Science has only just begun to research the benefits of chia seeds, so you may not have heard much about them. Nevertheless, these petite pods contain a surprisingly healthy punch. Despite their size, each one is full of goodness that provides your body with a substantial boost. Here are 20 reasons you should start including them as part of your balanced diet.
20. They’re organic
Chia seeds originate from the Central American mint plant Salvia hispanica or Salvia columbariae from Mexico and the American southwest. The seeds themselves come in several mottled colors, including black, white, brown and gray. What’s more, for the most part chia farmers process the seeds naturally, which is great for the environment.
Genetically modified (GM) food and overfarming are big concerns for some in modern society. However, the chia seed industry operates on a scaled that’s small compared to a lot of foods. Thus, it has yet to reach damaging levels of cultivation, so you don’t have to search high and low for non-GM chia seeds.
19. They’re gluten free
More and more people are avoiding grain-based foods because they contain high volumes of a protein called gluten. For a few it’s a dietary choice, but for others it’s a result of gluten intolerance. The problem is rife and can have multiple consequences, not all related to digestion, as you might expect.
Gluten intolerance can inflict headaches, skin rashes, anemia, fatigue and even depression. In addition, there’s an autoimmune condition caused by severe gluten intolerance called celiac disease. However, none of these are a problem with chia seeds which don’t contain any gluten. It makes them ideal for people who have to watch what they eat.
18. They’re mineral-rich
Both the Aztecs and the ancient Mayans farmed chia seeds because they believed the diet made for powerful warriors. Apparently, a single spoonful could keep an Aztec champion sustained for a whole day. There’s certainly a kernel of truth to this too, because the tiny seeds are packed with minerals.
Just one ounce of chia seeds provides our bodies with large amounts of essential required minerals. For example, the seeds offer 30 percent of our recommended daily intake of both manganese and magnesium. In addition, they also offer similar amounts of phosphorus as well as zinc, potassium and several other vitamins.
17. They’re high in fiber
Although the human body can’t fully process plant-derived fiber, it’s nonetheless important to our diet. It acts as a digestion aid and also assists with absorbing other vital substances. Well, good news – fiber makes up 40 percent of a chia seed, which proves even more beneficial when they react to water.
To be more precise, chia have hydrophillic properties (they’re attracted to water). The seeds can take on around 12 percent of their own weight in liquid, and transform into gel. The result is a natural cleansing substance that travels through your body making both bowel and stool healthier. It even fights harmful substances as it goes!
16. They aid digestion
Your bowels aren’t the only body area that reaps rewards from chia seeds’ gelatinous water reaction. This quality has led to their use in several different culinary dishes and drinks where they’re prized as a prebiotic. That is to say, the gel-like chia seed has several beneficial effects on your gut.
What the transformed seed actually becomes is a substrate, or a surface that encourages an organism’s growth. In this case, the chia-created substrate is an ideal breeding ground for friendly bacteria and other microbes. Yep, not all bacteria are bad! These organisms help you digest your food better and can even boost your immune system.
15. They make you feel fuller
Dietary aid is another benefit that we can get from the gel form that chia seeds take after absorbing water. A combination of chia gel and the high amount of fiber it provides creates a feeling of fullness in your stomach. That’s because it takes longer to digest, so you’ll apparently feel less hungry.
At least, that’s according to Lisa Goldberg, a nutritionist at the well-being company Health Coach. “You’ll overeat less and tend to snack less,” she told ABC News in 2013. “If you eat chia before a meal, you’ll eat less at the next meal. It packs a nutritional punch without adding a lot of food to your diet.”
14. They enhance energy
So you’ve already heard that the diet of champions includes chia seeds. But there’s another reason that ancient warriors performed so well after eating a daily dose of chia. A scientific study performed back in 2011 indicated that gelatinous chia aids physical performance. Indeed, they act just like modern energy drinks produced today.
The aim of the study was to investigate the possibility of a natural physical enhancement for sports performances. With this in mind, the team observed athletes competing over 90 minutes twice: once with chia gel and once with energy drinks. The results detected no significant change, suggesting both measures were equally effective.
13. They contain omega acids
Part of the reason that chia seeds provide energy enhancement is because they contain omega 3-6 fatty acids. Although putting acids into our bodies doesn’t sound like such a good thing, in certain cases it can be. Indeed, omega 3 is important to several bodily functions, and as mammals, we can’t produce it ourselves.
As a consequence, we have to get omega 3 fatty acids from food sources. Fish has high concentrations of it, for example, and chia seeds have a plant alternative called alpha linolenic acid (ALA). But what exactly does it do? Well, for starters it aids brain functions, and since chia are a plant they’re vegetarian- and vegan-friendly.
12. They’re anti-inflammatory
It’s not a secret that humans can’t process plant-derived ALA as well as they can meat-derived omega fatty acids. Fish is largely considered a better alternative. They do have one particular quality that makes them useful for treating certain ailments, however. To be more specific, they have anti-inflammatory properties which can help ease some painful conditions.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, ALA is actually a natural anti-inflammatory, which reduces swelling in joints and such. It recommends several nuts and seeds, with chia making an appearance on the list for easing arthritis. Of course, it’s important not to eat too many and to seek medical advice beforehand.
11. They may increase heart health
Since research is a little thin on the ground when it comes to chia seeds, there’s some debate on specific subjects. Whether chia is actually beneficial to your heart is one of them. Although it’s a contested issue, some research suggests omega 3 fatty acids can improve general heart functionality.
