What Are Chia Seeds Good For?
Chia seeds may seem like the latest craze, but they have been a staple in the diet of many different cultures over many centuries. Should you be adding chia seeds into your regular diet? Keep reading to find out everything there is to know about chia seeds and how they can change your life today!
Where Do Chia Seeds Come From?
Derived from the Salvia hispanica plant (a relative of mint), chia seeds may provide a number of health benefits.. In fact, the word “chia” is the Ancient Mayan word for “strength.” The Mayans and the Aztecs were believed to have had a diet that was abundant in chia seeds.
Chia seeds grow naturally in countries like Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia. However, it is possible to grow a Salvia hispanica plant anywhere, providing the conditions are ideal for the plant to thrive.
How to Eat Chia Seeds
Dried chia seeds can be a delicious complement to nearly any meal. You can toss them on salads, add them to smoothies or yogurt, or even drop them into your water or juice. They add an instant health benefit to any meal. Chia seeds, which are high in omega-3s and calcium, can also serve as an egg replacement for vegan recipes.
Ground Chia Seeds
It can be easier to use chia seeds as a replacement ingredient in many recipes if you opt for the ground type over the whole. Some preliminary studies show the body may absorb ground chia better than whole chia seeds.
Black Chia Seeds
Good quality chia seeds are usually black, or sometimeswhite. Brown isn’t the ideal color for chia seeds. To ensure the highest quality of this invaluable nutrient, black chia seeds – or white – are your best bet.
Chia Seeds Nutrition Facts
We’ve all heard how healthy chia seeds can be, but what are they actually made of? Here are some nutritional facts to keep in mind about chia seeds:
- Fiber– Chia seeds are very high in fiber, especially for their tiny size. Per 28g of chia seeds, there are 11g of fiber!
- Protein– About 4g of this same serving size, 28g of chia seeds, is protein.
- Fat– There are 9g of fat per 28g serving of chia seeds and more than half that fat is omega-3 fatty acids.
- Calcium– A serving of this size also contains nearly 20% of your recommended calcium intake.
Aside from these, chia seeds also contain manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, potassium, and vitamin B1, B2, and B3. Chia seeds are indeed a superfood! Plus, they can actually help to reduce your bad cholesterol and improve your “good” cholesterol levels.
Chia Seed Benefits
Chia seeds can provide a number of proven health benefits for many people. Here are a few of the positive effects eating more chia seeds can have on your health:
- High in Protein– Chia seeds are relatively low in calories, but are high in protein. This can be a great addition to a vegan or vegetarian diet. To replace the protein typically found in animal products, many people are turning to chia seeds. Plus, the protein they provide is quality protein.
- May Help with Weight Loss– If you are struggling to lose weight, chia seeds may offer you an added benefit. Since they are high in fiber, they retain water, which then expands in the stomach and slows down the absorption of food. This can mean feeling fuller, longer.
- Lower Risk of Heart Disease– If you are at risk for heart disease or are currently suffering from a heart condition, you may want to consider eating more chia seeds. They are proven to help lower your risk of developing heart disease by improving “good” cholesterol levels and reducing belly fat.
- Rich in antioxidants– Antioxidants help our bodies fight free radicals. This can help slow the signs of aging and reduce your risk of developing certain cancers.
- High in Omega-3s– Though tiny in size, chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids. This is essential for your health and can be extremely important for pregnant women. Babies need loads of omega-3 fatty acids for proper brain development in the womb.
Chia Seeds Are Rich in Nutrients
Chia seeds may seem tiny and insignificant, but they are chock full of fiber, healthy fats, antioxidants and plenty of vitamins and minerals, and are a highly nutritious addition to any healthy diet.
Chia Seeds and Antioxidants
We now know that chia seeds are rich in antioxidants, but what exactly do antioxidants do? For starters, they help slow down to signs of aging, like premature wrinkling of the skin. Antioxidants work to fight free radicals in your body that can speed up aging and even diseases like cancer.
