The chia seed comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica. The plant is native to Mexico, and it dates way back. Aztec and Mayan cultures knew of the chia seed’s remarkable properties and used it as an energy booster.
Chia seeds are unprocessed, whole-grain food that can be absorbed by the body as seeds (unlike flaxseeds). One ounce (about 2 tablespoons) contains 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates, and 11 grams of fiber, plus vitamins and minerals.
The mild, nutty flavor of chia seeds makes them easy to add to foods and beverages. They are most often sprinkled on cereal, sauces, vegetables, rice dishes, or yogurt or mixed into drinks and baked goods. They can also be mixed with water and made into a gel.
Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
1. Help with Chronic Inflammation
We all know that inflammation is bad for the body overall. Chronic inflammation, often brought on by unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise can wreak havoc on the body. Chia seeds are anti-inflammatory, and that means adding them to your diet helps fight cancer and other illnesses like heart disease.
2. Help Reduce Blood Sugar
Another benefit of chia seeds is that they can stabilize blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity. This reduces the chance of spikes and crashes sometimes experienced after meals. This is of great help to diabetics, in particular. Pair adding chia seeds to smoothies, dressings, and food like oatmeal with eating non-processed foods. Doing so will be very good for you in the long run.
3. Good for Bone Health
It’s kinda cool that this little powerhouse seed has so many nutrients like phosphorous, protein, and calcium. It’s the calcium in chia seeds that will benefit your bones. A controlled study indicated that bone health and density were improved when the diet was supplemented with chia seeds.
4. Reduce Heart Disease Risk
Heart disease is influenced by a lot of factors, including inflammation, extra body fat, and high blood pressure. Studies show that chia seeds can influence blood pressure levels, thus leading to better health. Exercise, eating healthy fruits and veggies, consuming only lean meats, and yes, eating chia seeds contribute to a better you.
5. Contain Beneficial Fatty Acids
Yes, chia seeds do contain omega-3’s, and this is a good thing. Milled chia seeds, in particular, can increase the blood levels of alpha-linolenic fatty acids (ALA). However, it is most beneficial to get these fatty acids, and others, from fatty fish like salmon. I say this because although chia seeds supply EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is not easily converted, and that is the most essentials of the omega-3’s. Still, chia seeds will give you a boost as they are considered the best plant-based source of ALA.
6. Help with Weight Loss
Because chia seeds are high in protein and fiber, they are thought to be helpful with weight loss. Protein is known to reduce appetite and leave you feeling satisfied, which means less snacking on potentially unhealthy foods. If you are a snacker, read my post on healthy, high-protein snacks. The fiber in chia seeds can also help you to feel full.
7. Good Source of Plant-Based Protein
Protein is made up of amino acids and is essential to the body. Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 4 grams of protein. A 140-pound person needs about 50 grams of protein a day, and a 200-pound person, 70 grams. Use chia seeds as a way to top up your protein intake, along with lean meats, poultry, and full-fat dairy.
8. High in Fiber
Chia seeds are impressively high in fiber. Fiber is excellent for gut health. Remember, two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 11 grams of fiber – almost half the daily requirement for women and about a third for men. Adding chia seeds to food is an easy way to add this important component to your food.
9. High in Antioxidants
Antioxidants are key cancer-fighting components in food. They fight free radicals, which cause damage to cells, proteins, and DNA. With chia seeds being high in antioxidants, it just makes sense to add them to foods as much as you can. As a side note, foods high in free radicals are those deficient in antioxidants – processed meats and foods highly processed or full of sugar are examples. So, stay away from those and satisfy your cravings with clean-eating foods instead.
10. Nutritional Powderhouse
On top of all of the benefits of chia seeds we’ve mentioned, these little seeds pack a punch when it comes to nutrients. And the great thing is, you get a lot of goodness in a small amount. One ounce of chia seeds has 11 grams of fiber, for instance. If you make a serving of cinnamon raisin overnight oats, you’ll get 5.5 grams of fiber in that one serving.
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