Its nutrient density is impressive and nutrient profile is extensive including fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium.
Not only chia seeds are nutrient dense, they also contain very few calories making them one of the healthiest foods you can eat to improve your overall health and wellbeing.
From detoxing the body to boosting exercise performance, reducing appetite to improving digestive health, "chia seeds benefits" are just too good to pass up and the flavor is so subtle you can incorporate into your diet very easily.
Chia seeds are a versatile ingredient that can be eaten raw or soaked in juice, they can also be incorporated into hundreds of different recipes including baked goods, smoothies, breakfasts, salads, quinoa and veggie dishes.
You name it!
In today's post, we'll discuss the benefits of chia seeds and introduce some chia seeds recipes to get you started with this superfood.
Here are 12 health benefits of chia seeds based on science.
1. Chia Seeds Are Highly Nutritious
Chia seeds are among the healthiest and most nutritious foods you can eat.
They are a desert plant called Salvia Hispanica in the mint family, which grows abundantly in southern Mexico.
Although their popularity is a recent phenomenon in the U.S., chia seed benefits are nothing new to Aztecs and Mayans who highly 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 our recent obsession with nutrient dense foods, chia seeds are finally getting the "superfood" recognition they deserve in the health community.
Chia seeds' nutritional profile is quite impressive.
Here are what you can find in every ounce (28g) 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, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.
For those tracking calories, 1 ounce of chia which is equivalent to 2 tablespoons provides 137 calories and 1 gram of digestible carbohydrate!
And if you were to subtract the fiber, which may not end up as usable calories for the body, chia seeds only contain 101 calories per 28 grams.
This is why chia seeds are one of the of the world’s best superfoods. Calorie for calorie, it contains several important nutrients.
The takeaway: Chia seeds are nutritious foods and can you make you a lot healthier when eating regularly. They are a great source of fiber, protein, Omega-3 fatty acids and various micronutrients. Make it a habit of adding them to your diet.
2. Chia Seeds Are Rich in Antioxidants
Berries are rich in antioxidants. That we know.
But did you also know that chia seeds are a great source of antioxidants too?
These antioxidants keep the sensitive fats in the seeds from going rancid (6).
Taking in enough antioxidants through your diet helps protect you against aging and keeps your body less prone to sickness (9).
The takeaway: 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 Source of Complete Protein
But that doesn't mean you need to chew down on jerky all day. Plant-based sources like chia seeds can help up your protein intake.
In fact, you can add 4.7 grams of protein to your diet by adding just a few tablespoons of chia seeds to your morning smoothie or morning chia pudding.
Not only that, chia offers complete proteins. It's surely a rare advantage amongst the plant protein sources.
Per Greatist, the term "complete protein" refers to amino acids, the building blocks of protein. There are 20 different amino acids that can form a protein, and nine of which are something your body cannot produce on its own thus described as "essential" (13).
While animal sources of protein offer all nine of the essential amino acids, providing a complete protein profile, protein in plant foods tends to lack one of more of them, often offering an incomplete set of amino acids.
Chia seeds are one of the exceptions to this along with hemp, lentils, quinoa, and soybeans.
It's one reason chia seeds are a powerful superfood and valued plant-based protein food.
The takeaway: Chia seeds really are an excellent protein source, and is especially goof for people who eat little meat or eat a meat-free diet.
4. Chia Seeds Is High in Fiber
Out of the 12 grams of carbohydrates found in two tablespoons of chia seeds, 11 grams is fiber (3).
Harvard School of Public Health reports most people are deficient in fiber and get about 15 grams per day while the recommended daily amount is 20-30 grams (14).
By adding a tablespoon of chia to your diet, you can boost your daily fiber intake by more than 20%.
The fiber in chia has many health benefits.
One, in particular, is satiety.
Because fiber in chia seeds can absorb up to 10-12 times their weight in water turning gel-like, it expands in your stomach (15).
This expansion is said to increase fullness, slow absorption of your food, and reduce appetite. This also leads to overeating prevention and fewer calorie intake, both helpful and essential for weight loss.
Fiber, in general, is also said to help regulate the body's use of sugars, helping to manage blood sugar levels (16).
It also keeps your gut bugs fed by feeding the good bacteria in the intestine (17).
Of course, you should always check with your health care professional for what to eat, but those in need to manage insulin such as type I and 2 diabetes, chia can be a great fiber source.
Unlike some other carb-based fiber sources, chia's vast majority of the carbohydrate is fiber. This prevents insulin spike and raises in blood sugar.
