Chia Seeds: Nutrition and Benefits of True Superfood

chia seeds health benefits

There have been a lot of foods that are labelled as “superfoods” because of their many health benefits, such as coconut oil, argan oil and quinoa. While the list goes on, there is one food that belongs to the same category and is slowly making its name in the health and nutrition area: chia seeds.

For the past few years, chia seeds have been making a buzz and gradually becoming a staple food in a lot of people’s diet for their “control your hunger” and weight loss abilities.

However, this super seed has been around for centuries and have been used by ancient civilizations due to its nutritional abilities.

So what exactly is the real score behind this superfood? And why is it even considered as part of the list? Read on to find out.

Chia and Its Seeds: What Are They?

For most health conscious people, chia seeds are definitely part of the list. According to the ABC News website, chia seeds are the “It Food” of 2013. In fact, chia seeds are said to eventually replace flaxseed since they are more nutritious and they don’t go rancid. Chia is an edible seed that comes from a desert plant called Salvia hispanica, a herbaceous plant in the mint family that was grown in Mexico. Chia seeds are unprocessed, whole grain foods that can be easily absorbed by your body.

Chia comes in either white or dark brown and black colour and has a mild, nutty flavour that makes it a perfect addition to foods and beverages such as salads, rice dishes, yogurt, desserts or even drinks. Chia seeds are packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals that can boost your brain and body health.

And the best thing about chia seeds? They do not add too much pounds without compromising your health, hence the “superfood” or “super seed” nicknames. In fact, one ounce or two tablespoons of chia seeds already contains 139 calories, protein, carbohydrates, omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, calcium and antioxidants for better health.

Chia Seeds: Superfood That Boosts Energy

Did you know that the word “chia” comes from a Mayan word which means “strength?” The history of chia seeds and its many uses dates back during the ancient times. Before the Spanish colonization in Latin America, chia seeds were a staple food among Aztecs and Mayans, even as early as 3500 BC.

This is because the Mayans and Aztecs were using this superfood to increase their stamina and boost their energy. At the same time, this super seed is eaten by them on a daily basis, grinding them into flour, pressing them for oil and mixing and drinking it with water.

Despite its many uses, the farming of chia was banned as the Spanish introduced their own food to the natives, almost making them extinct. Thankfully, health experts and nutritionists are constantly looking for foods to improve the nutrient content of most diets. Of course, chia seeds were once again discovered and are slowly being incorporated in the diet of a lot of unhealthy Americans and other people around the world.

So, Why Is Everyone Eating Chia Seeds?

There are a lot of buzz surrounding chia seeds. One thing is for sure: chia seeds are definitely one of the best and most nutritious foods these days. In fact, even kids and pregnant women can add chia seeds in their daily diet. And the good news is chia seeds can be added to almost anything and everything you eat. So what do you get from eating chia seeds?

Here are fourteen health benefits of chia seeds that are supported by human studies.

1. Chia Seeds Contain Essential Nutrients with Only Few Calories

This is good news for dieters and health conscious individuals. Chia seeds may be tiny but don’t be fooled by its size. One ounce or 28 grams or two tablespoons of chia seeds has a high nutritional content that will surely surprise you.

  • 11 grams of fibre.
  • 4 grams of protein.
  • 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of which are omega-3.
  • Calcium, 18% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
  • Manganese, 30% of the RDA.
  • Phosphorus, 27% of the RDA. Aside from this, chia seeds are also packed with zinc, niacin (vitamin B3), potassium, thiamine (vitamin B1), and vitamin B2. And that’s not all. This single ounce only has 137 calories or equivalent to one gram carbohydrate! Therefore, no doubt that this whole grain food is one of the best sources of various vitamins and minerals.

chia pudding

2. Chia Seeds Are Packed with Antioxidants

Antioxidants are important because they help fight free radicals that can damage your cells, slow down effects of aging and contribute to chronic illnesses such as cancer. The good news is chia seeds are loaded with that. Chia seeds are high in antioxidants that help protect the delicate fats in the seeds from going rancid.

3. Chia Seeds Are Rich in Fibre

Keeping your digestive system healthy is very important. And when it comes to this department, fibre is the ultimate go-to guy. It doesn’t raise blood sugar and doesn’t require insulin to be disposed of. If you are looking for a fibre-rich food, then check out chia seeds. Did you know that chia seeds are one of the best sources of fibre?

Thanks to its high fibre content, chia seeds can absorb up to 12 times of their weight in water, making them gel-like and expanding in your stomach. At the same time, it makes you feel fuller longer and slowly absorbs the food you ate, making you eat fewer calories. And don’t worry, almost all of the carbs found in the seeds are fibre.

