Chia seeds are a popular superfood. They are known for their high protein content and ability to absorb liquid and swell, which makes them a good addition to recipes. Chia seeds are considered a ‘super food’ because they contain a large amount of nutrients, and there are an excellent source of:
- Dietary fiber
- Various micronutrients
But what exactly are chia seeds, and what other benefits do they offer?
What are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds are the tiny black seeds of the Salvia hispanica plant, or chia plant. The chia plant is native to Guatemala and Mexico. The ancient Mayans and Aztecs ate these seeds to help maintain their strength and stamina.
Chia seeds have been used by the Moche, Chimu, Mochica, Cañari and Inca cultures of Peru, but their origin is uncertain. They are thought to have come from the desert regions of Mexico and Guatemala, although they were most likely originally cultivated in the Andes.
There are two types of chia seeds: black and white. The black seeds are the more widely available variety, and they are said to have a better flavor. They can also be stored in a cool place for up to two years.
Chia seeds can be eaten raw or cooked, and they can be sprinkled on cereal, yogurt, salad, or anything else you can think of.
There is no need to grind chia seeds. The seed is actually a fruit, and the white coating is made up of oil, protein, and fiber. All these components are great for the body, and the seeds can be eaten whole.
We know that chia seeds are easy to eat and were once a staple in South and Central American diets. But what other benefits do these tiny seeds offer?
The Benefits of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are a great source of protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. They also contain calcium, iron, and other essential nutrients. For such tiny little seeds, they pack a big nutrient punch.
There are many benefits to adding chia seeds to your diet.
Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These seeds provide you with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain and heart health. They also help reduce inflammation because they contain alpha-linolenic acid.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, which means that your body cannot produce them on its own, so you must obtain them through diet. They are found in fish and flax seeds, but chia seeds contain more omega-3s than either of them.
Plant-based omega-3s are hard to come by, which is why chia seeds are such a valuable addition to your diet. But one thing to note here is that chia seeds are not rich in DHA omega-3s, which is one of the most important types. Including them in a balanced diet that includes DHA-rich sources, like fatty fish, can help keep your brain and heart healthy.
Rich in Antioxidants
Another great benefit of these antioxidants is that the protect the fats in the seed to prevent them from going rancid.
Great Source of Protein
Chia seeds are also a good source of protein. Protein is the building block of all cells and tissues in the body. It is also important for maintaining muscle mass and for proper brain function.
How do you know if you are getting enough protein? When you have eaten enough protein, you will feel full and energized.
Eating just one ounce (about two tablespoons) of chia seeds will give you 4 grams of protein, so they are a great way to add a little extra protein kick to your meals.
Great Source of Calcium
Chia seeds are also a good source of calcium. Calcium is an essential nutrient that helps build strong bones. Getting enough calcium helps prevent osteoporosis, a condition where the bones become weak and brittle.
One ounce of chia seeds contains 18% of the recommended daily amount of calcium.
High in Fiber
These seeds contain a type of soluble fiber called mucilage. Mucilage is a gel-like substance that helps slow down the absorption of food. This preserves the energy levels in your body and helps you feel full for longer.
A one ounce serving of chia seeds contains a whopping 11 grams of fiber. Doctors recommend consuming 25-30 grams of fiber per day from food. Most adults only get half the recommended amount. Chia seeds are a great way to bridge this gap and help you get all the fiber you need for the day.
Fiber is important for your health, and it helps feed the good bacteria in your gut.
Easy to Add to Your Diet
Unlike other types of seeds, chia seeds do not need to be ground for them to be digested. In fact, they can be eaten as is.
The seeds can be consumed by mixing them with water, juice, or any other beverage. They can also be added to:
May Help with Diabetes
Chia seeds are said to help reduce the symptoms of diabetes by slowing the absorption of sugar from your digestive tract. They do this by absorbing liquids and swelling up, which slows down the absorption of sugar.
Some studies have supported this claim. They found that consuming bread with chia seeds helped reduce blood sugar spikes after a meal compared to bread without chia seeds.
May Help with High Cholesterol and Promote Heart Health
Chia seeds have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, and they may also help to prevent heart disease and strokes. They contain a high amount of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps to cleanse your digestive system and reduce the absorption of cholesterol.
Some research has shown that chia seeds can reduce blood pressure, a common risk factor for heart disease.
The Bottom Line
Chia seeds are gluten-free and non-GMO. They are a powerhouse of nutrients, and not only can they be eaten, but they can be used to make a gel that can be used in place of eggs or oil in recipes.
You can buy chia seeds in health food stores, online and in many supermarkets. They are usually available in the form of powder, oil, or whole seeds, and they are often sold in combination with flax seeds.
Make sure to include chia seeds in your diet. These seeds can help improve your health and boost your energy levels throughout the day.
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