When you hear yet another new superfood is upping its popularity, all you can probably think of is how far Gwen Paltrow fans' obsessions have come to and how extreme clean eating mamas are trying to take you.
Before you shut me down, I want to promise you that "benefits of chia seeds" are too good to pass up and its flavor is so subtle that it's easier to incorporate into your daily life than other superfoods like "kale", sardines, oysters, and ginseng.
When prepared properly, they are easy to digest and are a versatile ingredient that can be incorporated easily into many different recipes.
Chia seeds are nutrient dense and carry a long list of health benefits.
Below, we will take a look at the origins of this powerful little seed, its health benefits and how you can incorporate more of them into your diet.
What are chia seeds?
Chia seeds are produced by Salvia hispanica, which is a desert plant that is a member of the mint family. The seeds are marketed under the common name of 'chia', as well as several other trademarked names.
Chia seeds are believed to have originated in Central America, where they were a staple in the diet of the ancient Aztecs.
Early Native Americans located in the southwestern United States consumed the seeds of Salvia columbaraie, which are known as 'golden chia'.
What are the benefits of chia seeds?
Benefits of chia seeds are extensive and in many cases surpass the benefits of other superfoods.
From reducing the signs of aging to regulating blood glucose levels, chia seeds can help improve a myriad of health conditions. Below are the top nine most notable:
A study published from the National Institute of Health showed that a group of researchers from Mexico discovered that chia seeds actually contain two times higher concentrations of natural antioxidants than previously thought.
This antioxidant activity is proven to stop 70% of free radical activity, proving that Chia seeds are one of nature’s richest sources of antioxidants.
These antioxidants can help prevent premature skin aging by reversing inflammation caused by free radical damage.
Chia seeds contain roughly 11 grams of fiber per ounce, meaning just one serving can provide you with your daily-recommended allowance. According to the American Dietetic Association, diets that are high in fiber can help promote bowel regularity.
According to an article published in Reviews on Recent Clinical Trials, chia seeds have the ability to lower blood pressure and regulate cholesterol, making it beneficial for heart health.
Due to their ability to reduce oxidative stress, they help to reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis.
Blood sugar regulation
Because chia seeds are high in fiber and 'alpha-linolenic acid', the researchers from the University of Litoral in Argentina have determined that they can prevent metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance, an important factor in the development of diabetes.
Increased A study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning show that individuals who consume chia seeds before a workout can increase their exercise performance much in the same way as consuming sports drinks, but without the sugar.
In this study, half of the participants drank a popular sports drink while the other half consumed a sports drink/chia drink mix.
Their running time was matched, but the chia group consumed far less sugar.
One ounce of chia seeds contains 18% of the daily-recommended amount of calcium.
Calcium is important for bone health, strength and mass. Chia seeds also contain boron, an essential nutrient for proper bone health and development.
Chia seeds rank among the top sources of plant-based protein.
This makes them a great addition for anyone looking to add muscle balance blood sugar levels and burn fat while following a vegetarian diet.
Reduces the risk of developing cancer: Chia seeds are rich in alpha linoleic acid.
A study published in the Journal of Molecular Biology found that this acid limits the growth of cancer cells in both cervical and breast cancers, without harming healthy cells.
Chia seeds are loaded with:
- Vitamin A
Calcium is necessary for tooth health, whereas zinc prevents tartar build-up by keeping plaque from mineralizing on your teeth. It also has an antibacterial effect to help keep your breath fresh.
Phosphorus and vitamin A are also important for keeping your teeth strong and promoting overall oral health.
There are very few side effects that have been associated with consuming chia seeds. However, there are some conflicting studies regarding chia seeds and prostate cancer.
A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that a fatty acid contained in chia seeds can possibly increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.
Conflicting studies state that the fatty acid did not increase prostate cancer risk, but could actually decrease it.
Until more studies are conducted, it is better to err on the side of caution. If you have existing prostate problems, avoid consuming chia seeds.
Another side effect of chia seeds is stomach discomfort.
This is due to the large amount of dietary fiber contained within them. When beginning to consume chia seeds, be sure to drink ample amounts of water to help your body better assimilate the fiber.
Chia Seeds Nutrition
Chia seeds have been touted as a superfood due to their high levels of various nutrients and vitamins. Below is a breakdown of the nutritional content of 1 ounce of chia seeds:
- Dietary fiber -11 grams
- Protein- 4.4 grams
- Omega-3 fatty acids-4915 mg
- Omega-6 fatty acids- 1620 mg
- Calcium- 77 mg
- Copper- 0.1 mg
- Phosphorus-265 mg
- Potassium- 44.8 mg
- Zinc- 1mg
Aside from these key nutrients, chia seeds are also high in vitamins A, B, E and D, iron, sulfur, magnesium, iodine, niacin, manganese, thiamine and multiple antioxidants.
How to eat chia seeds
Chia seeds have a mild, nutty flavor, and are small and hard to chew on their own.
You may sprinkle them on yogurt as a garnish if you wish, but many people choose to bake with them or make a simple chia seed pudding.
- To make a basic chia seed pudding, combine 1 cup of almond milk with 1 cup of plain, low-fat Greek yogurt.
- Stir in 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup.
- Stir together well and let sit in the refrigerator for at least "8 to 10 hours". This allows the chia seeds to soak up the moisture in the pudding and become easier to eat.
- Stir the mixture well before eating to make sure all the seeds are evenly distributed. You may top this pudding with sliced fruit, such as strawberries.
Chia seeds are also useful in baking.
You may add them to scone and muffin recipes in the place of poppy seeds without soaking them to add a bit of nutty crunch. They can also help to keep foods such as cakes moist.
- Soak 1 to 2 tablespoons of chia seeds in a half cup of water and let sit until they have swollen and become gelatinous. Pour off any excess water, and then add the remaining seeds to your recipe.
Chia seeds can also be used to make a refreshing beverage.
- Combine 2 cups of coconut water with ½ cup of fresh lemon juice and ¾ cup of pureed raspberries.
- Add in 3 tablespoons of raw honey and 4 tablespoons of chia seeds. Stir well and let sit for 30 minutes. Stir again and drink.
- Chia seeds can be added to many of your favorite beverages to give them a boost of nutrients and fiber.
- Chia seeds can be used in a variety of dishes, such as sprinkling them on salads or adding them to Panko breadcrumbs and using it as a coating for fish.
- Sprinkle them on top of your morning oatmeal for a nutrient boost, or try adding a spoonful to your homemade jam recipe.
- Chia seeds can even be added to soups and stews, and meat dishes such as meatloaf and meatballs.
- Simply sprinkle a spoonful or two of unsoaked chia seeds into your recipe and cook as usual.
When using them in your recipes, keep in mind that chia seeds absorb water and will increase in size.
This usually does not pose a problem in foods such as soups and stews, but using them in cakes and cookies may require them to be soaked first so the resulting food is not too dry.
Chia seeds contain so many nutrients that there is no reason to not eat them. Because they are high in fiber, incorporate them into your diet slowly to give your body a chance to adjust.
Consuming too many chia seeds in the beginning may cause stomach discomfort, excessive bloating and gas.
Aim to add ¼ teaspoon per day to your diet until you are consuming a full serving of 1 ounce per day.
Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day to help your body properly assimilate the seeds.