4. Chia Seeds Are Rich in Protein

Move over meat, chia seeds are here and contain an essential amount of protein, too. If you are the type of person who doesn’t eat animal products, then chia seeds can be your source of protein, even higher than most plant foods. It has a good balance of essential amino acids, contains tryptophan and at the same time, reduces your appetite – in a good way – by decreasing cravings and night time snacking.

5. Chia Seeds Help You Lose Weight

Whether you are on the heavy side or you simply want to lose a few pounds to keep you fit and healthy, then chia seeds are your new best friend. Keep in mind that this superfood is packed with fibre, which increases your fullness and slows down food absorption, and protein, which reduces your appetite and food intake.

These two components are proven to aid you with your weight loss goals, especially when combined with a healthy lifestyle. Further, it has a stabilizing effect on your blood sugar that can fight with insulin resistance, which is often associated with an increase in belly fat. Definitely every dieter’s dream come true.

6. Chia Seeds Are Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acid is often linked with salmon, fish and other seafood. Believe it or not, chia seeds contain more omega-3, mostly alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), than salmon. After all, omega-3 is needed to keep your heart and brain healthy and cholesterol level balanced. On the other hand, there are studies that show chia seeds cannot increase DHA since humans are not good at converting this – which can be an issue. Therefore, eating fish regularly, taking fish oil or drinking DHA supplements can help to keep your DHA levels at par with the other omega-3 types.

chia flatbread

7. Chia Seeds Can Keep Your Teeth and Bones Healthy

Did you know that chia seeds contain essential nutrients that can keep your teeth and bones healthy? These are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and protein (yes, protein is needed too). If you are not a fan of dairy products, then chia seeds can be your best source of calcium. A single ounce of chia seeds has calcium content of 18% of the recommended intake or three times more than the calcium content from skim milk.

Aside from calcium, chia seeds are also packed with manganese, which can be good for your bones, and phosphorus, which is essential to maintain healthy bones and teeth.

8. Chia Seeds Can Improve Exercise and Athletic Performance

Again, “chia” comes from the Mayan word that means “strength.” From this alone, you can assume that chia seeds do help give someone a certain level of performance that can boost one’s energy levels and stamina. After all, these seeds were used by Mayans and Aztecs to pump up their performance thousands of years ago.

A small study was conducted to test this claim and to check whether chia seed is a viable option to enhance sports performance. The participants were asked to drink a full bottle of Gatorade OR a mixture of half Gatorade and half chia seeds. Afterwards, the participants were asked to run for an hour in the treadmill and 10 kilometres long run. Based on the study, there was no difference between the two groups who drank different drinks.

The researchers concluded that chia seeds can be a viable option to enhance one’s performance for endurance events while reducing an athlete’s needs to take sugar.

9. Chia Seeds Can Improve Type II Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the serious health conditions affecting millions of people today. If you are one of them, then there is good news for you. A study was conducted among 20 diabetic patients who received 37 grams of chia seeds or 37 grams of wheat bran for 12 weeks. After the experimental period, those who got the chia seeds saw an improvement in their health.

Blood pressure went down while the inflammatory marker called hs-CRP also decreased by 40%. Also, a risk factor called vWF saw a decrease by 21%. However, further studies needs to be conducted to strengthen these claims. On the other hand, if you are not yet diabetic, then chia seeds can help reduce the risk.

This super seed can balance your blood sugar levels, especially after every meal or eating starchy foods and sweets, thereby lowering your risk for Type II diabetes. Remember, prevention is better than cure.

10. Chia Seeds Help Prevent Diverticulitis / Diverticulosis

Diverticulitis is a type of digestive disorder that happens when pouches, known as diverticula, form in the colon walls. Although there is no accurate cause for this condition, doctors believe that low fibre diet is the main cause since the colon has to work harder to push the stool out of your body. If you are lacking in the fibre department, then you might be at risk.

The good news is chia seeds can be your ultimate fibre solution with each layer of the seed coated with soluble and insoluble fibre. They help keep the food move smoothly through your digestive process and keep your colon hydrated and ensure easy movement of food.

11. Chia Seeds Can Boost Your Energy Levels

Coffee and soda can do the trick but don’t you think going for natural energy boosters are better, safer and healthier? If you have been slacking lately and your energy has gone MIA, then chia seeds can help. Chia is one of the best plant-based sources of protein that is designed to raise your energy levels. At the same time, the combination of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals work together to give you a steady energy that can help you last through the day. Why not, right?

chia seed raspberry drink

12. Chia Seeds Can Be a Healthier Substitute in the Kitchen

Who says chia seeds are only for added flavour and texture. Apparently, this super food can be a wonderful and healthier alternative to your usual baking or cooking ingredients. If you love baking, then chia seeds can be a good replacement for eggs, butter or oil.

