You may have heard the saying that good things come in small packages, that statement holds true for chia seeds. The tiny flat, black, and edible seeds are from the Salvia Hispanica. Their historical importance goes all the way back to the Aztecs and Mayans. Over the years, they have grown in importance and popularity from a mere dietary staple to somewhat of a superfood in recent times. Why are many health-conscious people opting for these tiny seeds? The answer is simple, it’s because of the numerous nutrients and health benefits of chia seeds.
If life was fair, a chia seed should not be able to hold so many nutrients. But life isn’t fair, and we shouldn’t judge this seed by its appearance. Let’s ignore its tiny size and focus on its nutritional content. An ounce of raw chia seeds – which is about two tablespoons – contains 4 grams of protein, 11 grams of fiber and 9 grams of Omega 3 fat. It also contains the following nutrients per Reference Daily Intake: calcium (18%), phosphorus (27%) magnesium and manganese (both 30%). To add to this, it also contains vitamins B1, B2, and B3, zinc, and potassium.
Interestingly, the same 28 grams of chia seeds contains only one gram of digestible carbohydrate and 137 calories. As mentioned these nutrient-packed seeds provide several health benefits. Let’s take a look at ten of them.
Reduces Chronic Inflammation
Usually, chronic inflammation is measured by the number of inflammation markers in one’s blood. This is because there are sometimes no obvious external signs. Although more research is required, some tests have suggested that consuming not more than three tablespoons of chia seeds daily may help reduce inflammation markers in the blood by almost half. Chronic inflammation is a sign of other health problems and could be harmful if not treated. Poor diet, not enough exercise, and frequent smoking are some of the unhealthy habits that could put a person at risk of chronic inflammation.
Skin inflammation is a common disorder that most people take for granted. Dermatologists say that skin inflammation is a symptom of the body’s fight against viruses and infections. That does not make the red swollen skin any less uncomfortable. But regularly adding chia seeds to your diet will made a big difference in soothing skin inflammation.
High blood-sugar levels, overtime, may put a person at risk of heart diseases and other diseases such as Type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Studies suggest that adding spoonfuls of chia seeds to meals helps to slow down digestion and also help control or prevent post-meal blood-sugar spikes in occurs in diabetic patients. Some studies showed for example that, consuming bread that contains the chia seeds helps to check and lower after-meal increase in blood-sugar levels. This is in contrast with bread that does not contain chia seeds. In animals, some studies have shown that insulin sensitivity is improved, and blood-sugar is controlled when animals are fed with chia seeds.
High In Fiber And Aids In Weight Loss
Chia seeds provide up to a third of the recommended daily fiber intake for adults and therefore cleaning up the gut and aiding smooth digestion. According to researchers, the soluble fiber in the seeds absorbs large amounts of water which makes them expand in the stomach. The result is one feels full easily and therefore does not overeat. It is therefore recommended as a useful addition to the diet especially for people struggling to lose weight. Although consuming the seeds alone is not enough to cause considerable weight loss, when incorporated into one’s healthy lifestyle and exercise, the results are significant. Also, chia seeds contain protein which could help reduce the amount of food intake by helping reduce appetite.
Good Source of Antioxidants
Many types of cancer, other diseases, and aging are caused by free radicals that attack blood cells and damage the molecules in them. Research shows that eating chia seeds can help fight against the production of these free radicals. The seeds are loaded with antioxidants that fight free radical cells production as well as protect the sensitive fat in the seed from fermentation. Are you impressed yet? Wait, there’s more to come.
High In Quality Protein
Another area where the chia seeds score high marks in is their quality protein content. Among plant-based protein food, these seeds are considered to have one of the highest protein content which is fourteen percent (14%) protein by weight. In addition to that, chia seeds contain a great balance of essential amino acids. This means that your body will have what it needs to build its protein content with. Research has proven that high protein foods are high filling foods. Aside from that, they help check and limit obsessive thoughts about food by more than half. If you’re addicted to midnight snacking, chia seeds have been proven to reduce those ungodly hour cravings by half. It’s, therefore, an excellent addition to a weight-loss diet and healthy eating. To add to that, chia seeds are an excellent source of protein for vegetarians. They are gluten-free diet-friendly, with about twelve grams (12 grams) of carbohydrates from fiber. In short, chia seeds are an excellent addition to a vegetarian diet.
High In Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Usually, when we think of Omega-3, we think of fishes like salmon. Compared gram for gram, chia seeds contain even more omega-3s than salmon. Omega-3s are essential for improving the health of the brain. They also help in reducing inflammation. But before you shout for joy, there is a downside, sorry. Research has shown that the Omega 3s in chia seeds are mostly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). The problem is ALA has to be converted into eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids before they can be used by the body. Why is this a problem? Humans bodies are not efficient enough in converting ALA to EPA and DHA. This, therefore, makes chia seeds (and other plant-based) omega-3 acids inferior compared with the animal sources. Research has further shown that chia seeds can increase the blood levels of only EPA and ALA. Therefore plant-based DHA supplements are needed if you’re a vegetarian.
Lower Risk Of Heart Disease And Belly Fat
Omega-3, fiber, and protein may help reduce the risks of heart disease. However, research has shown that this needs to be supported by other healthy lifestyles to be successful. It further showed that chia seeds can lower certain contributing factors to heart disease. These include insulin resistance, belly fat, inflammation, and triglycerides. Some other studies conducted on the matter revealed that chia seeds help in considerably reducing the blood pressure of people suffering from hypertension. Hypertension puts people at serious risk of heart disease. Again, to reap the full benefits, chia seeds should be added to a healthy lifestyle.
