Food 

Know Your Superfood: Discover the Health Benefits of Chia Seeds

April 02, 2021 4 min read

Energy balls with chia seeds

Joanna Foley,RD, CLT

Chia seeds have been marketed as a “superfood” in recent years, and many health experts consider them one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Whether or not you’ve started using chia seeds in your diet yet, you may be interested to know what all of their hype is about.  

This article will teach you about the health benefits of chia seeds and give you ideas for how you can start enjoying them today (including a bonus recipe at the end). 

What are the health benefits of chia seeds? 

Chia seeds pack a lot of nutrition in tiny form. The nutritional breakdown of one serving of chia seeds, which is 1 oz. or 2 tablespoons, is as follows*:

Chia seeds nutritional information

*Note that there will be minor variations in the nutritional breakdown between different brands of chia seeds.

Here are some ways that eating chia seeds in your diet may benefit your health:

They’re full of antioxidants

Chia seeds have a high antioxidant content. Since antioxidants help protect our cells from free radicals and oxidative damage, eating chia seeds can help protect against diseases.

They’re a good source of omega-3 fatty acids

While most omega-3 fats come from animal foods like fish, chia seeds are the richest plant source of these essential fats. 

Omega-3 fats provide tremendous health benefits by helping lower inflammation in your body that contributes to disease. 

Keep in mind that the type of omega-3s in chia seeds is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which your body must convert into the active forms of EPA and DHA (the omega-3s found in fish or algae) to benefit. While this makes them a less efficient source than fatty fish like salmon, they still provide health benefits and make a good option for vegetarians and vegans. 

They’re full of fiber

Nearly all of the carbohydrates in chia seeds are in the form of indigestible (or insoluble) fiber. Just one ounce provides almost 40% of the recommended daily intake for adults. 

Fiber helps feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut, which contributes to better digestion. High-fiber diets also come with a slew of other health benefits, including supporting natural detoxification through bowel movements, promoting better blood sugar balance, and assisting in weight management.

They’re a plant-based source of protein

Chia seeds pack a punch of plant-based protein in a small quantity. They’re also considered a complete protein since they contain all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own. Therefore, chia seeds make an invaluable addition for people who follow vegetarian or vegan diets to help provide adequate protein intake, though anyone can enjoy them

They may support a healthy weight

Thanks to their high fiber content, chia seeds help contribute to a feeling of fullness which can prevent overeating and possibly help with weight loss. However, their weight-supportive effects work best when coupled with a healthy diet and active lifestyle, and they should not be thought of as a standalone cure for weight loss. 

They may help prevent and improve some chronic conditions

The fiber and omega-3 fatty acids in chia seeds help improve heart health by lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation. Fiber is also excellent for those with diabetes as it contributes to lower blood sugar and insulin levels. 

Tips for incorporating chia seeds into your diet

Chia seeds may have an appearance that resembles birdseed, but don’t let that deter you from trying them. While they aren’t very flavorful on their own, they absorb the flavor of whatever you’re eating them with, making them very versatile. 

Raw chia seeds have a grainy texture, but they swell up and create a gel-like texture when mixed with liquid. Therefore, chia seeds are perhaps best enjoyed when added to foods and meals that contain a liquid. As a bonus, chia seeds are naturally vegan and gluten-free, making them an easy addition to just about anyone’s diet. 

Chia seeds come in both black and white varieties, and you can find them in any major grocery store.

Here are some ideas for incorporating chia seeds into your diet: 

  • Mix a spoonful into oatmeal, or add them to your overnight oats
  • Sprinkle on top of yogurt or cereal 
  • Blend a small handful into a smoothie
  • Make chia seed pudding (see recipe below)
  • Use in homemade jam, or mix into pre-made jams
  • Roll into chia energy balls
  • Stir a small amount into baking recipes such as cookies, pancakes, and muffins
  • Swirl them into your water or juice
  • Mix them into grains like rice and quinoa when cooking
  • Use as an egg substitute by soaking 1 tbsp chia seeds with 3 tbsp water and allowing to gel for about 5 minutes (replaces one egg in any recipe)

For a healthier dessert option, try this simple and delicious recipe for chia seed pudding:

Nutty chia seed pudding in a cup
 

Nutty Chia Seed Pudding recipe

Serves 1-2. May double or triple the recipe for larger servings.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp chia seeds
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (may substitute other milk of choice)
  • 1-2 tbsp natural nut butter of choice, such as peanut or almond butter
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup or a few drops of stevia sweetener to taste
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • Optional toppings such as sliced fruit, granola, nuts, or a dollop of whipped cream 

Instructions:

Add the chia seeds, milk, nut butter, maple syrup, and optional vanilla extract to a small jar with a lid, such as a mason jar. Shake or stir well until the seeds and nut butter are evenly distributed. Place in the refrigerator for ~1-2 hrs or overnight until it reaches a gel-like consistency and most of the milk has been absorbed. Once the pudding is set, top with optional toppings as desired and enjoy cold. May adjust the amount of sweetener and nut butter to match your taste preferences. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5-7 days.