5 Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are one of the top superfoods around, and for good reason. This tiny little seed is originally from Mexico and was used by Aztec warriors for strength and endurance. In fact, that’s where the seed gets its name, as “chia” actually translates into strength in the Mayan language.
Let’s take a closer look at them and see where exactly they get this reputation from and if it’s deserved.
Chia Seeds Recommended Serving Size
The recommended serving size of one ounce (around two tablespoons) of chia seeds contains just 139 calories, made up of 4 grams of protein, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of fat, 11 grams of fiber plus a whole host of other vitamins and minerals. Of particular interest is their fat content. It breaks down into 4915 mg of omega-3 and 1620 mg of omega-6 fatty acids, which is the ideal ratio of omega fatty acids.
1. The Omega-3 Fatty Acids Found in Chia Seeds Reduce Inflammation
Research has demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and could help to lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. (1)
The reason it is so important to maintain the proper ratio of fatty acids is omega-3 tends to reduce inflammation while omega-6 promotes it. An optimal ratio is 3:1 omega-3 to omega-6, which is close to the precise ratio found in chia seeds.
There is increasing evidence pointing to inflammation in the body being the cause of several modern diseases. (2) It’s known to put severe strain on blood vessels and lead into heart disease. This makes it vital to reduce inflammation levels in the body as much as possible by keeping that optimal 3:1 ratio.
The fact that chia seeds have the right balance of fatty acids is just one of their many great benefits. By adding an ounce of chia seeds to a glass of water (or your preferred choice of liquid), it forms into a thick gel-like substance. It develops this texture because of its high soluble fiber content. This contributes to keeping your heart healthy in tandem with the omega-3 acids. (3)
2. Fiber Offers Heart and Brain Protection
Fiber is crucial to balancing insulin levels in the body, which will contribute to steady blood sugar levels throughout the day.
The fiber content is one of the main reasons chia seeds are known to aid weight loss efforts as well, as it keeps you feeling full for longer. The seeds absorb a large amount of water when soaked, and expand once they are in the stomach.
3. Flavonols and Antioxidants in Chia Seeds Promote Anti-Inflammatory Responses
Beyond offering heart and brain protection from the fiber and fatty acids, chia seeds are also loaded with flavonols and extremely potent antioxidants. This further helps to promote anti-inflammatory responses and cardiovascular health.
They also contain a high amount of vitamin A, B, D, E, and trace minerals such as zinc and magnesium. These vitamins and minerals combine to lower blood pressure and lower the risks involved with free radical damage.
4. Chia Seeds Promote Overall Health and Wellbeing
Chia seeds also help promote overall health and wellbeing, working to boost energy levels, metabolism, develop stronger bones, build muscle and help with weight loss.
It’s possible that by taking an ounce of chia seeds daily, you will reduce visceral adipose tissue, the type of tissue that contributes to unhealthy belly fat. Carrying too much visceral weight around your abdomen is extremely harmful to the heart and blood vessels.
While helping with fat loss and weight control, chia seeds can also be used as an excellent source of protein to aid in building muscle tissue. Anyone who follows a regular exercise routine can gain a lot from adding chia seeds into their diet.
5. Chia Seeds Contain a Wide Spectrum of Nutrients
The antioxidants mentioned above help to replenish some of the nutrients lost when exercising and the large amount of water that chia seeds absorb actually prolong hydration and help with the absorption of nutrients from electrolytes.
The zinc content also promotes an increase of the leptin hormone. Leptin is a vital hormone that regulates appetite and energy expenditure. (4)
The calcium content in chia seeds also helps to maintain healthy bones and teeth. With 77 mg of calcium in every one ounce serving, chia seeds make a great source of calcium for anyone with issues tolerating dairy products. That one ounce serving contains 18% of the recommended daily calcium intake. The zinc content also works to prevent plaque from mineralizing onto teeth and helps kill the bacteria that cause bad breath.
How to Incorporate Chia Seeds Into Your Diet
With so many great health benefits, you may be wondering how you can best incorporate chia seeds into your diet. While they have a mild, nutty taste and can be chewed raw or added to salads, the best way to make the omega-3s available for absorption is to soak them. By adding the seeds to water, it releases the enzyme inhibitors that protect the seed, making them easier to digest. Simply add an ounce of chia seeds to a glass of water and leave that to soak for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Chia seeds can hold up to 10 times their own weight in water, so if you choose not to soak them before ingesting make sure you drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to stay hydrated. Otherwise, they will soak up water from you during the digestion process.
Chia seeds are also great for anyone following a vegetarian diet, or anyone who prefers not to eat meat for whatever reason. They are an incredibly convenient way to add protein and omega-3 fats into a breakfast shake or smoothie, providing essential nutrients and energy.
As you can see, this tiny seed packs quite a nutritional punch. From its high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, to the stellar protein and fiber content along with essential vitamins and minerals, chia seeds truly are one of nature’s superfoods.
All of the nutrients found within this wonder seed work in sync to promote overall health. From lowering inflammation, increasing energy, aiding digestion to helping with weight loss, chia seeds seemingly do it all.
Whether you consume them raw or add them to your favorite beverage, they are a great healthy option that everyone can benefit from.