Who needs flaxseeds when you have chia seeds? The health benefits of chia seeds far outweigh perceived health benefits of any superfood on the market today.
Unlike flax, chia seeds are actually absorbed by the body (if you ever eat whole flaxseed, your body can’t do anything with it, and it is highly probable that you will see it in your poop, too!).
Being one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, chia seeds should, without a doubt, be apart of your daily eating routine.
You can stick them in salads, make puddings (they gelatinize once they touch the water), put them in smoothies, or use them in replacement for eggs. Did I mention that they are gluten-free, too?
What Are Chia Seeds?
Chia seeds are tiny black and white seeds from the Salvia Hispanica plant that are also a member of the mint family.
Chia seeds were originally grown in Central and South America, and were considered a major food crop in Mexico and Guatemala.
Two tablespoons of this super-seed contain around 140 calories, 4 grams of protein, 11 grams of fiber, 7 grams of unsaturated fat (omega-3 fatty acids) and contain over 18% of your RDA for calcium. They’re also a good source of trace minerals like copper and zinc. They contain all nine essential amino acids necessary as the building blocks for protein in the body.
10 Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
Here are 10 incredible health benefits of chia seeds, and why you should probably start eating them more often!
1. Loaded with Omegas
Ditch the fish! Chia seeds contain seven times more omegas than salmon, per gram! Chia seeds are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, which are incredibly important for brain health.
It is important to remember, though, that the Omega-3’s in chia seeds are mostly ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid), which can be converted into EPA, but not DHA (1✓).
While some studies have found that ALA can be converted to DHA, it is severely restricted. It is best to supplement with a high-quality DHA supplement to ensure you’re getting enough.
2. Excellent Source of Fiber
Only two tablespoons of chia seeds contains 10 grams of fiber! That is plenty of fiber, especially for those who don’t get enough in their day-to-day life.
Fiber serves some excellent functions, the most obvious being that it normalizes bowel movements and can help remedy diarrhea and constipation.
Fiber also helps lower cholesterol levels by absorbing excess cholesterol in the bloodstream (2✓). Including just 5-10 grams of fiber in your diet per day is significant enough to lower your LDL “bad” cholesterol levels.
Adding some chia seeds to your diet will also help push out excess toxic waste matter from the digestive tract, and may help prevent colon cancer (3✓).
3. Rich in Calcium
Did you know that chia seeds contain five times more calcium than milk?
They’re also high in other important bone-supporting nutrients like magnesium, phosphorous, and protein.
Just one ounce of chia seeds contains over 18% of your RDA of calcium. Once ounce of chia seeds contains around 177 mg calcium, whereas one ounce of milk contains a mere 35 mg calcium.
With stats like these, it’s no wonder chia seeds can help provide the necessary nutrition needed to maintain the health of your bones.
An animal study found that long-term intake of chia seeds was associated with increased bone mineral content (4✓).
This makes chia seeds a great alternative for people who don’t eat dairy!
4. Reduce Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to injury. But when this response becomes chronic, then your immune system is on high alert at all times. And this can become problematic.
Chronic inflammation can eventually lead to chronic disease down the road if not properly dealt with.
Studies have found that people who ate 37 grams of chia seeds per day reduced the inflammatory markers in their body by up to 40% (5✓).
Add chia seeds to your smoothies or make chia seed pudding to make this superfood a regular part of your diet.
5. Great Source of Amino Acids
Just 2 tbsp. of chia seeds contain over 4 grams of protein (nearly 10% of your daily value). This is significant when compared to other plant-based foods.
Chia seeds contain significant amounts of all nine essential amino acids: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, histidine, and valine (6✓). Our bodies cannot create these amino acids, so we must get them from the foods we eat.
Amino acids are compounds that combine to create protein in the body. They build muscle, assist in immune function, transport nutrients and carry out many other functions.
6. Loaded With Antioxidants
Because chia seeds contain delicate fats, they require a lot of antioxidants to prevent them from degrading and going rancid (kind of like a protection mechanism).
Antioxidants help fight off free radicals in the body, which normally damage cells and contribute to aging and diseases like cancer (7✓).
Antioxidants also protect against heart disease, lung disease, early death and age-related eye disease.
7. Lower the Risk of Heart Disease and Type 2 Diabetes
Chia seeds help to lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol and reducing inflammation.
A study conducted by Cleveland Clinic showed that chia seeds help improve blood pressure in diabetics. This isn’t surprising given the high fiber content of chia seeds which help reduce blood sugar spikes after meals.
Some studies have also found that eating bread with chia seeds compared to bread without also lowers the post-meal rise in blood sugar that often happens after we eat (8✓).
The combination of protein, omega-3’s, and fiber make chia seeds an excellent food for heart health.
8. Improve Exercise Performance
According to ancient studies, the Aztecs and Mayans used chia seeds to help fuel their performance throughout the day. The ALA content of chia seeds is also incredibly useful in post-exercise recovery in athletes or individuals who exercise daily.
9. High In Bone-Supporting Manganese & Phosphorous
Not only are chia seeds high in calcium, but they are also loaded with manganese and phosphorous, two crucial minerals involved in bone health.
Individuals with low manganese levels also often suffer from poor bone formation. Phosphorous also helps the body synthesize protein for cell and tissue growth and repair.
10. Fight Belly Fat
Due to the high fiber content in chia seeds, they have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar, which consequently fights insulin resistance (the main factor that contributes to belly fat). Chia seeds also help us get full, faster, due to their high tryptophan content, also helping to regulate appetite, sleep, and improve our mood!