Interest in the nutritional and health benefits of chia seeds is growing daily. Researchers are discovering that ounce for ounce, chia seeds should be considered one of the healthiest foods on Earth, and more health benefits of chia seeds are being discovered every day.
Chia seeds were once a staple crop of the Aztec and Mayan Indians in Central and South America, but people all over the world are now learning about their benefits. The plant itself is called Salvia hispanica, and it’s related to the more common mint plant. The natives of Guatemala and southern Mexico have known about the health benefits of chia seeds for centuries, and they made a nutritious drink from chia seeds as well as using them as an ingredient in cooking. The word chia actually means “strength” in their native dialect.
Lots of Nutrition With Only a Few Calories
A single ounce of chia seeds is like a multivitamin capsule. It supplies eleven grams of fiber, nine grams of fat, and four grams of protein. In addition, it contains 30 percent of your daily requirement of magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese, plus 18 percent of your daily calcium. It also has measurable amounts of Vitamins B1, B2, and B3, plus potassium and zinc. All of that nutrition is provided with less than 150 calories, and very little carbohydrates. All that is packed into less than two tablespoons of seeds.
The health benefits of chia seeds don’t stop there. The fat that the seeds contain is Omega-3, considered the healthiest kind of dietary fat, and the seeds don’t contain any gluten. Chia seeds just might be the ultimate whole grain food.
Bonus: The Carbohydrates in Chia Are Fiber
Many people are looking to cut back on carbohydrates in their diet. The amount of carbs in chia seeds can be deceptive. One ounce of chia seeds contains 12 grams of carbohydrates, but almost all of that is in the form of fiber. Fiber passes through the digestive system without being absorbed by the body, so chia seeds won’t raise your blood sugar the way easily digested, carb-rich foods like bread do. If you’re using a high-protein, lo-carb diet, you can feel good about including lots of chia seeds in all your meals.
Another of the health benefits of chia seeds is due to this high level of fiber. Chia seeds are like a sponge, and the fiber in them soaks up a dozen times their weight in water. As you would expect, that makes chia seeds expand in your stomach, increasing your feeling of fullness while you eat less food. That’s why chia seeds have been incorporated into so many diet plans. Fiber is great for your digestion overall as well.
Chia Seeds Deliver Protein
People who want a lot of protein in their diets often have to eat a lot of meat and eggs. Chia seeds contain almost 15 percent protein by weight, making them one of the most protein-rich plants in the world. If you’re not getting enough fiber in your diet because you’re limiting your intake of carbohydrates of all kinds, chia seeds can take the place of animal products while still delivering protein and fiber. If you’re a vegetarian, it can be hard to find foods that have as much protein as chia seeds.
Chia Seeds Have Important Anti-Oxidants
Another of the health benefits of chia seeds is the amount of anti-oxidants they can add to your diet. Chia seeds are filled with substances that naturally keep the fat they contain from going rancid. The way anti-oxidants work in the body isn’t entirely understood, but they have been shown to stop the production of free radicals that damage cells and add to the effects of normal aging and some diseases, including cancer.
Many people try to add anti-oxidants to their diet, but supplements can’t deliver the health benefits of chia seeds. The anti-oxidants that you derive from food appear to be much more effective than those you take in pill form. That’s why foods like chia seeds are in such high demand. Other than blueberries, there are no food products you can find that pack as many anti-oxidant benefits in such a small package as chia seeds.
Chia Seeds Can Help Your Bones
Chia seeds are loaded with calcium, an important element for bone health. They also contain magnesium and phosphorus, two lesser-known but important elements necessary for strong bones. You can get more calcium from chia seeds than you can from the same amount of dairy products. If you can’t tolerate milk or cheese products, chia seeds can be an invaluable substitute in your diet to preserve and enhance bone health.
Chia Seeds Are Versatile
There are many foods that nutritionists know are good for you. One problem that arises is that it’s hard to find foods that are good for you, affordable, and versatile enough to be eaten more than once in a while. If you want the Omega-3 fatty acids in fish like salmon, you’ll be hard pressed to figure out a way to get it into your breakfast, and it’s too expensive to use at every meal. Blueberries are a potent anti-oxidant, but they’re seasonal and hard to incorporate in a lot of meal plans.
That’s where the health benefits of chia seeds really shine. Chia seeds aren’t expensive, and they can be incorporated into your diet in more ways than almost any food you can name. You can eat chia seeds raw if you like, but they have a fairly bland taste. That blandness increases the health benefits of chia seeds by increasing your ability to use them in more dishes. Some healthy foods must be the centerpiece of a recipe or you won’t get much benefit from eating them, but chia seeds can be added to many other foods without overpowering the taste of the main ingredients. Chia seeds don’t require you to grind them in order to get the nutritional benefits they hold. You can sprinkle them on top of healthy snack like yogurt or cereal to increase the amount of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. If you soak chia seeds in water or juice, they break down into a kind of gel that lets you add the health benefits of chia seeds to your smoothies without taking over the taste. If you struggle to produce smoothies that have the consistency you like, chia seeds can make all the difference in producing hearty but drinkable mixtures.
There’s a lot of talk about superfoods on television, in magazines, and on the web. Chia seeds might be the only example of a food that is worthy of the title. Try to incorporate several tablespoons of chia seeds in your daily diet, and see if you don’t observe their benefits working for you.