These tiny chia seeds have soared to becoming one of the most popular superfoods in the health community. It is no surprise that chia means “strength” in the Mayan language and they are strengthening as you will see from their many health benefits. Chia is pronounced chee-ah.
They have become so popular the industry reports say the chia seed market will reach more than 2 billion USD in sales by 2022.
They are very easy to digest when prepared well and are a very multipurpose ingredient that works well in a variety of different recipes. So, let’s learn how good they are for us.’
8 Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
1. Good for Boosting Energy and Helps Exercise Routine
Athletes often use them as a carb loading strategy to maximize the storage of glycogen in the muscles and liver to boost their exercise performance. This seed has been found very helpful.
It was found that chia seeds boosted exercise performance for workouts that lasted 90 minutes the same way Gatorade the sports drink would without all that sugar! The research was done at the Human Performance Laboratory at The University of Alabama.
Chia absorbs more than 12 times its weight in water making it helpful in keeping the body hydrated which is helpful for athletes needing to stay hydrated during activities.
“Chia seeds have near double the protein of other seeds and grains, approximately five times the calcium of milk and double the potassium of bananas, This makes a great snack 15 to 20 minutes after the workout,” says Vancouver-based holistic nutritionist Rich Ralph.
2. Help Maintain Blood Sugar Balance
They are filled with alpha-linolenic acid and fiber and studies show that chia seeds help keep blood sugar levels normal, helping fight diabetes. It was found that adding chia seeds to white bread decreases the spike and crashes in glycemic response in blood sugar levels.
Chia and flax seeds both reduced blood glucose in a study at the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto. Chia seeds converted glucose into a slow-release carbohydrate better than flaxseed which may be because it is higher in fiber.
It has been found that diets with 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories have a reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. – The National Institute of Medicine.
3. Reduces Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation has a place in keeping your body healthy; it helps when you have an infection or injury. Even though it helps your body, too much can be harmful such as being associated with an increased risk of heart disease and cancer. There are healthy foods that reduce inflammation.
A study with 20 diabetics who ate 37 grams of salba chia seeds (white chia seeds) daily; had a reduction of inflammation of 40%. This was a 2-month study at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Canada.
4. Helpful for Regular Bowel Movements
These seeds are helpful in keeping bowel movements regular because of their high fiber content of 11 grams of fiber per once. Also, they absorb 10 times their weight in water, helping to make certain healthy bowel transit time.
“I know some of us try to deny this, but we all poop. For a long time, I actually wasn’t able to. So I tried a ton of different things, prunes, Metamucil, you name it. Then I heard about the amount of fiber a single tablespoon of chia seeds has (a whopping 5g) and figured I would give them a try, and guess what? It was the best decision I have ever made. Ever since I started eating them, I have had zero problems and I no longer feel bloated and backed up.” ~ Nikki Ruggiero
5. Improves Heart Health
The research found that adding chia seeds to a person’s regular diet could improve their heart health by lowering cholesterol levels, preventing blood clots, decreasing inflammation and regulating heart rhythms and blood pressure.
These seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, they have more omega-3s than salmon. Omega 3 fatty acids make up 60 percent of the oil in chia seeds. Omega-3s protect the heart by lowering cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and inflammation. Also, being high in fiber they help manage cholesterol levels in the arteries, lessening the risk of coronary heart disease.
6. Chia Seeds are a Good Source of Protein
It is amazing that this little seed has so much protein. They contain the 9 essential amino acids, thus are a complete protein.
7. Good for Digestion
They contain 40% fiber by weight, which is one of the best sources of fiber in foods (11 grams of fiber per ounce). If you add one ounce of chia seeds into your daily diet you will be getting 44 percent of your fiber needs for the day. This helps digestion and increases bowel movements, preventing constipation.
8. Helpful for Weight Loss
The high fiber in these seeds absorbs lots of water which expands in the stomach, helping you feel full longer. It has been found that chia seeds help with weight loss by decreasing hunger and suppressing appetite. One ounce of the seeds provides 11 grams of fiber which is about half the recommended daily for a woman over 50 years.
Also, being high in protein, studies show that when you increase your consumption of protein, it helps with weight loss by decreasing cravings and cutting caloric intake. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that increasing protein intake by only 15 percent of daily calories led to a decrease in appetite.
Side effects with these tiny seeds are outweighed by the many health benefits you see above. The main thing to take note of is that they can cause choking because they absorb 10–12 times their weight in liquid. It is best not to eat them in their dry, raw form.
“Despite potential health benefits, chia seeds may pose a risk if they are not consumed properly, according to new research,” said the Medline headline.
“Chia seeds have the ability to absorb up to 27 times their weight in water, for this reason, patients with a history of [swallowing problems] or known esophageal strictures should be cautioned that chia seeds should only be consumed when they have had the ability to fully expand in liquid prior to ingestion,” ” said study author Dr. Rebecca Rawl, from Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C.
