Despite their small size, chia seeds are full of important nutrients. They provide many benefits to health as well. Here's all you need to know about the health benefits of chia seeds and why chia seeds are high on my favorite foods list.
I'm a huge advocate of eating chia seeds. Chia seeds are stapled in my kitchen and are high on my favorite foods list. Every time I publish a chia seed recipe I always get tons of questions about what are benefits, how to eat chia seeds, what is chia to liquid ratio, how much chia should I eat daily... and I realize I didn't share all that info anywhere on my page. And chia seeds are so powerful that they definitely deserve a whole post.
By now you've probably heard of chia seeds and that they are good for our health, especially weight loss, but maybe you're still puzzled with some questions. Here is all you need to know about the health benefits of chia seeds and why this food is so important in a healthy diet.
What are chia seeds?
Chia seeds are the tiny edible seeds that come from the desert plant Salvia Hispanica L., a member of the mint family, which is grown in Mexico. Chia seed was a staple in the lives of ancient Aztecs and Mayans thousands of years ago. In fact, the word chia is actually derived from the Mayan language and means “strength.” Aztec warriors even looked to chia to give them stamina and energy.
Chia seeds are packed with nutrients, and therefore the perfect addition to a balanced healthy diet. Chia can be used in everything from baked goods to smoothies. Miraculously, it can even be used as an egg replacer!
Chia seeds nutrition
A one-ounce (28 grams) serving of chia seeds contains (1):
- Fiber: 11 grams.
- Protein: 4 grams.
- Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are omega-3s).
- Calcium: 18% of the RDI.
- Manganese: 30% of the RDI.
- Magnesium: 30% of the RDI.
- Phosphorus: 27% of the RDI.
- They also contain a decent amount of zinc, vitamin B3 (niacin), potassium, vitamin B1 (thiamine) and vitamin B2.
Health benefits of chia seeds
Chia seeds are among the healthiest foods on the planet. Despite their tiny size, chia seeds are full of essential nutrients and when eaten as part of a balanced healthy diet, may prevent the development of many chronic diseases.
They’re a good source of:
- Omega 3 fatty acids: Chia seeds are high in Omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid. 60% of the oil in chia seeds is from this essential omega-3 fatty acids that can't be synthesized and is essential for the human body for good health. Omega-3s have shown a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health - lowering cholesterol, regulating heart rhythms and blood pressure, preventing blood clots, decreasing inflammation. (2)
- Fiber: The fiber in chia seeds is mainly soluble fiber. These fibers help lovering "bad" LDL cholesterol and slow down digestion, which can prevent blood sugar spikes after eating a meal and promote a feeling of fullness (3). Because of their rich fiber content, chia seeds are great for digestive health. The fiber acts as a prebiotic and provides fuel for the good bacteria in the gut (4). Plus, the fiber in chia seeds absorbs water and expands in the stomach, which keep us full longer.
- Plant-based proteins: Chia seeds are high in proteins. We all know protein is an essential macronutrient needed for many functions in the body, including muscle building. The combination of fat, protein, and fiber means the seeds are digested slowly, providing a long, slow release of energy while keeping blood-sugar levels stable (5).
- Magnesium and Potassium: These two minerals are essential minerals needed for good health.
- Antioxidants: Chia seeds are also a source of powerful antioxidants that fight the production of free radicals, which can damage cell molecules and contribute to aging and developing diseases like cancer (6, 7).
What do chia seeds taste like?
Chia seeds have a mild, nutty flavor that works well to in both sweet and savory dishes. In raw form, the texture of the chia seed is crunchy and dense but when soaked in water they absorb liquid and become soft.
How to eat chia seeds?
You can eat chia seeds whole. Unlike flax seeds, you don’t have to grind chia seeds to pull nutrients out.
Add chia seeds in yoghurt, oatmeal or cereal, sprinkle the salads. If you do choose to eat chia seeds whole, just make sure you drink plenty of water afterward to keep your body hydrated. Chia seeds absorbs water from your body during digestion.
It's not necessary to soak chia seeds before eating, but if you do you'll get the most nutrients out of your food and maximize the potential benefits of chia seeds. Soaking chia seeds in liquid make them much easier to digest too.