Allegedly, omega 3 might help prevent arrhythmias which, in turn, are responsible for strokes and heart attacks. This is down to the chia seed’s high unsaturated fats content. Fats are important to our diet, but too much of them can turn into cholesterol. Unsaturated fat content, however, reduces the amount of cholesterol produced thus, in theory, staving off heart disease.
10. They may lower blood pressure
High blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, is another condition linked to heart disease. It occurs when your heart pushes the blood through your body too forcefully. What’s more, symptoms are few to non-existent, but it can still have very serious repercussions. For example, hypertension can result in the aforementioned arrhythmia.
Although they’re not recommended as a cure by themselves, of course, chia seeds can apparently lower blood pressure. Either ingesting flour made from the seeds or eating the seeds themselves can contribute to regulating your body’s blood flow. At least, that’s according to an article created by Healthline in 2019.
9. They could lower blood sugar
Another controversial topic – but one worth mentioning nonetheless – is the positive effect chia seeds may have on blood sugar. Researchers have some evidence to suggest they could play a vital role as a dietary supplement for diabetes patients. At least, that’s what the results of some past studies have indicated.
For starters, a 2017 experiment indicated that the appetite-controlling qualities of chia seeds help fight obesity. Scientists in another study also claim that diabetes was beaten back on one occasion and on another it was halted altogether. If nothing else, these findings certainly warrant further exploration for the sake of those living with diabetes.
8. They promote bone health
We’ve already established that these small seeds are packed with goodness, and that includes a high calcium content. Calcium’s the mineral famous for making our bones and teeth strong and it’s a fundamental part of our diet. If we don’t get enough from what we ingest, we process calcium stores from our bones.
The most well-known source of calcium is, of course, milk. But did you know that chia seeds are potentially an even better provider than that? In fact, an ounce portion of seeds provides a higher calcium intake than a three-ounce serving of milk. So if you want stronger bones, add chia to you diet.
7. They’re high in protein
Protein is a nutrient that helps our entire bodies grow, from our muscles and skin to our internal organs. Although protein is largely associated with animal products, many plants and seeds also contain it. Chia seeds are no exception – they contain quite a lot of protein, especially for such tiny pods.
Chia still doesn’t have as much protein as many animal products. However, when it comes to plant-based sources these seeds are hard to beat. Furthermore, they’re rich in amino acids – which are used in protein production – making them even more nutritious. That’s handy information for people on a meat-free diet.
6. They’re low in carbs
Carbohydrates are a bit of a buzzword when it comes to dieting though not all of them are bad. We process complex carbohydrates much slower than simple ones, and they’re what we should avoid where possible. Chia seeds actually have a really low carbohydrate content to begin with, but that’s not all.
When you exclude the fiber from the seeds, their remaining digestible carb content is even lower. In an ounce of chia seeds there is only one 25th of an ounce of digestible carbohydrates, which is a really low ratio. So for dieters watching their carb counts, chia is a great addition to the menu.
5. They’re rich in antioxidants
Many acclaimed superfoods such as blueberries and kale are renowned for their high antioxidant content. Oxidation – a chemical reaction within our bodies – can actually create cell-damaging atoms called free radicals. Antioxidants slow their production, so absorbing more of them through food is obviously beneficial. That’s another area where chia seeds excel.
You see, the seeds produce antioxidants to protect their self-contained fat. They act as a shield of sorts against decay. This also means that when we eat chia seeds, those same antioxidants get absorbed in our bodies. They subsequently combat free radicals, which are also a potential causes of diseases, including cancer.
4. They promote good dental health
As mentioned, chia seeds are great for your bones and teeth because of their high calcium content. But there’s another reason why eating more of them could delay trips to the dentist. It’s pertaining to one of the other subjects we’ve touched on: the chia seeds’ impressively high zinc content.
When bacteria builds up on the surface of your teeth it creates plaque, which leads to bad oral hygiene. But zinc acts as a natural antibiotic for your dentures, preventing build-up. As an added bonus, both the vitamin A and phosphorus contained in the seeds also contribute to your oral health.
3. They promote hair growth
Remember how we talked about the uses of protein in the human body? Among the things that it helps us grow are nails and hair. To be more accurate, they’re primarily made of a specific kind of protein called alpha-keratin. And since chia seeds contain a lot of protein, they assist hair growth.
Of course, eating them is one way to get that goodness into your body, but there are alternatives. Beauty therapists sometimes create a hair mask made from a combination of ingredients including chia seeds and water. The seeds’ gelatinous texture are ideal for creating such cosmetic aids, and it’s all natural.
2. Improves hair sheen
While it’s true that zinc is an important part of strengthening your teeth, it’s also good for your hair! But why is that? it’s because zinc, like protein, contributes to helping your body grow. Unlike its growth partner, though, your body doesn’t retain zinc. You can only get it from your diet.
Your body uses zinc to help grow hair, among other things. It also encourages your scalp to produce oil, which sounds like the opposite of what you want. However, your hair requires some oil to maintain its shine and prevent dryness, which leads to an unhealthy scalp. Chia seeds can help give you some lustrous locks.
1. They help retain your hair color
There’s nothing wrong with gray hair – some people even dye theirs various shades of gray – but it’s not for everyone. For those people who want to keep their hair color for longer, you need look no further than chia seeds. One of the minerals they contain can help you maintain your hair color.
Our bodies contain copper, which plays a role in our blood functions and nervous system. But it also delays melanin production, which is the pigment responsible for turning hair gray. That’s right, eating chia seeds can actually delay graying hair! Just make sure you eat them as part of a balanced diet, and they can work wonders for you.