12 Nutritional Benefits of Chia Seeds for Your Health
These days, chia seeds are becoming known as an excellent source of healthy omega-3 fats as well as fiber. Fortunately, it is a food that is easily incorporated into one’s diet. Chia is cultivated commercially for its seed which yields 25–30% extractable oil, which includes alpha-linolenic acid. (1) Normally, chia seeds are tiny ovals with a thickness of around 1 mm. They are mottle-colored with gray, black, brown, and white varieties. (2)
The seeds are hydrophilic, and can absorb up to a dozen times their weight in liquid when they are soaked. When wet, the seeds produce a mucilaginous layer that provides chia-based beverages a distinguishing gel feel. Chia is scientifically known as Salvia hispanica L. (3)
Nutritional Profile of Chia Seeds
One ounce of chia seeds is approximately 28 grams. (4)
It contains 138 calories, 12 grams of carbohydrate, 10 grams of fiber, 8 grams of fat, and 5 grams of protein.
Consuming one ounce of chia seeds a day can provide 18% of daily calcium needs, 27% of phosphorus, and 30% of manganese in addition to slighter amounts of zinc, potassium and copper. (5)
Chia seeds emanate from a flowering plant in the mint family which can be found in Mexico and Guatemala, and history seems to point out that it was a very significant food crop to the Mayans and Aztecs. It has remained in steady use in its native countries of origin, and was mostly unfamiliar in North America until researcher Wayne Coates started studying chia as a substitute crop for farmers in northern Argentina around 3 decades ago. (7)
Today, the chia seed attracts the interest of many for their health benefits in addition to uses in the culinary world. It turns out that chia seeds are an abundant source of antioxidants and nutrients and have a much higher value than soy, flax and canola. (8)
The Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
1. Fight Diabetes
Chia is considered a possible natural remedy for type-2 diabetes since it has the ability to slow down digestion. (9)
Its gelatinous coating which develops when soaked in liquids, can also avert blood sugar spikes. Since chia seeds slow down how quickly our bodies break down carbohydrates into simple sugars, studies show they can regulate blood sugar.
This leads scientists to consider chia seeds as having many benefits for diabetics. (10)
2. Fiber Source
A mere 28 grams or a single-ounce serving of chia contains 11 grams of dietary fiber. (11)
That is around 1/3 of the recommended daily consumption for adults. Incorporating chia seeds into your diet is an effortless way to make certain you are consuming a decent amount of fiber, which is vital for digestive health.
Eating vegetables isn’t the only way you can increase your intake of dietary fiber, so if you’re not big on salads, know that there are other options.
For instance, adding 28 grams (1 ounce) of chia seeds to a bowl of oatmeal (2-4 grams of fiber per ¼ cup serving) is a nutritious and filling way to start the day. Combine that with an egg white omelette cooked in a bit of coconut oil and you have yourself a well-balanced breakfast.
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Chia seeds are considered one of the top sources of omega-3 fatty acids, with almost 5 grams in a one-ounce serving. (12)
They are abundant in polyunsaturated fats which include omega-3s. They are the most abundant plant-based source of omega-3 which are essential fats that protect against inflammation such as heart disease and arthritis. As a matter of fact, they have up to 8.7 times more omega-3 amounts than salmon. (13)
With an omega-3 content of 60 percent, the seed is easily one of the best sources of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). ALA is one of two essential fatty acids that are required but not produced by the body. Other plant sources high in ALA include Hemp, Camelina and Flax. (14)
The omega-3s in chia seeds can decrease high cholesterol and may improve cognitive performance. These fats are also essential for brain health.
4. Loaded with Antioxidants
Antioxidants are important because they fight and protect against free radical damage which can contribute to disease and aging.
With only 9% of Americans getting the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, opportunties for improving health through sensible diet choices are welcome. (15)
In the case of this particular seed, it’s mild flavor makes it a great accompaniment to practically any dish without altering taste or texture.
