The popularity of chia seeds and their many uses has become extremely relevant in the health industry. Doctors and scientists alike are deeming them one of the healthiest foods in the world, raving about the endless health benefits. With loads of recipes and information telling us how to use both whole and ground chia seeds, is there enough evidence behind chia seeds benefits to knowing if they're actually capable of improving our health? And if they are, are they effective enough to consider making them a part of our daily diet?
Chia seeds have been around a lot longer than you may realize. In fact, in the '80s they were almost more popular than they are now. You may remember their big debut as Chia Pets, which was accompanied by the catchy jingle “Ch-ch-ch-chia!” Yet their initial use actually dates back even further to the Aztecs and the Mayans, who deemed them a dietary staple.
Deriving from the plant Salvia Hispanica, the chia seed first originated in the central valley of Mexico. Grown and harvested by ancient Aztec civilizations, it was a major food crop and one of the most valuable seeds harvested each year. So important, in fact, that it was often used as a form of payment between civilizations. The plant itself is considered an herb and grows about three feet tall. Medium sized green leaves and blue flowers make up the plant, and once the flowers have fully bloomed and faded, the seeds are harvestable. The chia seed is arguably the most important part of the plant. Rich in fatty acids and protein, each seed absorbs over 12 times its weight in water. Once the water is absorbed, the chia seeds create a protective gel layer that is responsible for giving chia-based beverages and puddings their unique texture. Chia seeds are most commonly grown and used throughout Mexico; however, many different places have begun cultivating them in hopes of easier distribution.
Nonetheless, what are some of the main health benefits of chia seeds, and are they really enough to make a difference? If you are wondering, “Are chia seeds good for you?” you are not alone. We'll also be explaining a few unique ways on how to incorporate chia seeds into your daily diet.
Chia Seeds Are Full of Antioxidants
One of the top chia seeds benefits is that they are incredibly rich in antioxidants. Just as these antioxidants work to protect the sensitive nutrients in the seeds from spoiling, when consumed they also protect the body from free radicals that can cause premature aging and even cancer. Because of this protective layer, the whole chia seed has a substantial shelf life of nearly two years without refrigeration.
Antioxidants are essential because our bodies naturally produce free radicals, which can be extremely damaging and can even overpower the number of naturally occurring antioxidants. Receiving antioxidants from foods such as chia seeds, as opposed to supplements, can allow our bodies to absorb the nutrients better and effectively prevent free radicals from causing harm.
Chia Seeds Are High in Quality Protein
For such a tiny seed, chia seeds pack a significant amount of protein when compared to most other plants. In fact, 14% of the weight of a chia seed is made up of protein, as well as essential amino acids, which further help our bodies efficiently make protein.
Protein is critical when it comes to one’s overall health. Proteins are crucial for the health of your hair, skin, and nails as well as muscle growth, hormone balance, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Low protein and amino acid levels in the diet can result in mood swings, loss of muscle, poor concentration and trouble losing weight. Chia seeds can be an excellent source of plant-based protein, especially for those whose diets consist of little to no animal products.
Chia Seeds Improve Your Dental Health!
The vitamins and nutrients found in chia seeds such as calcium, iron and zinc are essential for healthy bone and tooth development!
Calcium is not only needed to grow strong teeth and bones, but it plays a vital role in keeping them strong and healthy. Not enough calcium could lead to weak teeth that eventually chip, crack, or get infected.
The amount of zinc found in chia seeds will also work to keep your teeth healthy by preventing tartar and plaque build up. Not only will your teeth stay cleaner, but your breath will stay fresher too!
With all these great vitamins in one tiny seed, it's no wonder chia seeds are linked to excellent dental health and preservation! Because there are so many chia seed benefits, this nutrient-dense food has been categorized as a superfood throughout the health and wellness community. Adding the chia seed superfood to your daily diet is highly recommended due to its many health benefits.
Chia Seeds Are Good for Heart Health!
Not only are chia seeds known to reduce inflammation, but now studies show they may be able to reverse it as well! For those that are trying to avoid heart disease and other cardiovascular issues, chia seeds are an excellent addition that can contribute to cardiovascular support. Along with their anti-inflammatory properties, chia seeds have also been accredited with regulating cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure, making them the perfect heart-healthy snack!
The high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids in chia seeds help your body better absorb essential vitamins like A, D and E. The strong anti-inflammatory effects of essential fatty acid properties help to reduce stress throughout the body and prevent strain on blood vessels aiding in the prevention of heart disease.
Chia Seeds Might Promote Weight Loss
Another one of chia seed's main nutritional benefits is that they can help contribute to weight loss. While chia seeds pack a mighty punch of dietary fiber and protein, much like oatmeal, their texture causes them to expand and contribute to feelings of fullness when eaten. These feelings of satiety early on in a meal proves to be very effective in the prevention of overeating and weight gain. If you’re looking to up your fiber intake and give your body a boost of nutrition, chia seeds just might be your answer.
