Chia seeds are praised as a superfood by health enthusiasts. Chia seeds are a versatile ingredient with several health benefits that can be used in a variety of different ways. Most importantly, they are known to promote weight loss, which is currently one of the hottest topics of the health industry. Chia seeds are regarded as a superfood because they have high nutritional value and medicinal properties. In the Mayan language, chia means “strength”. So eating just 1 tablespoon of chia seeds can give you a great punch of energy and strength.
It is also sometimes referred to as “runner’s food” because it was often used by warriors and runners as an energy booster during battle or while running long distances. Apart from that, chia is also known to reduce the signs of aging and promotes healthy skin. It also helps build strong bones and muscles while also supporting the cardiovascular and digestive system. In short, the health benefits of chia seeds are immense.
What Are Chia Seeds?
Chia is an edible seed that is originally grown in Mexico. These tiny black and white seeds come from Salvia hispanica, a desert plant which is a member of the mint family. Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, carbohydrates, calcium, and antioxidants.
Chia seeds are an unprocessed, gluten-free whole-grain food with a mild and nutty flavor. Just 2 tablespoons of chia contain 9 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 139 calories, and 11 grams of fiber along with minerals and vitamins. There are several chia seed recipes you can make but most often they are prepared as chia seed pudding or used as a seasoning on sauces, rice dishes, cereals, vegetables, or yogurt to increase their nutritional value. They are also mixed with baked goods and drinks sometimes to enhance the flavor. When you put chia seeds in water, the mixture turns into a gel within 30 minutes. It is believed that the same reaction also takes place in the stomach which slows down the absorption of sugar. Thus, you feel fuller for longer and consume fewer calories.
40% of chia is fiber and 14% is protein, by weight. Hence, it is considered one of the best sources of fiber and protein in the world. A high intake of fiber and protein reduces appetite, which helps avoid binge eating and keeps calories under check.
What Are the Health Benefits of Chia Seeds?
Being rich in nutrients, chia seeds have several health benefits. The following are the 10 most popular health benefits of chia seeds:
- Prevents aging and promotes healthy skin: Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants and are known to inhibit up to 70% of free radical activity. Hence, adding chia seeds to your recipes prevent premature skin aging. It also accelerates the skin’s repair systems, leading to healthier skin.
- Promote digestion: Chia is extremely rich in fiber content. In fact, juts one ounce of chia provides nearly 11 grams of fiber. Fiber is a very important component that increases your body’s ability to balance insulin levels. It also promotes easy and regular bowel movements. Due to high fiber content and healthy fats, chia can be a natural blood sugar balancer too. It is an appetite-suppresser and also helps people feel fuller quicker. This is because chia, when eaten, absorbs sufficient amounts of water and immediately expands in the stomach. This is the reason why chia is considered as a good food for weight loss. It also supports the growth of probiotics in the large intestine. Probiotics help fight harmful bacteria and infections.
- Take care of your heart: Chia seeds are known to regulate cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. This makes them extremely beneficial for heart health. By consuming the chia seeds regularly, you can also reduce your risk of developing atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries) because it reverses oxidative stress. Chia seeds are also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, the healthy fats that protect your heart by lowering bad cholesterol, blood pressure, and inflammation.
- Good for diabetic patients: Because chia seeds are rich in alpha-linolenic acid and fiber, they can help prevent metabolic disorders like dyslipidemia (excessive fat in the blood) and insulin resistance. Both factors are the major cause of diabetes. Chia seeds have also been found to reduce visceral adipose tissue, a “belly fat” tissue that affects the body’s metabolism and leads to obesity!
- Boost your body’s metabolism and energy: Chia seeds help boost your metabolism and burn belly fat as well! If you are looking for a punch of energy and endurance while exercising, chia drink is all you need to get started. Moreover, it contains far less sugar content than other energy drinks.
- Promote bone health: Consuming just one ounce of chia seeds give you 18% of the recommended daily amount of calcium. Calcium is an essential mineral for bone health. It maintains bone strength and mass. Chia also contains boron which helps metabolize magnesium, calcium, manganese, and phosphorus for healthy growth of muscles and bones.
- Build muscle & lose weight: Chia seeds are one of the most popular plant-based sources of protein. This means they are a great source of protein for those who desire to burn fat, balance blood sugar levels, and put on lean muscle. Being a powerful antioxidant, it also helps replace certain nutrients lost when exercising.
- Fight breast and cervical cancer: Chia seeds have a high content of alpha lineic acid (or ALA) a form of Omega-3 fatty acid. ALA is known to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in both the breasts and cervix. It is also known to destroy the cancer cells without harming the healthy cells. Although more research is required to confirm the same, it is still great news for women who are struggling with breast or cervical cancer.