The outer layer of this seed swell when mixed with liquids, then forms into a gel. Instead of the usual eggs, why not use this super food to lower your cholesterol levels and boost the nutritional content of your baked goods?

Also, this super food can be an alternative to processed grains such as white bread and white flour. At the same time, chia seeds are gluten-free, hence safer and healthier.

You can even cook chia (by itself or with other ingredients) in a pressure or slow cooker. If you haven't got one, get yourself an Instant Pot on Amazon and have your meal ready in no time.

13. Chia Seeds Can Improve Your Heart Health

Here’s the truth: chia seeds are rich in fibre, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, a lot of experts are suggesting that with these nutritional components, it can improve one’s metabolic health too. True and false. There are studies that show chia seeds can lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increase good cholesterol as it reduce inflammation.

However, these studies used other ingredients, which can be difficult to pinpoint whether chia seeds can cause these effects. There is also another study that showed chia seeds alone did not see any improvements in terms of heart health. On the other hand, Cleveland Clinic mentioned in their website that chia seeds are safe and effective in treating cardiovascular risk factors.

What does this mean? Chia seeds, when combined with other nutritious foods such as soy protein and oats and changes in the diet, will have an effect on your cholesterol levels.

14. Chia Seeds Are Very Easy to Incorporate in Your Diet

By now, you surely have an idea how chia seeds can be incorporated in your diet. The truth is anything goes! Chia seeds are very easy to work with that you can practically add it in any dishes. Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds need not be ground in order to obtain its nutrients, making it much easier to prepare.

Eat it raw, soak it in your favourite juice or just plain water (which turns into gel after), or add it to porridge, puddings, dips, sauces or any of your baked goods. If you want, you can even sprinkle it on top of your cereals or yoghurt for added boost in the morning, or your favourite rice dishes and salads. Whatever your choice may be, it does not matter. Adding chia seeds on your favourite dishes and drinks will definitely boost its nutritional value while making you healthier.

Last note – Chia seeds are nutritious, period. However, extra precaution is still needed before you munch on these super seeds. If you are allergic to seeds such as sesame seeds or mustard seeds, or on high blood pressure medication, then seek medical advice first before you eat chia seeds. Also, take note of the recommended intake.

Chia seeds mostly contain fibre and too much fibre intake can give you tummy problems too so take it easy. Being labelled as a “super food” requires a lot of nutritional proof on why they should be included in the list. And given these many health benefits, it’s no wonder that chia seeds definitely deserve the title.

So what are you waiting for? Add chia seeds to your diet and watch your weight go down and your overall health improve.

Barbara Komorek

Barbara is the founder and owner of www.leanhealthyandwise.com. She is a former research scientist with a serious passion for health. She enjoys writing about nutrition, wellness and lifestyle and empowering people to take control of their health.
Chia seeds are packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals that can boost your brain and body health. And the best thing about chia seeds? Read to find out.

Leave a Reply 8 comments

Kris Letcher Reply

Hi Barbara, thanks for all the information about the benefits of chia seeds, it is just that they are hard to snack on unless made into great snacks. My partner makes cakes and bread with chia seeds so I am lucky enough to have this. Do you have a favourite chia seed recipe ?
Regards
Kris

Regina Peterson Reply

My friends have all been talking about chia seeds. I need more fiber in my diet, so that’s why I have been particularly interested in this. Chia smoothies sound like a great idea. http://getchia.com/certified-organic-chia-seeds

Eric Madrid Reply

Excellent write up! I love Chia seeds, bought my first bag a few weeks ago at Sams. Been putting them in my morning shake.

Marquita Herald Reply

Excellent article Barbara. I actually bought a big bag of chia seeds about a month ago, added them to yogurt a couple of times and promptly forgot about them. Thanks for the reminder, I’m heading to the fridge right now to put them front and center and then I spend a little time looking for recipes.

Roslyn Reply

Quite an education. I’ve heard of chia seeds but was not knowledgeable about them. After reading your article was just thinking I should give it a try when I got to your last paragraph. So great that you added these cautions in. Am seeing Dr soon and will ask him about incorporating it into a daily routine.

Suzie Cheel Reply

Hi Barbara,
I was amazed when i went to share my blog post on TWOF that you had a post on the exact topic I had written on, Chia is part of my daily health routine. I just found a wonderful way to use it to make a jam. 🙂

    Kris Letcher Reply

    Thanks Suzie, Chia seeds in jam, a great idea.

Dr Kenneth Mak Reply

Thank you for this post. This is a great summary about chia seeds. I never knew you could even drink it. I use it now a lot and mainly instead of rice, but I am going to try to use it for desserts as you suggested in your article.

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