Among superfoods such as green tea and spirulina—chia seeds truly deserve their rank.
Chia seeds nutrition and benefits are impressive.
Their intensive nutrient profile includes fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, protein, and calcium.
Those tiny seeds also pack several essential minerals and antioxidants (1, 2).
Not only chia seeds are nutrient-dense but they also contain very few calories.
From boosting exercise performance to reducing appetite and improving digestive health, chia seeds benefits are too good to pass up. Not to mention the flavor is so subtle you can incorporate into your diet very easily.
In this article, I’ll discuss 12 best chia seeds benefits and uses backed by science.
1. What Are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds are tiny black seeds from the plant called Salvia hispanica, which is related to the mint. They grow abundantly in southern Mexico.
Their popularity may be a recent phenomenon in the U.S.
But little we knew, chia seeds benefits are nothing new to Aztecs and Mayans.
They’d long favored and prized them for their ability to provide sustainable energy.
In fact, the word “chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength”.
Thanks to the growing demand for nutrient-dense foods, chia seeds are finally making their name. They are getting the “superfood” recognition and becoming a staple food.
Chia Seeds Nutrition Facts
Chia seeds’ nutrition profile is quite impressive.
Here are 1 oz (28g) servings of chia seeds (3):
- Fiber: 11 grams.
- Protein: 4 grams.
- Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).
- Calcium: 18% of the RDA.
- Manganese: 30% of the RDA.
- Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
- Phosphorus: 27% of the RDA.
They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Potassium, Vitamin B31, B2, and B3.
As for their calories and carbs, 1 oz of chia contains 137 calories with 1 g of digestible carbs. This is equivalent to 2 tablespoons of dried chia seeds.
If you take into account the fiber, it’s mere 101 calories per serving the chia provides.
This is less than the 105 calories 1 medium banana provides but with far more nutrient benefits.
2. Good Source of Antioxidants
Another chia seeds benefits are their high antioxidant content.
Chia seeds contain fatty acids. But thanks to their richness in antioxidants, they can prevent the fats from going rancid.
Antioxidants are known for their fighting power against the production of free radicals. Free radicals can damage molecules in cells and contribute to aging and cancerous cells.
Taking in enough antioxidants through your diet helps free radicals in check.
Chia seeds are an excellent source of antioxidants that help to protect the delicate fats in the seeds. This can have various benefits for your health.
3. Chia Seeds Are a Good Source of Protein
Chia seeds can help boost your protein intake.
They are high in quality protein. In fact, they contain more protein than many other foods with far fewer calories.
1oz of chia seeds contains 4.7 g of protein or 9% of your daily value based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Chia seeds are a complete source of protein offering all of the 9 essential amino acids. This makes chia seeds an essential protein source for vegetarians and vegans.
Protein is essential for our health. It’s one macronutrient that helps repair, build muscle tissues in our bodies.
Needless to say, it is an integral part of a healthy diet.
A diet rich in protein also comes with weight loss benefits. Research shows a high protein diet reduces appetite by 60% and desires for a late-night snack by 50% (4, 5).
If you are looking to lose weight, chia seeds can be a valuable addition to your diet.
4. Chia Seeds Are High in Fiber
5. Chia Seeds May Help You Lose Weight
If you’re looking to lose weight, chia seeds can help you do that naturally.
Chia seeds contain two important nutrients that are essential for weight loss. They are protein and fiber.
A diet rich in both has been shown to aid weight loss.
Both fiber and protein increase the feeling of fullness and reduce appetite. Together, they help you eat fewer calories and manage portions.
Research also points to this benefit. One study found that eating chia for breakfast led to more satiety and less food intake (9).
Thankfully, there are so many ways to incorporate them into your diet. From chia pudding to chia jam, salad toppings to chia dressings, chia seeds can be used in countless ways.
Make them a staple in your diet to support and accelerate your weight loss.
6. May Help Boost Exercise Performance
Chia seeds’ benefits are not only limited to your overall health. They are also known to be a great energy booster during workouts too.
There is even a story about Aztec warriors relied on chia seeds for sustained energy in times of battle.
It’s not clear how valid that story is, but research shows chia really helps you sustain energy.
One study stated chia seeds can enhance your exercise performance. They work just as well as sports drinks do but without sugar (10).
This was evident in the study where half of the participants had a sports drink, while the other had a chia drink mix.
Their running time was matched, but the chia group consumed far less sugar.
There haven’t been enough studies to draw a mature conclusion. However, it’s good to know chia seeds have the ability to take the place of sports drinks.
7. May Aid Digestive Health
These tiny black seeds may help keep your digestive system healthy.
Most of the carbohydrates in chia seeds are fiber, about 11 g per ounce per serving.