The takeaway: Chia seed is an excellent source of fiber and almost all of the carbohydrates in chia seeds are fiber. Fiber plays an important role in our diet and has various beneficial effects on health.
5. Chia Seeds May Help You Lose Weight
For this chia has been heavily associated with weight loss.
Typically chia seeds expand when they are soaked in water and turn into a gel-like consistency.
This may sound weird, but they will also expand in your stomach. As a result, you end up feeling full much faster and staying satisfied longer. You are less tempted to overeat and you’ll be satisfied enough to reduce post-meal cravings.
They will also slow the absorption of food, which will directly reduce the calorie intake.
The protein found in chia seeds may also help reduce appetite and food intake as well (20).
6. Chia Seeds May Help Boost Exercise Performance
Legend has it that ancient Aztec warriors relied on chia seeds for strength and sustained energy in times of battle.
Whether the story has been amplified or not, it's evidenced that chia seeds may boost and sustain energy levels during physical activity.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning shows that consuming chia seeds before a workout can increase exercise performance just as much as sports drinks do, but with less sugar (21).
In that study, half of the participants drank a popular sports drink while the other half consumed a sports drink and chia drink mix.
Their running time was matched, but the chia group consumed far less sugar.
The takeaway: Chia seeds can partly replace sugary sports drinks like Gatorade as a way of carb loading for endurance athletes. Studies done in this area are still few in number, thus more research need to be done for a mature conclusion.
7. Chia Seeds May Aid Digestive Health
These tiny black seeds may help keep your digestive system on track and fight constipation.
How does it work?
Chia seeds contain roughly 11 grams of fiber per ounce, meaning just one serving can provide you with your daily-recommended allowance.
The fiber found in chia seeds is a mix of both insoluble and soluble fiber.
According to Everyday Health "Soluble fiber allows more water to remain in your stool, making waste softer, larger, and thus, easier to pass through your intestines.
Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your fecal material, which hastens its passage through your gut and prevents that constipation feeling”.
Both fiber types are essential for your digestive health, and chia seeds contain both types of fiber (22).
8. Chia Seeds May Improve Heart Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people of most ethnicities in the United States (22).
So anything we can do to lower the risk is worth a look.
According to an article published in Cleveland Clinic, chia seeds have the ability to lower blood pressure and regulate cholesterol, making it beneficial for heart health (23).
Due to their ability to reduce oxidative stress, they help to reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis.
9. Chia Seeds May Help with Type 2 Diabetic Patients
Some of the most successful studies of chia seeds to date are on type 2 diabetic patients.
In one 20-patient study, they were given either 37g of chia seeds or 37g wheat bran for 12 weeks (24).
When they consumed chia seeds, significant improvements in blood pressure and other aspects of health were recorded.
With chia seeds, their blood pressure went down by 3-6 mm/Hg and an inflammatory marker called hs-CRP went down by 40%. A risk factor called vWF also decreased by 21%.
Although it wasn't statistically a significant drop, there was also an improvement in their blood sugar as well.
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 (25).
10. Chia Seeds May 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.
To take in just as much of calcium, it takes a bit more than half a cup of milk or 4 cups of raw broccoli (26).
This calcium content is crucial to the growth and maintenance of strong teeth and bones, as well as nerve signaling, muscle contraction, and secretion of certain hormones and enzymes. And chia is luckily one of the most calcium-rich plant foods.
In fact, gram for gram, it contains more calcium than most dairy products.
The takeaway: Chia seeds are high in many nutrients including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and protein. All of these nutrients are essential for bone health.
11. Chia Seeds May Improve Oral Health
Chia seeds contain nutrients and minerals that can help maintain your oral health and keep the dentist away.
Some of these include zinc, calcium, vitamin A, and phosphorus.
It also has an antibacterial effect to help keep your breath fresh.
Phosphorus and vitamin A are other essentials for keeping your teeth strong and promoting overall oral health (28).
12. Chia Seeds' Possible Side Effects
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 (29).
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 a 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.
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.
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
Chia seeds are also useful in baking.
You may add them to scone and muffin recipes in 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.
If you are adding to the cake batter, soak 1 to 2 tablespoons of chia seeds in a half cup of water and 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.
Chia seeds uses are not limited to drinks and baking, they can be used in everyday meal such as salads, soups and even some meat dishes like meatloaf and meatballs.
You can also sprinkle them on top of your morning oatmeal for a nutrient boost or combine them with fresh fruits to make jam.
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 a 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.