5. Strong Teeth and Bones
Just one serving of chia seeds contains 18 percent of the suggested daily intake for calcium. (16)
Adding chia seeds to your diet ensures that you are maintaining bone as well as dental health, not to mention averting osteoporosis.
Compare that to milk, which as only a fraction of the calcium content that the humble chia seed contains. It has up to 5.4 times the calcium in 2% milk. (17)
Chia seeds also contain boron, which is essential for bone health. Due to the natural boron content in soil being depleted, our diets are simply not as well-rounded as they once were. Boron helps in the metabolism of minerals for muscle and bone growth. (18)
6. Chia Seeds Contain Manganese
Manganese is not too well-known as a nutrient, however it is vital for our health. Manganese is great for the bones and aids the body at using other key nutrients such as thiamine and biotin. (19)
Just one serving of chia seeds, or 28 grams contains one third of our suggested intake of this key mineral.
7. Chia Seeds Are Abundant in Phosphorus
Since the seed has 27 percent of our daily recommended value for phosphorus, chia also aids in maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Phosphorus is likewise utilized by the body to break down protein for tissue and cell repair, and growth of new healthy cells. (20)
8. Ample Protein Content
Chia seeds also are an excellent source of protein, especially for vegans, vegetarians and other non-meat eaters. More good news is that they do not have any cholesterol. (21)
A 28-gram serving of these wonder seeds contains 4.4 grams of protein, or around 10 per cent of the daily suggested value.
Unlike other plant-based proteins, chia is a complete protein with all the essential amino acids. Those who engage in resistance training will benefit from adding chia seeds to their meals, or to their plant-based protein products to aid in recovery and growth. (22)
With an amino acid score of 115, chia is a nutritional powerhouse with high quality protein that can rival animal proteins in their efficacy. For reference, beef sirloin (90% lean) has an amino acid score of 79. A protein is considered high quality if it has a score of 100 or higher. (23)
9. Combat Ugly Belly Fat
Chia seeds’ steadying control of blood sugar also counteracts insulin resistance which is also usually linked to increase in ugly belly fat. (24) If you’re having trouble with fat loss, chia seeds can help in delaying gastric emptying. (25)
Chia seeds can absorb more than 10 times their weight, and form a gel in your stomach, making you feel full longer which can reduce your calorie intake. (26) This helps in slowing down digestion, particularly the processs of converting carbs to sugar.
Abdominal fat has been linked to compromising overall health, which is why foods with dozens of health benefits such as chia seeds, are quickly becoming more popular in the health and fitness industries.
10. Get Satiated More Quickly
The mix of fiber, protein and the gelling action of chia seeds when combined with liquids all add to their satiating effects.
Since they take up so much space, you’re less likely to overeat on other foods. (27)
What’s more, tryptophan, an amino acid present in turkey, is also found in chia seeds. As tryptophan produces a strong need to nap after eating a typical Thanksgiving meal, it also aids at regulating sleep, appetite, and even improves mood. (28)
11. Enhance Heart Health
Chia seeds have been observed to enhance blood pressure levels among diabetics, and may also raise healthy cholesterol while decreasing total LDL, as well as triglyceride cholesterol. (29)
For those who are borderline diabetic, or have a history of heart problems, you would do well to take pre-emptive measures by consuming heart healthy foods such as chia seeds.
12. Weight Loss Aid
Chia seeds are reputed for weight loss. They have the ability to reduce food cravings by preventing some of the food you’ve just consumed from getting absorbed. This obstruction of calories from being absorbed qualifies them as an excellent diet aid, without the harmful side effects or questionable ingredients. (30)
Note: Chia seeds are quite easy to find in any most supermarkets. They are a bit smaller than a strawberry seed in appearance and have a very slight, nutty flavor.
Should You Soak Chia Seeds In Water Before Eating?
There is some debate as to whether or not you should soak your chia seeds before eating. While it certainly won’t hurt to eat them as is, soaking them releases the enzyme inhibitors that protect the seed.
What this does it is makes it easier to digest, and it also gives you better access to the nutrients found within the seed.