You can buy face creams with antioxidants in them, but you can get nearly as much of it from chia seeds.
Chia Seeds Omega-3 Fatty Acids
For the calorie count, it’s pretty impressive how high in omega-3 fatty acids chia seeds actually are. You can get a lot from just a handful. These polyunsaturated fats are essential for many bodily functions, such as lowering blood pressure and contributing to brain development and function.
Chia Seeds and Weight Management
Chia seeds are very high in fiber, which is essential to regulating your body’s intestinal functions. In addition, fibrous foods tend to swell up in the stomach and make you feel fuller for longer. This means less snacking. Studies have proven that chia seeds can help with weight loss by slowing down food absorption.
Chia Seeds and Heart Health
Chia seeds are considered a superfood for a reason. They can be particularly beneficial for anyone who is at risk for heart disease. Chia seeds can reduce belly fat – one of the main risk factors in developing heart disease.
Other Benefits of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds have been associated with improving cardiovascular health, reducing obesity, and improving mortality rates. Overall, there are many health benefits to adding more chia seeds into your daily diet.
Chia Powder or Chia Seeds?
The real difference here is how easy it is to use it in a recipe. Whole chia seeds make a great addition to salads and smoothies. If you’re looking to use it as a replacement ingredient in a recipe, you may want to opt for chia powder. The body has an easier time absorbing it in powder form, according to some preliminary studies.
Side Effects of Chia Seeds
Generally, chia seeds are safe to eat and don’t lead to many side effects. The most common side effect arises from consuming very large amounts of chia seeds. Because they are extremely high in fiber, consuming too much may lead to gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea or cramping.
Some people may also suffer from rare side effects like hives, swelling or itching. This is normally referred to as an allergic or anaphylactic response. However, chia seeds are not known to be a common allergen.
Some reports have stated chia seeds should not be eaten raw; however, no danger has ever been proven. In fact, raw chia seeds – while bland and tasteless – are not dangerous in their raw state.
Should I Eat More Chia Seeds?
In short, yes! In fact, everyone should be eating more chia seeds. The fact is that they have dozens of health benefits, are easy to add to almost any meal or snack and they can make a world of difference in your health.
Are Chia Seeds Safe for Children?
Chia seeds can be a very healthy addition to your child’s diet. You can begin introducing chia seeds into a child’s diet as young as eight months old. Of course, babies are very sensitive little beings. So while chia seeds are generally safe – even recommended – for children, it is crucial to check with your child’s pediatrician first.
Particular health conditions may make chia seeds a less than favorable option for your child. You may wish to confirm what a healthy dose of chia seeds for a child is, depending on his or her weight and size. Chia seeds are high in fiber and can swell up in the gut, up to 10 times their original size. Portions are important.
Chia Seeds and Vegans
As a plant-based source of protein, fiber and healthy fats, chia seeds are an excellent food choice for vegans and vegetarians. Following a vegan or vegetarian diet can be very healthy, as long as you are adhering to the recommended intake of nutrients like protein.
Who Should Avoid Chia Seeds?
If you suffer from gastrointestinal problems, you may want to consult your physician before you start eating more chia seeds. The high fiber may not be ideal for you, given your particular situation. When it comes to your health, it’s important to remember that what is considered healthy can sometimes vary by individual.
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
Chia seeds are a natural product that is rich in several of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients our bodies need. Although they can help regulate blood pressure, weight and even heart disease, it is important to remember that consuming chia seeds alone will not drastically improve your health.
To achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle, it is crucial to eat a generally healthy diet – no amount of chia seeds will make your french fries healthier. It is also essential to maintain an active lifestyle. Physical fitness and exercise cannot be replaced by healthy foods alone.
In order to fuel your body and give it the strength it deserves, you must treat it well in every way. That includes eating right, avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking or drinking too much alcohol and keeping your body moving.