Fiber plays an important role in keeping the digestive tract healthy and working.
Chia seeds are one of the most fiber-rich foods that contain both insoluble and soluble fiber.
While both fiber may aid in digestion, they each support the process differently.
Soluble fiber helps your stool to pass through your intestines by water retention.
Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your fecal material, which leads to less feeling of constipation.
Both are essential for your digestive tract and chia is one food that provides both.
8. May Help Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for many people in the United States (11).
So anything we can do to lower the risk is worth a look.
Chia seeds are rich in heart-healthy omega-3s, which may help lower your risk of heart disease.
One study found chia seeds’ nutrition profile can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. They also help reduce inflammation and other risk factors for heart disease (12).
A few other studies are in support of the finding. They found chia can significantly lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. It’s another risk factor for heart disease that chia is able to reduce.
Studies on the effects of chia seeds on heart disease are yet conclusive. More studies are needed to draw a more definite conclusion.
9. May Help with Type 2 Diabetes
Chia seeds are excellent for diabetics.
They are packed with fiber, which slows down the absorption of sugars and carbs in the body. They also help lower the LDL, bad cholesterol.
Some preliminary study indicates chia seeds may help control the blood sugar levels. As well as they show their benefits in protecting the heart.
Because chia contains alpha-linolenic acid, they are said to help prevent metabolic disorders. One example is insulin resistance. It’s one critical factor in the development of diabetes. Being able to prevent it can help avert metabolic conditions. (13).
10. May Help Strengthen Your Bones
Chia seeds contain several nutrients that are known to improve bone health.
Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and protein to name just a few.
Chia’s calcium content is particularly impressive. Just 1 oz of chia seeds provides about 180 mg of calcium, which is equivalent to 18% of the RDA.
From bone to oral health, calcium is an essential nutrient in their upkeep.
While dairy is known for being a calcium source, if you are following a plant-based diet, chia is a good option.
Gram for gram, it actually contains more of this nutrient than most dairy products (14).
They are high in many nutrients. Those include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and protein, all essential for bone health.
11. Good for Oral Health
Chia seeds contain nutrients and minerals that can help you maintain healthy teeth.
These include zinc, calcium, vitamin A, and phosphorus.
Take Zinc for example. It prevents tartar build-up by keeping plaque from mineralizing on your teeth (15, 16).
It also has an antibacterial effect to help keep your breath fresh.
Phosphorus and vitamin A help keep your teeth strong and promote oral health (17).
Adding chia seeds to your daily diet can help you keep a healthy smile and the dentist away.
12. Chia Seeds’ Side Effects
There are very few side effects that have been associated with consuming chia seeds.
One of them is prostate cancer. One study showed fatty acids in the seeds may lead to a higher risk of that specific cancer (18).
Yet, findings are yet to be conclusive. There are also other conflicting studies stating chia may actually reduce the risk.
Whether chia seeds may have an effect on cancer risk or not is still under-researched. Until more studies come out, it may be better off staying clear of chia seeds if you have existing issues.
Another side effect of chia seeds is stomach discomfort, gas, and bloating.
This is due to a large amount of dietary fiber contained within them. If you are not accustomed to eating lots of fiber, you may experience these discomforts.
Consume in moderation and add them to your diet slowly to give your body a chance to adjust. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to help your body assimilate the seeds.
How to Eat Chia Seeds
They 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.
For me, I like using chia seeds in my smoothies or make a simple chia seed pudding.
Here’s my chia seed pudding recipe below.
Chia Seed Pudding
To make a basic chia seed pudding, combine 1 cup of almond milk with 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt.
- Stir in 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon of chia seeds, and 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup.
- Stir together well and let it 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 for Baking
They can be a useful ingredient in baking.
You may add them to scone and muffin recipes in place of poppy seeds without soaking them to add a bit of seedy crunch. They can also help to keep foods such as cakes moist.
If you are adding to the cake batter, soak 1 to 2 tablespoons of chia seeds in a half cup of water. Let it sit until they have swollen and become gelatinous. Pour off any excess water, 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 it 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.
Uses of chia seeds are not limited to drinks and baking. They can also be used in everyday meals such as salads, soups, and even dressings.
They can also be added to entrees like meatloaf and meatballs.
If you are not into cooking, that’s ok. You can easily add chia to your diet by using them as toppings.
Sprinkle a teaspoon on top of your oatmeal for a nutrient boost or combine them with fresh fruits to make jam.
When using them in your recipes, keep in mind that they absorb water and increase in size.
When you add them to soups and stews, you need to account for this water absorption. Or else, you’ll find your soups thicker than your desired consistency.
In cakes and cookies, it’s best to follow the recipe you are using. Most often, they ask that you soak the chia seeds before adding to the rest of the ingredients.