Chia seeds have been a staple in Mayan and Aztec diets for centuries. Today, they draw the interest of many people for their health benefits and uses in cooking. It turns out chia seeds are a rich source of nutrients and antioxidants.
1. Chia Seeds Deliver a Massive Amount of Nutrients With Very Few Calories
Adding just two tablespoons of chia seeds to your daily diet will give you approximately seven grams of fibre, four grams of protein, 205 milligrams of calcium, and a whopping five grams of omega-3.
2. Chia Seeds Are Loaded With Antioxidants
Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants that help protect the body from free radicals, aging and cancer.
Antioxidants help protect the body from free radicals, ageing and cancer. Chia seeds have an ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity – a measurement that lists the antioxidant value of foods) four times higher than blueberries. This high level of antioxidants also means chia seeds have a long shelf life of around two years, even without refrigeration.
3. Almost All the Carbs in Them Are Fibre
Chia seeds are an excellent source of fibre, with a whopping 10 grams in only 2 tablespoons. That is one-third of the daily recommended intake of fiber per day.
Fibre is associated with reducing inflammation, lowering cholesterol and regulating bowel function. Fibre is a must for digestive health, reducing inflammation, regulating bowel function and lowering cholesterol.
The fibre also helps keep you feeling fuller for longer. The combination of protein, fiber and the gelling action of chia seeds when mixed with liquids all contribute to their satiating effects.
4. Chia Seeds Are High in Quality Protein
One serving of chia seeds – around 28 grams – contains over four grams of protein. This is nearly 10 per cent of the daily-recommended intake, making it a wonderful choice for vegetarians or those wanting to easily boost their protein intake.
5. Chia Seeds Are High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Chia seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds lipid profile is composed of 60 percent omega-3s, making them one of the richest plant-based sources of these fatty acids — specifically, of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. The omega-3s in chia seeds can help reduce inflammation, enhance cognitive performance and reduce high cholesterol.
Chia seeds contain around eight times more omega-3s than salmon, making them one of the richest plant-based sources of this essential fatty acid, which is imperative for optimal brain, heart and skin health.
Research has also demonstrated that the beneficial effects of omega-3, as found in chia, has helped those suffering with mood disorders. A meta-analysis of trials involving patients with major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder provided evidence that omega-3 in chia reduces symptoms of depression. Omega-3 fatty acids have been proven in increase brain function and decrease depression. So, incorporating chia into your diet on a regular basis helps not just your physical health but also your mental health.
6. They Are High in Many Important Bone Nutrients
Chia seeds are high in several nutrients that are important for bone health. Chia seeds are high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and protein. All of these nutrients are essential for bone health.
The calcium content is particularly impressive, higher than most diary products (not that I recommend dairy).
7. They can help balance blood sugar levels
Keeping balanced levels of blood sugar is important for both health and energy. Blood sugar may spike after meals, especially if you eat high-starchy foods or sweets. This can lead to ‘slumps’ in your day where you feel tired and out of energy. By balancing your blood sugar, you not only lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, but you also ensure steady, constant energy throughout your day.
But how does the Chia Seed help with this? Both the gelling action of the seed, and it’s unique combination of soluble and insoluble fibre combine to slow down your body’s conversion of starches into sugars. If you eat chia with a meal, it will help you turn your food into constant, steady energy rather than a series of ups and downs that wear you out
8. Chia Seeds Can Cause Major Improvements in Type 2 Diabetics
A study in type 2 diabetics showed that chia seeds can significantly lower blood pressure and a marker for inflammation.
Chia seeds have the unique ability of slowing down digestion, and the gelatin-like coating of chia seeds can help prevent blood sugar spikes when exposed to liquid. This means they naturally have a positive impact on regulating blood glucose levels, which help treat type-2 diabetes.
9. They can be used as an egg replacement
The outer layer of chia seeds swells when mixed with liquids to form a gel. This can used in place of eggs to lower cholesterol and increase the nutrient content of foods and baked goods. To make the egg replacement, mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and let sit for 15 minutes.
10. They’re gluten free
11. They come in different colours
Black and white. They taste the same and have the same nutritional benefit so choose whichever one appeals.
Tip: White blends in better with coconut; so if you’re serving them to a fussy eater, white may be the sneakier option.
12. Chia Seeds Are Easy to Incorporate Into Your Diet
Here’s just some ways you can incorporate chia seeds into your diet:
- Add them to smoothies
- Sprinkle them on salads, cereal, yoghurt, etc.
- Make them into delicious treats, like my Lemon & Coconut Bliss Balls or homemade muesli/granola bars.
- Have them for breakfast as a Mango & Coconut Chia Pudding.
- Add them to your water bottle. Tip: I add about 1 Tablespoon to 1L of water plus the juice of a lemon. They swell up and form little gell balls. I sip this throughout the day and keeps me feeling full.
- Use them as an egg replacement. See point 9.
- Here’s some more great uses.
They taste fairly neutral, so they’re easy to add to things without changing the flavour. Have you got any more ways to eat chia seeds I’ve missed?
Where to buy them from?
This is one superfood that everyone’s embraced so they’re pretty readily available. Most supermarkets will stock them in the health food section otherwise try your local health food shop.
The Chia Co is a great Australia company, growing and distributing Aussie grown chia seeds. They also have a large range of chia products too (check out their chia pod’s in the cold section of your local supermarket, next to the yoghurts).