Nutrition of Chia Seeds
They are packed with nutrition. These little seeds are a good source of protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorus and calcium, and other important micronutrients. They have more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other plant food, including flax seeds. This is why they have so many health benefits. To learn more go to Chia Seed Nutrition.
“In terms of nutritional content, a tablespoon of chia is like a smoothie made from salmon, spinach, and human growth hormone. As tiny as those seeds are, they’re superpacked with Omega-3s, protein, calcium, iron, zinc, fiber and antioxidants.” ― Van Zandt, Monica
History of Chia
- They have been around as food for the Aztecs since 3500 BC.
- Between 2600 and 2000 B.C. the seed was harvested by the Toltec and Teotihuacan civilizations in Mexico.
- Between 1500 and 900B.C. they were used as currency and as a raw material for medicines.
- These tiny valuable seeds almost disappeared after the Spanish conquest because they banned foods that were linked in any way to Aztec religion or tradition.
- Joe Pedott created the Chia Pet in 1977 and marketed it widely after 1982.
- It wasn’t till 2012 that these seeds were getting any attention and then in 2013, the big chia trend took off.
Chia Seed Trivia
- They were offered to Aztec gods in religious ceremonies.
- Aztec warriors sustained themselves for an entire day on one tablespoon of chia.
- The Aztecs highly valued it and it was often used as currency.
- The Mexican drink chia Fresca is made from soaked chia seeds in water and once they are gelatinous they add sugar and lime juice.
- The word chia is “chian” from the Aztec language meaning “oily.”
- Chia is the Mayan word for “strength.”
- Aztec mythology says that the chia seed comes from the nose of Cinteotl, the maize god.
How to Select the Best
The black and white seeds have mostly the same amount of nutrients. Although the white seeds have a little more protein and a milder flavour and the black seeds are thought to have more antioxidants. Either way, chia is a very nutritious food whether it is black or white.
You can find them in the health food section of grocery stores or you can order in bulk online. This is a very good brand: Viva Naturals Organic Non-GMO Chia Seeds
There is also oil made from the chia which is also available; it can be rubbed on your skin supplying a good amount of hydrating essential fatty acids.
How to Store
You can store chia seeds in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid in a dark, cool cupboard for many months. It is the many antioxidants in the seeds that allow them to be stored for months
Put ground chia seeds or the chia flour in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid. It is best that it is stored in the refrigerator and they may also be stored for months without going rancid.
The chia seed will last up to 5 years, stored in a cool, dry place.
How To Use Chia Seeds
- It is best to soak them for at least 10 minutes, overnight is very good. Put a one-quarter cup of chia seeds in a jar with one cup of water. You can store in the refrigerator for a week.
- When they are soaked, chia seeds form a thick gel within 30 minutes.
- The seeds are easy to add to your diet.
- They can be added to smoothies, mixed with juice to make a delicious pudding, added to porridge, or added to baked goods.
- Great as a vegan egg replacer. Learn more about the 9 Egg Substitutes for Tasty Vegan Baking Without Eggs
- Because they absorb water and fat, chia can be used to thicken sauces.
- They don’t need to be ground to get the nutrients found in them.
- You don’t need lots; one or two tablespoons a day will give you a health boost.
- “Unlike flaxseed, Chia seeds do not need to be ground for your body to absorb the nutrients.” ~ Cleveland Clinic
Try These Delicious Chia Seed Recipes
Sweet Vegan Papaya Pudding – This yummy papaya pudding is a very easy to make for dessert and super nutritious too.
Chia Pudding with Wild Blueberries is Vegan Keto and Yummy – This is a super easy creamy vegan chia pudding with wild blueberries. It is paleo and keto friendly too. The use of chia seeds makes if very filling and nutritious. You can use frozen blueberries. Talk about a fast way to
Pineapple, Banana Turmeric Smoothie Is Delicious and Very Healthy – This is a delicious turmeric smoothie full of extra healthy amazing superfoods. Pineapple, banana and chia seeds are tasty and good for you. A great breakfast!
Creamy Pomegranate Smoothie Is Delicious and Vegan – This pomegranate smoothie is the simply delicious way to get an abundance of nutrients into our diet. It is creamy without the addition of cow’s milk so it is vegan. The addition of coconut milk and chia seeds create a creamy drink full of health benefits. It is very easy to make for breakfast and so simple.
Dragon Fruit Chia Pudding with Raspberries – This is for sure a delicious chia pudding made with dragon fruit and raspberries. Of course, it is vegan and sugar-free as all the recipes on Real Food for Life are and I have to say delicious too. It is a very healthy dessert made from the tasty superfoods dragon fruit, raspberries, flax seeds, stevia and chia seeds.
Learn more about some of the healthiest vegetarian foods you will always want to have in your pantry or growing on your deck.
READ: Superfoods – Over 100 of the Healthiest Foods You Should Have in Your Diet and learn more about the variety of Superfoods we think you should be eating.