fiber meals help keep blood sugar levels stable therefore lowering the risk of getting diabetes and coronary heart disease.
Chia seeds which are loaded in fiber, convert glucose (sugar) into a carbohydrate that is released slowly, consequently reducing the post-meal rise of sugar in the blood.
High in omega 3 fatty acids
Chia seeds are the richest plant source of omega-3s! They have more omega-3s than salmon.
However, the omega-3s (ALA) in most plant foods are not the same omega-3s (DHA) found in fish like salmon.
Unfortunately, the most important fatty acid is the DHA and our body is not good at converting the ALA fatty acids into DHA fatty acids. So the omega-3s in chia seeds are considered lower quality than those found in fish.
5. Happy heart!
Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids lower the bad LDL cholesterol.
High cholesterol and high blood pressure are linked. Hypertension is a strong risk factor for cardiovascular diseases like heart strokes, attacks, and blood clots.
Though no studies conducted on humans concluded that chia seeds lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, their high content in omega-3s, fiber, and protein most likely benefit heart health and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
6. Happy brain!
2/3 of the brain is made of fat and the brain uses healthy fatty acids to produce brain cells. Omega-3s are essential fats that the brain uses to function well, however our body doesn’t make them.
Studies have shown that low levels of omega-3s can cause mental and emotional disorders such as depression, can accelerate brain aging and can have a negative effect on brain function and development.
7. Chia seeds are naturally anti-inflammatory
Studies on omega-3s have also shown their anti-inflammation benefits.
Inflammation of the tissues in the body is a normal reaction to fight infections. It helps fight off bacteria and viruses and enables the body to heal. However chronic inflammation (like in chronic inflammatory bowel diseases) can damage DNA and cause cancer such as colon cancer.
Chronic inflammation is also a risk factor for heart disease.
Chia seeds are full of natural antioxidants
Another important fact about chia seeds is that they are also rich in antioxidants. Rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, manganese, selenium, vitamin E, flavonols, lignin, and phenolic acids; this long list of anti-oxidants help protect the fragile fats in the seed.
Research agrees that consuming antioxidants from foods has a beneficial impact on health:
8. The immune system is strengthened
The high-fiber content and rich source of antioxidants in chia seeds both are linked in supporting a stronger and healthy immunity, thus boosting energy levels.
They are also a rich source of soluble fibre, which works to keep your digestive tract healthy and is directly linked to stronger immunity.
9. Aging and Cancer
Antioxidants protect cell molecules from damage because they stop the production of free radicals. This deterioration process is called oxidation. Increased production of free radicals contribute to aging and leads to diseases like cancer.
Great source of calcium
10. Stronger bones
Chia seeds have a pretty massive amount of calcium (18% RDA for calcium). It is higher than most dairy foods. If you don’t eat dairy products, Chia is an excellent dairy substitute.
When you add the rich source of phosphorus, magnesium, and protein, it makes chia a cocktail of essentials nutrients for bone health.
How to eat chia seeds?
I really love how these little super powerful seeds are so easy to use and incorporate into my diet. I can add them to so many dishes. They have this delicate nutty taste and crunchy texture.
There is no need to grind them to prepare them and they can be eaten with about anything because their taste is so bland. I sprinkle them to my raw salads, add them to my yogurt. You can add them to your bread, pies and muffins, rice dishes, and vegetables as well. You can also of course use them for your smoothies and other drinks. Bon appétit, it is that simple!
Vegans use them as egg substitutes in their recipes. For instance, after letting them soak in water, a gel forms and it can be used to replace eggs in baking.
Are there any risks and side effects of eating chia seeds?
Because they are high in fiber, they may cause some digestive side effects if you don’t usually eat a lot of fiber and eat chia too much at once.
Also, there is one case of a man that had already swallowing problems. After he ate a tablespoon of dry chia seeds, he then tried to wash them down his esophagus with a glass of water. The seeds swelled so much that they obstructed his throat, forming a thick gel. He had to get medical help.
It is therefore important to mix chia seeds with food or liquid before eating them.
Every kitchen should have chia seeds because adding them to your recipes will greatly multiply their nutrition power.
But keep in mind that counting on one individual food is not enough to prevent disease and stay healthy. It is crucial to adopt healthy living and eating habits. A healthy diverse balanced diet and regular exercise are the keys to achieving good health.
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