Chia seeds are also considerably high in fiber and plant-based protein. Both the insoluble and soluble fiber in chia seeds help to improve digestion while keeping you full for longer. Insoluble fiber found in chia seeds works to satisfy your cravings sooner rather than later. Plus, because it stays in your system for awhile, it can also help keep you fuller longer, preventing you from reaching for that unhealthy mid-day snack. Dietary fiber also keeps your stomach healthy, allowing you to properly rid any excess waste your body may have been holding.
Now that we know how high fiber foods help with weight loss, what kind of role does protein play in one’s weight loss journey? A high protein diet helps satisfy your food cravings sooner and make better choices about your eating habits. Protein also requires more energy to be digested, which means it burns more calories in the process and promotes fat burning. Aside from calorie burning, protein is a crucial part of muscle growth and repair. While muscle burns much more calories than fat, it’s safe to say that the more protein and muscle we have, the easier it is to maintain a healthy weight.
Chia Seeds Might Contain the Wrong Kind of Omega-3s
Okay, so we’ve discussed the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in a healthy diet and how chia seeds are overflowing with them. However, they might not be as beneficial as many claim. When it comes to omega-3s, there are three main kinds; ALA, EPA, and DHA. EPA and DHA are the active forms humans need the most, while ALA is an inactive form that must be converted before the body uses it.
Most plant sources of omega-3s are overflowing with ALA, and sadly, a human body is not able to convert ALA into one of the active forms. Because of this, plant sources of omega-3 are often seen as inferior when compared to animal sources.
While the omega-3s found in chia seeds are still beneficial, they do not supply DHA.
Lower Blood Pressure Isn't Always a Good Thing
As we previously talked about, the omega-3s that are found in chia seeds can produce significant anti-inflammatory effects that work to lower your blood pressure. For those who have high blood pressure, this may be a good thing. However, individuals with low blood sugar levels might want to refrain from a diet rich in chia seeds and omega-3s. If you already suffer from low blood pressure, lowering it even more, may cause the blood to thin out too much and lead to several more health issues such as nausea, fainting, blurred vision, and even depression.
Chia Seeds Can Cause Allergies
While an allergic reaction to chia seeds is rare, it’s important to remember that each individual is different and may experience a different result when consuming chia seeds. For those who have a nut or seed allergy, it’s advised to get tested by a doctor before adding chia seeds to your diet. The high amount of protein found in chia seeds can also prove to be an allergen and should be avoided if symptoms occur. Common symptoms resulting from a chia seed allergy include rashes, hives, wheezing, and, in severe cases, vomiting.
Chia Seeds Can Lead to Stomach Problems
While an adequate amount of fiber is good for you, too much fiber can prove to have the opposite effect, resulting in stomach and gastrointestinal issues. Chia seeds are extremely high in fiber, and too much fiber doesn’t work with every body type. Those who consume too much fiber may experience side effects ranging from diarrhea, constipation, bloating and intestinal gas. Luckily there’s a way to eat chia seeds and avoid stomach pain altogether! Because it’s a good idea to consume fiber with plenty of water, it will be gentler on your stomach if chia seeds are soaked before being consumed. Whether this means adding them to a drink, whipping up some chia pudding, or simply soaking them in water before adding them to a meal, this process will make them easier to digest and help avoid any stomach discomfort associated with large amounts of fiber.
There Are Few Facts About Chia Seeds
Because chia seeds recently made it into the spotlight, there is little long-term research proving that they have any actual positive or negative side effects. While we’re able to look at their nutritional value and the possible benefits their vitamins and nutrients can provide, each individual is different and may process the benefits of chia seeds differently.
Chia seeds are packed with essential vitamins and nutrients that our bodies need to stay healthy and happy! While there's no denying that these tiny seeds are one heck of a superfood, the health benefits of chia vary and will not be the same for everyone.
However, when it comes to cooking, we love how versatile these little seeds can be. Whether made into a pudding, used as an egg substitute or sprinkled on top of smoothies and baked goods, chia seeds can serve a number of different roles in the kitchen. Since the chia seed flavor is mild, they won't change the taste and will only add a boost of nutrition. Whether you use ground chia seeds in baked goods or you sprinkle it into your smoothies or on yogurt, there are many ways to consume this tiny and mighty edible seed.
If you’re looking to add an extra healthy seed to your diet, then chia seeds are an excellent way to give your body some additional nutrients without a bunch of extra calories and carbs. While chia seeds may not solve all of your health and weight loss problems, their ability to satisfy your cravings and keep you fuller longer has shown to help aid in weight loss and promote healthy eating habits.
Chia seeds are also an incredibly easy way to add extra vitamins and nutrients to any meal. Whether sprinkled on a salad or packed in a smoothie, adding chia seeds to your dishes is effortless and can boost the nutritional value of your food.