How many times have you heard the term “superfood” lately? If you are at all involved in the world of health, fitness, or nutrition, then chances are this word has come up at least a few times this week. It is often used to describe foods that are supposedly best for your overall health, but what exactly is a superfood? Dictionary.com describes a superfood as “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” Now, that is definitely a very general definition, but there are some foods that we can agree fall into that category of being “especially beneficial.” One of the foods that most experts agree to be “super” is chia, so we are going to take you through the benefits of adding chia seeds to your diet to discover whether or not chia seeds are a superfood, and what benefits these tiny little seeds hold for our bodies and our well-being.
What Are Chia Seeds?
Chances are you have heard of chia seeds, even if you have never really seen them or tried to incorporate them into your diet. Chia seeds are, of course, seeds, and they come from a plant in Mexico called Salvia Hispanica. Individual chia seeds are tiny, kind of the same size as a single grain of quinoa--and like quinoa, chia seeds come in multiple colors. You will mostly find the white or black (or light or dark) chia seeds in your local stores. They are slightly different nutritionally, but both are very good for you and can be used the same way. Chia seeds have been consumed by people as far back as the Aztec civilization, and were touted even then as a superfood--the legends claim that warriors would battle for an entire day on only a spoonful of chia seeds. While we do not necessarily recommend warring (or really doing anything) on that few calories, experts definitely agree that chia seeds are a perfect energy and health boost to add to your daily diet!
How Do You Eat Chia Seeds?
As chia seeds have become more popular lately, they are also becoming easier to come by. You can likely find chia seeds in your local health food stores or with our Store Finder! Chia seeds are typically found in either black or white or a mixture of the two and are sold whole and dry in bags. They actually have a fairly long shelf life, so you can take your time easing them into your diet!
Chia seeds are often compared to flaxseeds, but a benefit of chia over flax is that you can actually eat chia seeds whole. They have a fairly neutral flavor, though it is a bit nutty, which makes chia a great addition to almost any dish: oatmeal, smoothies, and shakes are our favorites! You can even eat chia seeds with a spoon, although you may not love the flavor on its own.
If you prefer not to eat chia seeds whole, you are in luck! This is actually the most efficient way to take advantage of all the nutritional properties chia seeds have to offer. By soaking, grinding, or sprouting the chia seeds before eating, you make all the healthy nutrients easier to digest and absorb into your body. Soak the chia seeds in a 10:1 ratio of water to chia seeds for half an hour or more, and they will form a gelatinous substance that can be added to a smoothie or oatmeal with ease, or simply eaten as is. This gel-like version of chia actually works as a nice egg substitute in vegan recipes as well!
If you want to grind the seeds, a coffee grinder or blender will turn your chia seeds into a coarse powder that you can use in recipes similarly to flour or baking powders. Make sure you research the different ways to use this powder in your recipes, as the substitutions will produce slightly unusual results if not done properly. Adding ground chia to a pancake or bread recipe can give you a nutty, healthy twist! Of course, you can unlock the hidden nutrients by sprinkling the ground powder over your oatmeal or smoothie as well, this will be a little bit more nutrient-rich than sprinkling the whole seeds!
Sprouted chia seeds take a little more action, but have the added benefit of chlorophyll, which helps replenish red blood cells and oxygen in your blood. The best way to do this is to place your seeds on a dry dish inside a container with around ¼-inch of water. The seeds have to sit up in a dry container so they will not absorb the water (like soaked seeds). Wait for four to seven days, and you will have chia sprouts, perfect to add to a sandwich or salad!
What Is Super About Chia Seeds?
No matter which way you choose to eat your chia seeds, you will be unlocking the wealth of healthy nutrients that rank these little morsels so highly on the superfood charts. In fewer than 140 calories, a single ounce of chia seeds contains more nutrients than almost any other food of its size! Each ounce includes 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, a ton of omega-3 fatty acids, in addition to calcium, zinc, potassium, manganese, and a few other vitamins and minerals as well! All of these nutrients have been linked to overall health improvement in different ways, making chia seeds one of the best things you can add to your diet for full body health!
We talk about fiber a lot. A whole lot. That's because it is amazing for you! People with high fiber diets have been shown to have a lower risk of heart disease, lower risk of cancer, and lower risk of diabetes. And chia seeds have a lot of fiber. In fact, 1 ounce of chia seeds contains 11 grams, which is almost half of the daily recommended value for women (25 grams total). A serving size of chia is typically 1 1/2-2 ounces, so an adult woman can basically be done with her fiber for the day after one serving of chia in the morning! In addition to all of that disease prevention, fiber also just helps with overall gastrointestinal health and makes your digestive system function the way it is supposed to!
Another huge factor that makes chia seeds the ultimate superfood is protein! You have probably heard about protein for muscle building, but what you may not realize is that protein is great for weight loss and energy as well. The protein in chia seeds will complement the additional protein in your oatmeal or smoothie for a big burst of energy! Protein also helps you feel full for longer and helps curb your snack cravings throughout the day. Higher protein intake has been shown to help with weight loss as well as to prevent weight gain. Chia seeds are a perfect way to add a little dose of extra protein to almost any meal!
Antioxidants and Omega-3s
Even better than digestive health and weight loss are the ways that chia seeds can help prevent serious diseases. The omega-3 fatty acids that are found in chia seeds have been linked to protection against diabetes, liver disease, and arthritis, as well as lowering blood pressure (which can lead to less risk for diabetes). The antioxidants in chia seeds fight against free radicals, which have been known to cause cancer, as well as slightly less serious issues like wrinkles and skin aging. Basically, these things combine to help you live a much healthier life and remain disease-free--add a few servings of chia seeds to your diet today to help prevent disease and live a fuller life!
Overall, it is no wonder that experts call chia seeds one of the superfoods of the world. Unlike many other foods, chia seeds have very few negatives. The only thing we recommend is taking caution if you have dysphagia or trouble swallowing, and with all new diet additions, add chia seeds gradually, with one serving per day until your body gets used to the high-fiber consumption. Your body will definitely thank you for adding such a concentrated source of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals that it needs to remain healthy and functioning at top level. The combination of all of these nutrients will not only keep you healthy and free of diseases, but it will give you a boost of energy to get through your day without leaving you feeling hungry! What food could better be described as a “superfood” than this? Check out all of our chia seed recipes and try them at home! Comment below to let us know what you think of chia seeds: super or not?