Chia seeds are one of my favourite foods! They are highly nutritious, have many health benefits and are so versatile you can easily add to many recipes!
Chia seeds are commonly referred to as a ‘super food’ as they are among the most nutritious foods in the world.
Chia (Salvia hispanica) are native to central and southern Mexico and Guatemala. They were highly valued for their medicinal and nutritional properties. Chia actually means ‘strength’ in the Mayan culture. The Aztec warriors ate chia seeds to give them energy and endurance and said just 1 spoonful could sustain them for 24 hours!
Chia Seed Nutrition Profile
The reason Chia seeds are so beneficial is due to them being a rich source of fibre, omega-3 fats, protein, vitamins, mineral and antioxidants (1).
A serving size of 28g will give you:
- Dietary Fibre (11g – 42% recommended daily value)
- Protein (4.4g – 9% RDV)
- Omega-3 fatty acids (4915 mg)
- Omega-6 fatty acids (1620 mg)
- Phosphorus (265 mg – 27% RDV)
- Calcium (77mg – 18% RDV)
- Potassium (44.8 mg – 1% RDV)
- Zinc (1 mg – 7% RDV)
Chia also contains Vitamins A, D, E, and B’s including thiamine (B1) and niacin (B3). Other minerals found are sulphur, iron, magnesium, selenium, iodine and manganese.
9 Proven Health Benefits Of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are nearly 40% fibre, by weight. This makes them one of the best sources of fibre in the world. They are also a low-carb friendly food, with less than 1g of true carbohydrate per serve. Fibre does not raise the release of insulin and so is essential for balancing blood sugar levels.
As fibre is digested slowly this also creates a feeling of fullness and can help reduce appetite, therefore eating fewer calories and reducing sugar cravings, which can also lead to weight loss (2).
Chia seeds can absorb 10-12 times their weight in water, becoming gel-like and expanding in the stomach (3). As it moves through the digestive tract, chia helps to promote bowel regularity and healthy stool. This chia gel also absorbs toxins, helping to eliminate them through the large bowel.
Breakfast tip: start your day with a chia pudding or chia smoothie.
Chia seeds are extremely beneficial for supporting the cardiovascular system as they help to reduce inflammation, regulate cholesterol and lower blood pressure (6).
Its high omega-3 fatty acids (ALA and EPA) help support a healthy heart. Though, it is important to know that plant omega-3 (ALA) must be converted into “active” forms of EPA so even though chia appears to be higher in omega-3 than fish oil, the body’s inefficiency to convert this still makes fish oil the better source of omega-3.
Studies have proven that chia seeds can actually halt Diabetes and even reverse it!
Since chia is a great source of fibre and omega-3 fatty acids, researchers have set out to determine how chia seeds can help prevent metabolic disorders like dyslipidemia (excessive fat in the blood) and insulin resistance.
In the following study, two examinations were conducted. In the first examination, the onset of Diabetes was prevented and in the second examination Diabetes was actually reversed, as well as reducing “belly fat” tissue (7).
Snack tip: 2 teaspoons of chia seeds in coconut water.
Weight Loss and Muscle Building
There are a few different ways that chia seeds can help promote fat loss. One of its unique characteristics is that each seed can absorb up to 10 times its weight in water. This creates a gel-like consistency which slows down digestion creating a feeling for fullness for longer and reducing sugar cravings.
Its high water content also helps to hydrate your body and improve nutrient absorption of electrolytes like calcium, magnesium and potassium.
Chia seeds are also a good source of zinc which helps your body increase leptin. Leptin is a hormone that regulates your body’s appetite, how your body utilizes energy and regulates your energy levels. It also helps to improve stamina and endurance which makes chia a great source of nutrition for keeping you in shape!
When we lose fat, we also want to build muscle! Chia seeds are a great source of plant protein. Protein in our diet helps to build lean muscle, burn fat and balance blood sugar levels.
When you exercise you lose key nutrients, especially with excess sweating. Chia is a powerful antioxidant that helps to replace some of those nutrients lost after exercising. These nutrients are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, iron and niacin (vitamin B3).
Recipe tip: Blueberry and chia seed super smoothie.
Chia seeds are particularly high in calcium and other important bone nutrients like magnesium, phosphorus and protein (8).
One serve per day will give you around 18% of your daily requirement, which makes chia a great substitute for people who eat little or no dairy.
Energy and Metabolism
Chia seeds have traditionally been used to fuel energy and performance by the Aztecs and Mayans back in the day. They give you stable energy throughout the day because of their great ratio of protein, fibre and good fats, combined with the fact that they are a ‘low carb’ food.
Stabilizing your blood sugar, chia helps to reduce those sugar cravings and give you that energy boost, especially in the afternoon. This is a great time for a chia smoothie or simply add chia to coconut water for a refreshing boost!
When it comes to performance, chia is known as the ‘running food’ in ancient Mayan or Aztec cultures. Chia is actually the Mayan word for ‘strength’! Chia is great as a pre-workout or performance food as it hydrates, provides important nutrients, is a great source of protein and fibre to help burn fat, build lean muscle and stabilize blood sugar.
Its high source of omega-3 fats also makes it a suitable substitute for carbohydrate loading, as shown by a recent study (9).
Pre-workout tip: try 1 tablespoon of chia seeds in coconut water, smoothie or organic natural yoghurt 1-2 hours before the gym.
Chia seeds are a top food for providing nutrients for healthy teeth. Calcium is the building block for strong teeth, healthy gums and preventing tooth decay.
Zinc prevents tartar by preventing plaque from mineralizing onto your teeth and has an anti-bacterial effect that also keeps bad breathe away. Phosphorus and Vitamin A are also important for strong teeth and healthy gums.
Breast and Cervical Cancer
Chia seeds are rich in alpha lineic acid (ALA) which is an Omega-3 fatty acid.
A recent study in 2013 found that ALA limited the growth of cancer cells in both breast and cervical cancer. They also found that it caused cell death of the cancer cells without harming the body’s normal healthy cells (10).
Skin and Aging
Recently studies have proven chia seeds to be extremely rich in antioxidants! (11)
Antioxidants help prevent damage to the skin and also speed up the skin’s repair. Chia seeds help to reduce inflammation and therefore can be beneficial for inflammatory skin disorders like eczema and dermatitis. Topical chia seed oil is also helpful.
BLACK OR WHITE CHIA SEEDS?
Previously owning a retail health food store I was frequently asked “what is the difference between black and white chia?”. Some brands sell them separately and others just mix them together. Both colours contain similar concentration of nutrients like fibre, protein and omega-3 fats.
More recent studies have found that the black chia seeds do contain slightly higher antioxidants.
According to the Nutritional Science Research Institute, which has conducted studies to determine the effects of chia seeds in adults (12):
“First we analyzed the white chia. Then we analyzed the dark seed. Although the nutrition analysis was almost identical we discovered that the darker chia had an additional important antioxidant, quercetin. It is well known that darker foods have more antioxidants than lighter ones. This proved to be so in the ORAC analysis. The dark seed tested at 80 micromoles TE/g and the white seed test at 70 micromoles TE/g. Our analysis showed that omega-3 chia contained one of the highest levels of omega 3s found in any food.”