- Promote dental health: Chia seeds contain phosphorus, calcium, zinc, and Vitamin A, all of which are the essential components of healthy teeth. Calcium is the building block of your teeth, while zinc prevents tarter by inhibiting plaque from mineralizing onto your teeth. Zinc also has an antibacterial effect that keeps bad breath-causing germs away. Phosphorus and Vitamin A help maintain teeth strength and keep your mouth healthy.
- Promote weight loss: While more research is required to confirm whether chia seeds aid in weight loss or not, there are several reasons why it is still considered a good food for people looking to lose weight. Chia seeds can absorb water up to 10X its own weight. As a result, they prolong hydration and improve nutrient absorption of electrolytes. This also slows down the absorption of foods and you feel fuller longer. Chia seeds are also rich in zinc and help your body increase leptin, a key hormone that regulates your body’s appetite and energy levels. When you don’t feel hungry sooner, you are less likely to eat sugary foods and you are less likely to put on more weight.
Do Chia Seeds Have Any Side Effects?
Despite their numerous health benefits, chia seeds can still be bad for you if overused. Chia seeds could cause various health issues if not used properly. However, this should not be a deterrent for using chia seeds. If used properly, chia seeds are highly beneficial to your health.
The following are the 5 chia seeds side affects you must know about:
- Gastrointestinal Problems: It has been found that chia seeds can lead to a range of gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, constipation, intestinal gas, and bloating that can affect your body. However, by including chia seeds in a right way in your diet, you can prevent these stomach problems.
- Thinning of blood and Low Blood Pressure: Because chia seeds are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, they can cause thinning of your blood and could also drastically lower your blood pressure. So if you are already taking prescribed blood thinners or if you already have low blood pressure, you should discuss with your doctor before consuming chia seeds.
- Affect in Blood Sugar: Although chia seeds are known to control your blood sugar levels, they may also overstimulate medications that you are already taking to control your diabetes. Hence, in order to avoid these side-effects, you must take professional advice.
- Allergies: It is very rare to get allergies from chia seeds, but sometimes it may cause hives, rashes, and watery eyes. It may also cause some other food allergies such as vomiting, trouble breathing, diarrhea, and swelling of the tongue.
- Potential Side-Effects for Pregnant Women: While the chia seed’s side effects are not well-known for pregnant women, professionals recommend pregnant and breast-feeding women avoid the use of chia seeds for nine months.
Again, we don’t recommend that you stay away from chia seeds, but you should not include much of them in your diet without educating yourself and consulting your doctor. By properly adding chia seeds in your diet, you can overpower the side-effects associated with this superfood.
How to Eat Chia Seeds?
There are several chia seed recipes that you can prepare to get the most out of this superfood. Chia seeds have a mildly nutty flavor, which makes them suitable to be used in different ways. You can add them to both savory and sweet dishes to add their nutritional value. The following are 5 awesome chia seed recipes you can try to get a punch of energy and boost your metabolism:
- Chia seed pudding: By putting chia seeds in water, you can create several recipes with thick texture. Chia seeds can absorb water up to 10X their own weight. So when you mix them with water or milk and leave the mixture overnight, you get a pudding-like texture. You can then add some honey or maple syrup to the chia seed pudding and some spices to have a delicious snack.
- Mix them into baked recipes: You can also mix chia seeds with baked recipes such as bread, muffins, waffles, pancakes, or granola bars to add a bit of crunch and lots of energy to these recipes. A delicious toast which combines gluten-free chia is ideal for both breakfast and lunch.
- Use them as a spread: Because chia seeds turn into gel when mixed with water, you can easily make your own jam with it. To prepare blueberry jam, just add some honey and maple syrup to 1/4 cup chia seeds. Then add a few cups of berries and cook until it thickens over medium-low heat. You will get a delicious and healthy jam that you can pair with toasts.
- Add to your smoothie: Adding chia seeds to your smoothie increases its nutritional value and gives you loads of energy. Mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with a banana, 2 tablespoons cacao powder, a handful spinach, and 1 cup almond milk. Put the mixture in the blender and add some ice. Blend for 1 minute or more to get the desired consistency.
- Make chia tea: Add about 1 tablespoon of chia seeds to your cup of tea to promote your body’s metabolism. Whether you are mixing it with the iced or hot tea, chia seeds give your drink an exciting texture.
These superfoods are going to give you the punch of energy and endurance you’ve always been looking for. Next time you go to the supermarket, don’t forget to grab a packet of chia seeds and give them a try.