The hype surrounding the health benefits of the chia seed are here to stay; and for good reason. Chia seeds are small, yet their nutritional components are large. One serving of chia seed (one ounce) offers only 137 calories and one gram of digestible carbohydrate. One ounce serving also contains 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids (9 grams of fat total), 18 percent of the RDA of calcium and 30 percent of the RDA of magnesium and manganese. It also contains 27 percent of the RDA of phosphorus. Chia seeds also provide a good amount of zinc, niacin, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin B12. Incorporating chia seeds into your diet is easy. They can be eaten raw, soaked in water or juice, and added to foods and baked goods. Chia seeds do not need to be ground, making them easier to use in cooking than for example flax seeds. Use chia seeds in your homemade trail mix recipe, or sprinkle them over oatmeal, rice, or pudding. They can be used in smoothies to help enhance flavor and nutrient absorption of other foods. Chia seeds can also be used as a substitute for eggs in some recipes.
Here are several additional health benefits of the chia seed:
1) Antioxidant support.
Despite their tiny size, chia seeds are bursting with antioxidants. When free radicals form in the body, antioxidants are used to neutralize them and restore the body to a proper pH balance.
Without antioxidants, enzyme function would be disrupted, meaning that important nutrients would not be able to reach their destination. Free radicals also irritate and cause inflammation to tissue and organs.
2) High fiber content.
A food can safely be labeled a superfood when almost all of its carbohydrate content is in the form of fiber. Chia is very high in fiber, which promotes feelings of fullness and also aids in digestive health.
Feeling full for longer periods of time may help aid in weight loss as the desire to eat often no longer exists. Fiber is also beneficial for digestive health by providing good gut bacteria to establish healthy flora needed to maintain a balanced microbiome.
3) Good source of protein.
By weight, chia seeds are approximately 14 percent protein. They also contain a high amount of amino acids, the building block for proteins. So not only does chia provide a great source of protein, it also provides the tools necessary to act on its synthesis. The high protein and fiber content of chia may act as a healthy, natural appetite suppressant that leave you feeling fuller for longer periods of time without crashing. Chia is also an excellent protein source for vegetarians or vegans.
4) Excellent source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
The standard Westernized Diet is typically high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3s. Gram for gram, chia seeds provide more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids may decrease low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol in patients with hyperlipidemia.
Omega-3 fatty acids may also improve joint pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, have a beneficial effect in patients with ulcerative colitis, and may also improve skin lesions, lower hyperlipidemia from etretinates, and decrease the toxicity of cyclosporine in patients with psoriasis (Simopoulos 1991). Furthermore, animal studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the number and size of tumors. It may also increase the time lapse between growths of tumors.
DHA, found in omega-3 fatty acids, are critical for normal functional development of the retina and brain, especially in newborns and infants.
5) High in calcium.
Whether it’s due to allergies or just being health conscious, many people seem to be avoiding dairy these days. Chia seeds provide an excellent source of calcium, which is important for those who refrain from consuming dairy.
One ounce of chia seeds provides 18 percent of the RDA of calcium. When compared gram to gram, chia seeds have a higher calcium content than most dairy products. Unlike dairy, chia seeds won’t cause inflammation in the gut, bloating, diarrhea, or abdominal pain In fact, the fiber in chia promotes a healthy gut. In addition to calcium, chia seeds are also high in magnesium, protein, and phosphorus; all of which are essential for bone health.
Simopoulos, A. (1991). Omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease and in growth and development. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.