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).
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*:
*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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
For a healthier dessert option, try this simple and delicious recipe for chia seed pudding:
Serves 1-2. May double or triple the recipe for larger servings.
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.