What’s with all the hype about the humble chia seed? Here are some surprising health benefits of chia seeds that are backed up by science…
While chia seeds have only in recent years become a mainstream health food in the U.S., they have been consumed by Central American native tribes for thousands of years. Seeds of the Salvia hispanica plant, chia has become widespread throughout the United States, as well as Central and South America, where the seeds have been used throughout history for medicinal, religious, and culinary purposes. Chia seeds have traditionally been consumed in many different ways – either eaten whole, ground into flour, pressed for their oil, or mixed into drinks either as part of a sacrificial rite, or to provide energy and sustenance during long journeys.
There is a good reason why people have relied on chia seeds for nutrition for so long: they are packed with healthy stuff! The health benefits of chia seeds are pretty amazing. One tablespoon of chia seeds contains approximately 4 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of protein, as well as numerous vitamins and minerals including zinc, calcium, and phosphorus. They are also a healthy source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Chia seeds can be eaten in many different ways, but some of the most common ways are in baked goods, or sprinkled on cereals or salads. They can also be used to thicken drinks, puddings, or salad dressings, as they create a gel-like consistency when soaked in liquid. Note: To get the most nutritional value from your chia seeds, you may want to grind them before consuming.
Here are 5 healthy reasons to add chia seeds to your diet:
1) They support your digestive health.
Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber, especially insoluble fiber, which is an important nutrient for your digestive system. Insoluble fiber acts like a broom for your digestive tract, cleaning it out and keeping it healthy.
Eating enough fiber can reduce your risk for many digestive diseases, such as colorectal cancer.
The fiber from chia seeds also serves as a needed nutrient for the beneficial bacteria in your microbiome, which in turn reduces inflammation throughout your body.
The recommended minimum amount of daily fiber intake is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, and only a small percentage of people actually meet that daily minimum. But adding a couple of tablespoons of chia seeds to your routine will get you well on your way to meeting and — with the help of some fruits and vegetables — even surpassing that daily minimum.
2) They’re good for your brain.
A 2018 study published in the Global Journal of Health Science divided German college students into two groups: a control group and a group that consumed 5 grams of chia seeds daily for 21 days. Researchers found that those who ate chia seeds performed significantly better on an academic test than the control group.
Coincidence? A total of 34,600 college students participated in this study, so probably not. My bet would be on the omega-3 boost their brains got. Why? Omega-3 fats, like the ALA in chia seeds, are essential for brain function and improved cognition.
3) They help keep your bones strong.
Chia seeds are a good source of many minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, that are needed for bone strength. The dairy industry likes to portray milk products as necessary for strong bones. But plant-sourced calcium has been proven to be effective in increasing bone density.
And animal studies have shown that rats fed a diet made up of 10% chia seeds over 13 months had significantly higher bone density than rats on a low calorie diet sans chia seeds.
4) They can reduce inflammation.
The ALA in chia seeds has an anti-inflammatory effect. Chronic inflammation can promote various diseases in the body, such as autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Research has shown ALA to be particularly effective in reducing inflammation among people with metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, excess abdominal fat) and related diseases.
5) They keep your blood sugar stable.
The high fiber content in chia seeds helps to keep your blood sugar stable. Fiber slows digestion, preventing blood sugar from spiking after a meal. Fiber also promotes satiety, or the feeling of fullness after a meal. This has been demonstrated specifically with the addition of chia seeds to people’s diet.
Read more about the health benefits of chia seeds at FoodRevolution.org…