Chia has been in American homes since Chia Pets gained increased popularity in the 1980’s, but chia seeds are gaining traction for their health benefits. There is evidence that chia seeds have been consumed by humans for centuries dating back to the Aztec and Mayan people. In history, chia seeds were used to fuel the Aztec warriors before battle. In recent years, chia has been marketed to super-athletes and long-distance runners for their ability to provide sustained energy.
What is Chia?
Chia is a seed that is beneficial for human consumption. The plant, Salvia hispanica, is native to Central America and is related to the mint family. Chia seeds are an unprocessed, whole grain food loaded with nutrients. When mixed with water, chia seeds have the ability to gel due to their high soluble fiber content and hydrophilic outer shell. Because of these two components of the seed, consuming them allows you to feel satisfied and full.
Size doesn’t matter…
Despite their small size, chia seeds are considered one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Here are just a few health benefits of these wonderful seeds!
- Antioxidants. Chia seeds are an antioxidant rich food that is essential for fighting the production of free radicals, which can contribute to diseases like cancer.
- Fiber. In approximately 2 tablespoons of chia seeds you obtain 11 grams of fiber. Today, the average American gets only about 15 grams per day, which is nearly half the recommended amount of 25-30 grams. Incorporating chia seeds to your diet will increase your fiber intake leading you to feeling fuller longer with fewer calories as well as gut health promotion.
- Protein. Yes, protein! Chia seeds are about 14% protein by weight, which is quite high compared to other plants. Additionally, these seeds pack in amino acids that your body can use as a protein source. For plant-based eaters, incorporating chia seeds will assist you in obtaining adequate protein.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Did you know that chia seeds contain more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon? Omega-3s can fight depression and anxiety, improve eye health, improve risk factors for heart disease, fight inflammation, among other benefits.
- Bone Health. Chia seeds contain key nutrients for bone health including calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium. Chia seeds are considered a great source of calcium for people who do not consume dairy.
- Reduce Blood Sugar. Some studies have found that chia seeds may improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control. This can help stabilize blood sugar levels after meals, which is a great benefit for those with Type 2 Diabetes.
- Heart Disease Prevention. Some studies have shown that chia seeds can reduce blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease. There have been mixed study results about the other risk factors such as raising HDL or “good” cholesterol, reducing belly fat, and lowering triglycerides. It is possible that chia seeds may benefit the health of your heart, but it will likely be most effective in conjunction with other lifestyle changes.
Overall, chia seeds, although small, are loaded with nutrients that are beneficial to your overall health and well-being. There are plenty of easy ways to incorporate them into your diet. For example, mix them on top of your cereal, add them to an acai parfait, or blend them in a smoothie! Additionally, they can be mixed with a liquid, such as almond milk, and made into a pudding.
There are many health benefits of these tiny superfoods. If you’re not already a chia lover, you should consider giving them a try!
Overnight Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding Recipe: