Chia seeds have hit the health and nutrition world by storm. These little seeds have been popularized by nutritionists and foodies because they can easily be added to yogurt, smoothies, and oatmeal recipes to give your meal an added kick of nutrition. And they aren’t just popular because of their nutrient dense qualities, they might also be helpful for weight loss. Even though studies show that they do help control appetite and decrease food intake, no studies of conclusively shown a direct correlation to weight loss, so there is still more research to be done. Regardless of whether or not they are effective for shedding those last few pounds, they do have numerous health benefits. So what makes these seeds so valuable to your health? There are 9 main qualities of these seeds that should make them an essential add to your next bowl of oatmeal or cup of yogurt.
1. They are loaded with nutrients.
The nutrient density of this little seed is so powerful, perhaps that is how it got its name (chia is the Mayan word for strength) and its most likely why it was a staple for their diet for centuries.
Just one ounce of chia seeds provides you with:
- 11 grams of fiber
- 4 grams of protein
- 5 grams of Omega-3s
- 18% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium
- 30% of your RDA of manganese
- 30% of your RDA of magnesium
- 27% of your RDA of phosphorus
- high amounts of zinc, potassium, and vitamins B1, B2, and B3
2. They are an excellent source of antioxidants.
When it comes to antioxidants, supplements just don’t cut it. Luckily these seeds pack an effective punch of antioxidants and because it’s coming from a food you are more likely to get the most benefits and nutritional power out of them that you can. Antioxidants are key in cancer prevention as they have been linked to delaying or stunting cell growth and killing cancer cells.
3. They are chock full of fiber.
Fiber is key in slowing absorption of foods, keeping blood sugar levels low and not causing insulin production. Because chia seeds are full of fiber (they are made up of 40% fiber), they absorb 10 to 12 times their weight in water, causing a gel-like coating to develop. In addition, the seeds expand in your stomach after they are consumed making you feel fuller, eat less, and slowing food absorption.
4. They are a go-to for protein.
Protein is one of the most effective nutrients for weight control. Diets high in protein have shown a significant decrease in obsessive thoughts about food and snacking behaviors. Meaning this seed, containing a total of 14% protein (to put that in perspective, that is a percentage more than most plants have), packs enough protein to give you the weight loss and snacking control benefits you need.
5. They contain high levels of Omega-3s.
When it comes to Omega-3s, salmon usually takes the cake on foods that are dense in this essential nutrient. However, chia seeds surpass salmon gram for gram for Omega-3 content. Omega-3s are a good fat that help boost levels of triglycerides, helping to prevent heart disease, and increase the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs.
6. Easy to incorporate into your diet.
There are many reasons that these seeds are easy to add to your daily diet.
- Unlike flax seeds, they don’t need to be ground in order to be consumed.
- They don’t need any preparation and can be eaten raw, after they’ve been soaked in juice or water, or added to cereals, oatmeal, smoothies, yogurts, even ice cream!
- Because of their gel-like form that develops after being soaked in liquids, they can be used as a substitute for eggs and even used to add some thickness to sauces.
7. They can improve exercise performance.
Studies have looked at this seed in comparison to sports drinks and it turns out they fare out pretty well. Compared to the sports drinks, there was no difference in performance for the group that consumed chia seeds before going on an hour-long treadmill run. It’s also thought that the Mayans used these essential seeds to add fuel and enhance they’re performance — pre Gatorade.
8. They help your bone health.
Several nutrients in chia seeds have a positive impact on bone health. The high amounts of calcium (18% of your RDA) are particularly helpful. For those looking for a non-dairy option to meet their calcium needs, this source might just be the key for you. Other nutrients in chia seeds (phosphorus, magnesium, and protein) also help improve bone health.
9. They can aide in the prevention of heart disease and diabetes.
With all of the nutrients packed into this little seed it must be obvious that it can play a role in disease prevention. Particularly for heart disease, chia seeds have been correlated to a reduction in lower-density lipoproteins (LDL) — commonly known as the “bad” cholesterol — and an increase in high-density lipoproteins (HDL) — known as the “good” cholesterol. High amounts of LDL and low amounts of HDL can cause heart disease, so chia seeds are a good go-to to improve that cholesterol ratio. In addition, some studies have shown that chia seeds contribute to insulin resistance and a reduction in inflammation and belly fat.
Some more tips to adding chia seeds into your diet:
- For maximum benefits, incorporate these seeds into a healthy balanced diet.
- For dosage, consume 20 grams (or 1.5 tablespoons) of chia seeds twice a day
- To make it even easier, add them into your drinks (water, juices, smoothies, etc.).
- As it goes with most dietary changes, incorporating this change into an overall healthy lifestyle can have the biggest impact on your health.
All in all, these tiny seeds are packed with nutrients and are probably some of the most deserving of the term superfood.