Chia seeds are a tiny superfood that pack a big punch. These small, mildly-flavored seeds are packed with antioxidants, support a healthy digestive system, and lower cholesterol. They can even help you shed pounds!
Chia seeds have been part of pop culture since the 1980s
My first interaction with chia seeds was actually through Chia Pets, terra cotta figurines that sprouted the seeds to give the effect of hair or fur. The seeds come from the Salvia hispanica plant, a member of the mint family.1 The plant is native to Central America, and the Aztecs and Mayans regularly consumed the seeds as an energy booster.2
Today, the humble chia seed has taken on a life of its own. Though people still know the seeds in the context of that Chia Pet they bought back in 1982, we now think of them primarily as a health food.
Chia seeds have maximum nutritional effect in minimalist packaging
Unlike some of the more ostentatious superfoods on the market –the avocados, acai, and cacao– chia seeds outward appearance and flavor is understated. The small grayish seeds have a light nutty flavor that is virtually undetectable.
Just because chia seeds don’t have a bold flavor or flashy outward appearance, doesn’t mean that their nutrition profile is any less amazing. According to the USDA, chia seeds are good sources of protein and fiber, and they are rich in calcium, Vitamin A, Iron, and Omega-3 fatty acids.3
Each tablespoon of chia seeds is roughly 70 calories, but because these are low in carbohydrates, most of the energy that comes from a serving of chia seeds is quickly metabolized.4
10 Reasons to add chia seeds to your diet
1. Chia seeds improve digestive function
The high fiber content of these tiny seeds means that they’ll help you stay regular and reduce bowel irritation. Gut flora love high-fiber foods, which means that chia seeds support the good bacteria in your digestive tract.5
2. Get enough essential minerals
Getting enough calcium into your system is a challenge–especially for those of us who don’t consume dairy. Chia seeds contain a high percentage of your daily recommended intake of calcium. They’re also loaded with magnesium, phosphorous, and manganese.6
3. They’re a great source of antioxidants
These antioxidants not only make chia seeds extremely shelf-stable7, they also reduce free radicals.8 Free radicals cause cell damage, which can lead to everything from aging to cancer.
4. Meet your weight loss goals
While the jury is still out on whether chia seeds make your body better at burning fat, they can definitely help you in your weight loss journey. When swallowed or allowed to soak, the seeds produce a gel-like substance that can make you feel full faster.9
5. Get stronger bones
Since a serving of chia seeds contains a whopping 18% of your daily recommended intake of Calcium, consuming them is bound to have a positive effect on bone health.10 To be clear, a serving of chia seeds contains more calcium than a serving of milk.
Trace minerals such as magnesium and boron, both of which can be found in chia seeds, make it easier for your body to absorb Vitamin D. Vitamin D, in turn, enables your body to make use of all that calcium.11
6. Prevent and manage type 2 diabetes
Diets high in fiber prevent the insulin roller coaster that can trigger diabetes. A high fiber diet not only prevents diabetes, but also makes it easier to manage the illness.12
7. Detoxify your body
Since chia seeds support your digestive health, they help you get rid of toxins naturally. Their anti-inflammatory qualities enable them to prevent and repair damage that takes place at a cellular level. The result is less waste from your body, and more effective elimination of waste that you do produce.13
8. Enjoy those Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, prevent cancer, and support health overall, but they aren’t always easy to incorporate into your diet. Flax seeds are a common source of omega-3 fatty acids, but your body can’t break flax seeds down on its own.
On the other hand, you can fully digest chia seeds, which gives you access to all their inflammation-fighting powers.14
9. Keep your heart healthy
Those amazing Omega-3s support cardiovascular health. Chia seeds’ incredible combination of Omega-3s, trace minerals, and anti-inflammatory properties lower blood pressure, and even prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).15
10. Lower your cholesterol
The omega-3 fatty acids and high fiber content of chia seeds can reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.16
Adding chia seeds to your diet is a cinch
Since chia seeds have such a mild flavor, you can easily incorporate them into a number of dishes that you already make. They pair well with sweet and savory dishes. Whether you sprinkle a serving onto your salad, use the seeds in a smoothie, or add them to baked recipes, you’re in for a treat.
Try these delicious chia seed recipes
Coconut Chia Protein Pancakes17
- 1⁄4 cup gluten free all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons coconut flour
- 3 tablespoons vanilla whey protein powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
- sea salt (a pinch)
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1 tablespoon coconut flakes
- 1 egg
- 4 tablespoons almond milk
To make this:
1. Mix dry ingredients into a bowl. Gradually add wet ingredients and stir thoroughly.
2. Heat and grease a frying pan or skillet. Use 2 Tbs. of batter per pancake.
3. After the top of the pancake starts to bubble, flip it and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
- 1 large banana, cut into 1-inch pieces, frozen
- ½ cup frozen pineapple chunks
- ¼ cup Blueberry–Chia Seed Jam
- 1 cup coconut water or unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tablespoon golden flaxseed oil (optional)
To make this:
Blend these ingredients together until you have a smooth mixture. Enjoy!
Grain-Free Chia Buckwheat Pizza ((NYOUTRITIOUS: Grain-Free Chia Buckwheat Pizza))
- ¼ cup chia seeds (whole)¾ cup water
- 3 tbsp unrefined whole grain buckwheat flour (gluten free)
- 1 tsp oregano, dried
- 1 tbsp pine nuts, chopped
- 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, chopped
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 4 mushrooms, sliced
- 4-5 slices bell pepper, sliced
- small handful fresh basil leaves
- 1-2 tsp oregano, dried
- ½ Spanish onion, sliced
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 oz goats cheddar cheese, grated
- handful arugula leaves (rucola)
To make this:
- Combine chia seeds, water, buckwheat flour, oregano & salt and mix well until the mixture starts to thicken up.
- Add chopped pine nuts and pumpkin seed.
- Spread out the crust mixture on a piece of parchment paper and form the dough in a round shape. Flatten to about 1 cm for a firm thin crust.
- Bake at 175°C (350°F) for 30-40 minutes until firm.
- Remove from oven and add toppings of your choice and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
- Grate goat’s cheese on top and sprinkle with fresh arugula before serving.
Dynamite comes in small packages
Though small in size, chia seeds have a lot to offer us. Add them to your diet to reap the many benefits of enjoying this super-food.