Chia Seeds, the Tiny Superfood
Native to Mexico and Guatemala, Chia seeds can be recognized as tiny brown or black seeds with a shiny, smooth texture (scientifically known as Salvia hispanica). These healthy seeds served as a staple food for the Ancient Mayans and Aztecs to gain strength and energy. Today these little seeds are being hailed as a superfood due to their “whole grain” status along with many other healthy components. Raw Chia seeds can be really beneficial for your health due to the high amount of dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, along with a number of essential minerals and antioxidants.
Chia seeds: nutrition facts
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Chia seeds are one of the most nutritionally dense foods to be found. Here is the nutritional value profile for 100 grams of organic Chia seeds looks like:
- Calories 486 (or 138 calories per 1 ounce);
- Water – 6%;
- Protein – 16.5 grams;
- Carbs – 42.1 grams;
- Dietary fiber – 34.4 grams;
- Fats – 30.7 grams;
- Saturated fats – 3.3 grams;
- Monounsaturated fats – 2.3 grams;
- Polyunsaturated fats – 23.6 grams;
- Omega-3 fatty acids – 17.8 grams;
- Omega-6 fatty acids – 5.8 grams;
- Trans fats – 0.14 grams.
Chia seeds (organic!) have no sugars, sucrose, lactose, maltose, fructose, starch, or glucose. Also, these healthy seeds can work as an excellent source of many essential minerals like copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, etc. However, it practically lacks all essential vitamins.
Eating just a few tablespoons of Chia seeds in any form or adding them to meals throughout the day may provide you with healthy levels of essential minerals, protein, carbs, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, phenolic antioxidants, etc.
When buying Chia seeds, opt for clean, dry and 100% natural seeds with a long shelf-life.
Health benefits of Chia seeds
- According to Dr. Josh Axe, Chia seed benefits can be recognized, foremost, for their high carbohydrate content in the form of dietary, insoluble fiber. 28 grams of Chia seeds (a single ounce) contains about 11 grams of fiber that should be consumed daily both by men and women (the recommended daily intake of this fiber is 38 and 25 grams, respectively). This insoluble fiber from Chia seeds can significantly reduce the risks of type 2 diabetes.
- Eating Chia seeds for weight loss is also popular, especially because about 75% of all fats in these seeds are healthy omega-3 fatty acids (alpha linolenic acid), along with 20% of omega-6 fatty acids. From this point of view, Chia seeds are the better source omega-3 fatty acids than more popular flaxseed. This healthy ratio of different omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may reduce the risk of various chronic diseases, like heart disorders, cancer, inflammatory diseases and even premature death.
- Chia seed protein is another reason to include these seeds to your daily diet. A single ounce is about 19% protein – that is more than in most cereals and grains. This high protein intake can help you to feel full faster and reduce food cravings.
- One of the most appreciated Chia seeds’ health benefits is that they are gluten-free. So they can be safely consumed by gluten-intolerant people.
- Chia seeds contain a lot of minerals that can benefit your health, like:
- Calcium – another reason to follow a daily Chia seed diet is because it contains calcium, which is good for your bone structure, muscles, and nerves;
- Manganese – this mineral is essential for healthy functioning of the metabolic system, and the growth and development of kids;
- Magnesium – the conventional Western diet usually lacks this important mineral, which is important for most processes of the human body;
- Phosphorus contributes to the health of bones and tissues;
- Chlorogenic acid – can lower your blood pressure;
- Caffeic acid – can help fight inflammation all over the body;
- Copper is essential for your heart health;
- Quercetin – this powerful antioxidant can reduce the risk of getting osteoporosis and bone cancer;
- Selenium can deliver the major Chia benefits because this mineral is involved in multiple processes of your body;
- Iron – this is a major component of hemoglobin, found in the red blood cells. Iron is responsible for the oxygen transportation throughout your body.
Possible side effects of Chia seeds
The teams of WebMD and Mayo Clinic note that there are no side effects related to Chia seeds. However, the manufacturers of organic Chia seeds recommend not giving it to your children as their sole protein source.
Also, some nutritional experts strongly recommend drinking plenty of water when consuming raw Chia seeds, specifically if they have not been soaked before taking.
Additionally, as all natural seeds, Chia seeds contain phytic acid – a plant compound capable of binding with minerals, like zinc and iron, and inhibiting their uptake in your body.
The large doses of omega-3 fatty acids contained in Chia seeds may also trigger blooding thinning effects.
How can you add Chia seeds to your daily diet?
If you are wondering how to eat Chia seeds to get maximum benefits for your health, you’ll be happy to hear that these seeds can be added practically to any foods or drinks:
- The most common way of eating Chia seeds is soaking them in water and then add to baked goods, puddings, smoothies, on top of salads, and yogurts;
- Also, Chia seeds may absorb liquid and then be formed into a gel. As a gel, Chia seeds can be added to sauces for thickening and as an egg replacement in organic recipes;
- Chia seeds in water or juice is another popular way to take them. You can prepare a simple Chia seed drink by soaking a ¼ cup (about 40 grams) of seeds in 4 cups (about 1 liter) of water or organic, fresh juice for 30 minutes, along with cut fruits for some flavor.
Also, you can add raw, dry or soaked Chia seeds to puddings, oatmeal, fruit smoothies, herbal teas, homemade lemonades, jams, yogurts, protein bars, ice creams or cream pops, meatballs, truffles, soups, gravies and dips, pizzas, stir-fries, homemade breads, pancakes, cookies, and any baked goods.
You can eat Chia seeds as a cereal replacement with almond milk and nuts, salad topping, and even use them for a crispy crumb coating for fish and meat.
Chia seeds can be good as a powerful source of the dietary fiber, protein, healthy fats, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and most essential minerals. They are also safe to eat for most people and can be added practically to any homemade foods and drinks.