Chia seeds are one of the more popular recent super food trends. But are they all they have been cracked up to be? While some proclaimed benefits of chia seeds may be a bit exaggerated, these seeds are packed full of vital nutrients like fiber and omega-3 fatty acids and should not be overlooked as a healthy addition to your diet.
What Is Chia?
Chia seeds come from a flowering plant from the mint family, Salvia hispanica L. They can come in white, black, or dark brown varieties. The word chia is derived from a word that means oily, as chia seeds are rich in fatty acids. They can be eaten whole or milled into a ground powder. To take advantage of the many benefits of chia seeds, simply add the seeds or powder to almost any meal.
Use chia to boost your intake of these vital nutrients
Fiber. Chia is one of the richest known sources of dietary fiber. One serving of chia seeds (about 28 g) contains 9 g of dietary fiber. The recommended fiber intake is 28 to 36 g per day, but most people eat much less, about 15 g. In just one serving of chia seeds, you can get at least one quarter of your daily value. Fiber helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, promote healthy digestion, and prevent disease (including heart disease, cancer, and stroke). It can also help to detoxify, as it binds to toxins and helps move them through the digestive system. Read more about the importance of fiber here.
Protein. Chia is also full of protein. In one serving, you get over 4 g of protein. Chia can be a great source of protein for vegetarians or vegans who may be at risk for consuming too little protein.
Calcium. Chia seeds are rich in calcium, a mineral essential for healthy bones. A serving of these seeds contain more calcium than milk, making it a good choice for those avoiding dairy products.
Omega 3s. Chia has some of the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids of all foods. It is particularly rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Although conversion of ALA to the more beneficial eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docohexaenoic acid (DHA) is inefficient in humans, eating 25 g per day of chia seeds can significantly increase the concentration of both ALA and EPA in the blood.[4,5] Milled chia seed seems to deliver ALA to the body more efficiently than whole chia seed. For other omega-3 rich foods, read more here.
Antioxidants. This tiny seed has a large antioxidant capacity, which can help to protect from oxidative damage and disease. Antioxidants in chia include quercetin, caffeic acid, and more.
Chia Seeds for Human Health
The many nutritive qualities of chia seeds listed above have great potential for providing a variety of health benefits to humans if added into the diet. Although human studies are still in their infancy, some of the potential benefits of chia seeds include lowering cholesterol, reducing blood pressure, controlling blood sugar, and more.[2,3,7,8]
For example, in one study, people with type 2 diabetes were given either 37 g of chia daily or placebo. Those receiving chia showed reduced blood pressure by 6.3 mmHg. In another study, intake of a meal containing chia led to lower blood sugar after the meal and prolonged feelings of satiety.
One of the biggest claims surrounding chia seeds is that they can aid in weight loss. While researchers believe that high fiber and protein content may help to make you feel full longer, there are no studies showing that chia intake is associated with weight loss just yet.
How To Add Chia to your Diet
Chia seeds can be added ground or whole to almost any meal for a wholesome, nutritious addition to your diet. Try sprinkling them in your morning oatmeal or cereal, baking them into your homemade granola, using them as a salad topping, or blending them into your smoothie. They are also gluten free.
Use Chia as an Egg Substitute
Do you have an allergy or intolerance to egg? Mixing chia with water creates a gel that has significant binding properties, and so can be used as a great alternative to eggs in baked goods. For detailed instructions, read 5 Simple Substitutions for Egg- and Dairy-Free Recipes.
Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.