Because chia seeds increase satisfaction and aids in fighting insulin resistance, it’s an excellent means of reducing belly fat. This is because it helps reduce the urge to overindulge and therefore reduce the chances of consuming too many calories.
Bone And Teeth Health
Chia seeds are rich in calcium, phosphorus, and manganese. These are essential for strong bone and teeth health. One ounce (28 grams) supplies eighteen percent (18%) of the recommended daily amount of calcium. This is even more impressive when compared with other dairy products. Compared gram for gram, chia seeds offer more calcium than other dairy products. This makes it a good source of calcium for people who are lactose intolerant and people who do not eat dairy products.
However, there’s another downside here. Research has shown that chia seeds also have phytic acid. This reduces the amount of calcium the body is able to absorb to some extent. Back to more good news. A serving of chia seeds also offers thirty percent (30%) of the daily recommended manganese. That’s not all. It also serves up twenty-seven percent (27%) of the daily recommended amount of phosphorus. Impressive huh? These minerals are very important for bone and teeth health. They also aid in preventing conditions like osteoporosis.
Offers More Fiber Than Carbs
We all try as much as possible to stay away from digestible carbohydrates like starch and sugar. Since one ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds serves up twelve grams (12 grams) of carbohydrates, we may cringe a little. But here’s the great news. Out of the twelve grams of carbohydrates, eleven are actually fiber that the body does not digest. This leaves only one gram (1gram) of digestible carbohydrate content. We know that fiber is still a member of the carbohydrate family. However, fiber’s effect on our health is considerably different from the dreaded sugar and starch. For example, fiber does not need insulin to be disposed of. Also, it does not increase blood-sugar levels. The high fiber content therefore makes chia seeds a low-carbohydrate friendly food since its digestible carbohydrate content is only one gram per an ounce.
As mentioned earlier, the seeds have high soluble fiber content. Which means they can absorb water up to ten times their weight and, therefore, expand in the stomach. This helps in the consumption of few calories and makes for more filling meals with comparatively less amount. Aside from being one of the best sources of fiber, chia seeds are also friendly towards intestinal flora. These intestinal flora (or gut bacteria) are microorganisms located in the intestines. They help in ensuring healthy digestion and general intestinal health. Because chia seeds feed these microorganisms (or friendly bacteria) they aid in promoting good digestive health.
Easy To Incorporate Into Your Diet
Another advantage of chia seeds has to do with how easily one can incorporate them into one’s diet. Aside from their tiny sizes, the seeds are almost tasteless. Which means they can easily blend with your favorite meals without getting in the way. Unlike flax seeds, you don’t need to grind them to make them blend easily with your food. They can be sprinkled directly into your smoothies, yogurt, vegetable and fruit salads, rice meals, bread and cakes, you name them. Because they can absorb water and fat, chia seeds can be added to sauces to thicken them and give them a bit of texture. They can also be mixed with water or added to omelets and pancakes.
The possibilities are limited only to one’s own creative imagination. If you’re not the chef-ish type, no worries. Chia seeds can be taken raw. Despite their bland taste, you can easily snack on them at work or on-the-go. Because they are very filling and nutritious, they make really healthy snacks for a busy day. If you’ve never tried the seeds yet, you may be concerned about side effects. Chia seeds go down easily and seem to be well tolerated generally.
Dosage And Side Effects
The recommended dosage of chia seeds is twenty grams (20 grams) two times daily. That is about one and a half (1.5) tablespoons twice daily. Just like anything else, overindulgence is bad. As the saying goes, “too much of everything is bad.” Exceeding the recommended intake of chia seeds could lead to some digestive side effects. Too much fiber may cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and even bloating of the stomach and frequent passing of gas.
How To Incorporate Chia Seeds Into Your Diet
Here are some ways to include the seeds in your meals.
- Do you love puddings? Because chia seeds absorb liquid more than ten times their own weight, they make for excellent pudding that is similar to tapioca in texture. Just soak them in milk or water and leave it overnight. You can add some sugar or spices according to your taste and voila! Dig in!
- If you love texture in your drinks, smoothies, and ice creams, you can sprinkle some chia seeds into them to give them some crunchy feel in your mouth. Imagine your teeth crushing on some crunchiness in your yogurt. Yum!
- Perhaps you love pastries or love baking. You can add some of these superstar seeds into your favorite muffins, cakes, waffles or bread. Because they are tasteless, they won’t change the taste of your pastries. On the other hand, they’ll fill them up with all the essential nutrients we’ve mentioned in this article.
- With a bit of sweetener, make your own jam with chia seeds. Yes, you heard right. Turn your seeds into a spread. Chia seeds have natural binding power. This means you can add them to your favorite jam recipes without needing pectin. They’ll mix effortlessly with your strawberry, blueberry or pineapple jams to name a few.
In conclusion, chia seeds are superfoods packed with impressive amounts of nutrients, antioxidants, fiber, and omega-3 fat. This whole-grain food is not only rich in nutrients, it can also be incorporated easily in our daily diet for a shot of health and crunchiness. Aside from that, they offer various health benefits like weight loss, low blood-sugar, healthy digestion, reduced inflammation, and bone health. However, consuming too much has side effects which are mostly related to digestion issues. Their bland taste makes them easy to consume. These little superstars deserve the spotlight.