Make chia gel: Chia seeds absorb water quickly (up to 10 times their weight in liquid). Place ¼ cup seeds in 1 cup liquid, stir well, and cover. Allow to sit for about 15-20 minutes until the texture changes to soft gelatin. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week. Add to smoothies and soups to boost nutrient value and create a thicker, more satisfying consistency.
Make chia pudding: To make a dessert variation, mix ¼ cup of seeds with one cup of liquid such as milk (almond, soy, or dairy all work) or 100% fruit juice. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes refrigerated. Add nuts, chopped fresh fruit, or cinnamon if desired.
Make vegan egg: Chia can replace whole eggs in baking. For 1 whole egg, mix 1 tablespoon of whole chia seeds or 2 teaspoons ground chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water. Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens.
Another option is to grind chia seeds in a coffee grinder or blender. When finely ground, chia flour with its high fiber content may be substituted to create gluten-free pancakes, bread, cookies, and more. It’s a great alternative to processed grains.
FAQ about chia seeds
There are no precise guidelines on how many chia seeds you should eat daily. But there are some recommendations which suggest eating 20 g (or a bit under 2 tbsp) of chia twice per day. Naturally, this depends on factors like your age, sex, and weight. Because they’re so dense in fiber, just remember to increase the amount you eat gradually and drink plenty of water.
Some people may experience an allergic reaction after eating chia seeds, though this is uncommon. If you have food allergies (especially to sesame or mustard seeds) or are on high blood pressure medications or blood thinners, ask your health care provider before adding chia to your diet (8).
Because they quickly swell after absorbing liquid, it is advised to eat chia seeds that have already been soaked in liquid or are served with a moist food, such as oatmeal or yogurt.
Chia seeds are a good source of fiber. Fiber is essential for our health, promoting regularity and supporting the beneficial bacteria in your gut, among other important roles. However, too much fiber can cause issues for some people like abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, bloating and gas (9). Negative symptoms from high fiber intake can be prevented by increasing fiber intake slowly and drinking plenty of water.
The soluble fiber in chia seeds absorbs large amounts of water and expands in the stomach. That makes us feel full meaning we will eat less food. This can lead to weight loss. Also, the protein in chia seeds helps reduce appetite and food intake. But there's no such thing as magic food. The entire diet and lifestyle behavior like sleep and exercise counts.
Chia seeds as a part of balanced healthy diet aid the weight loss but adding chia seeds to your meals won't cause you to lose weight on its own.
You can buy chia seeds at many local grocery stores, health food stores, and online. Chia seed have long shelf life due to their high antioxidant profile and can last about four to five years in your pantry. Make sure you store chia seeds a container with a tight-fitting lid in a cool, dry place. Ground chia seeds are best stored in a glass container in the refrigerator.
Unlike flaxseeds that must be ground or at the very least chopped to attain the maximum nutritional benefits flax has to offer, chia seeds can be eaten raw whole or ground.
Yes! Chia seeds can come in black or white form, though their nutritional profile is the same regardless of which color you go with.
More facts about chia
- Chia seeds are a whole-grain food, usually grown organically.
- Chia seeds are non-GMO and naturally gluten-free (10).
- Chia seeds are suitable for those who follow paleo, vegan, vegetarian, keto, Whole30, low-carb or raw diets.
- Don’t buy chia products or foods with chia in them and think you’re automatically getting something healthful. You still need to read labels and make sure the product isn’t full of sugar and additives.
Chia seeds recipes
Since chia seeds are so versatile, there are endless ways you can include them in your diet, from trying a popular chia seed pudding to sprinkling them on salads or over cereal. Here are a few recipes you can start with:
- Strawberry Chia Pudding
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Chia Pudding
- Blueberry Chia Pudding
- Raspberry Chia Pudding
- Easy Strawberry Chia Seed Jam
- Blueberry Banana Chia Smoothie
- Peach Ginger Chia Seed Pudding
- Blackberry Chia Seed Jam
- Pineapple Coconut Chia Pudding
- Sour Cherry Chia Jam Cornbread
Have you tried chia seeds? What are your favorite ways to eat chia?