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Health Benefits of Chia Seeds - Nature's Little Superfood

Updated on March 12, 2016
Salvia Hispanica L - A flowering member of the Mint Family, and the source of Chia Seeds
Salvia Hispanica L - A flowering member of the Mint Family, and the source of Chia Seeds | Source

South American Native

Native to South America, the Chia seed has been making a resurgence in the diets of many Americans as well as many other places around the world.Prior to the Spanish conquest of Latin American, the chia seed was a staple in the diets of the Aztecs and Mayans. They were often ground into flour, pressed into oil or added to water to drink.

The seeds are harvested from a flowering member of the mint family - Salvia Hispanica L. The seed itself is either white or dark brown and black. Red seeds are often found, however these are immature seeds and should be avoided. Very small black seeds should also be avoided - these are considered weed seeds. The presence of either of these in the chia seed mix purchased signals that it is not a good supplier of Chia, as these seeds are not rich in nutrients as the white or dark brown/black seeds.

Chia Seeds
Chia Seeds | Source

Why are Chia Seeds Good For Me?

Chia seeds have become popular due to the fact that they contain many essential vitamins and minerals, as well as essential fatty acids (EFA's) and fibre. Vitamins include calcium, manganese and phosphorus, and omega 3 and 6 EFA's are abundant in the chia seed.

The Chia seed can be considered a super-food as they contain the maximum amount of nutrients and fibre with minimal calories. Whilst Chia seeds share many properties with flax seed, unlike the flax seed they do not need to be ground to get the maximum health benefits from them.

Health benefits include assisting in glucose and cholesterol control, replacing egg in recipes, portion control, as well as being a simple and quick way to get much of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of several different vitamins, minerals, EFA's and fibre.

Chia Seeds

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Summary of Good News!

Chia seeds can be used in many ways, for many things:

  • A rich source of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, EFAs, antioxidants and fibre
  • Reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Assist in digestion and weight loss
  • Egg replacement
  • Gluten free

How Exactly Do Chia Seeds Benefit Me?

Fibre Content: - The American Dietetic Association recommends 20-35 grams of fibre each day. However most Americans only eat approximately 12-15 grams. Chia contains almost 11grams of fibre per ounce. This means a generous sprinkle over your morning muesli or oatmeal could give you up to 42% of your RDI of fibre in a single serve!.

Fibre also helps you to feel fuller faster and for longer as it soaks up fluid in your digestive system and expands, making you feel full. It also slows digestion so that your body has a chance to feel full, and therefore stopping you from overeating. All this, as well as helping to keep you regular.

Omega 3 and 6 - Omega 3 and 6 are EFA's essential to your health - these build new cells and regulate several different processes in the body, as well as improving brain health. Chia seeds contain more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon if compared pound for pound, and is considered one of the more concentrated sources for omega 3 whilst also contain a high amount of omega 6.

Another useful benefit of the omegas is the support they give to heart health, and assist in keeping your skin, hair and nails in peak condition.

Chia seeds also covert omega-3 into the plasma or food in larger concentration than with flax seed. They can also help to reduce inflammation, reduce cholesterol, and increase brain health and performance

One Way to Use Chia Seeds

Chia Seeds in banana pudding
Chia Seeds in banana pudding | Source

Antioxidants - Antioxidants help protect the body from aging, cancer and free radicals. Chia seeds are rich in sources of antioxidants, which also gives the seed a longer shelf life. Even without being refridgated, chia seeds can be stored for almost two years due to their antioxidant profile.

Minerals - As little as two tablespoons of chia seeds contain a large amount of the RDI of many minerals. These include calcium - essential for strong teeth and bones - at 18 percent, phosphorus at 35 percent, magnesium at 24 percent, and a whopping 50 percent of your daily recommended intake of maganese.

All of these minerals are useful in preventing hypertension (high blood pressure), helping to maintain a healthy weight, and are used in the metabolism of energy and are a part of DNA synthesis. Maganese is also important for your bones, and assists your body in the use of other nutrients like biotin and thiamine.

Dietary Fat - Chia seeds have been shown to lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol ('Bad' cholesterol) levels, whilst at the same time increasing the HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol). A study in the British Journal of Nutrition also found that when chia seeds are used in place of other fat sources eg: corn oil, it was able to prevent high triglycerides and decrease central obesity - obesity about the stomach and chest area.

Dr Oz Talks About Chia Seeds

Uses for Chia Seeds

Aside from adding chia seeds in your diet to give your health a kick start, chia seeds can assist in a number of different ways.

Egg Replacement

Chia seeds can be used as an egg replacement - helpful in lowering cholesterol through not using egg but also for those who are allergic to egg products, or vegan, or people who which to increase the nutrients in their food. This use is possible because when the chia seeds are mixed with liquid, the outer layer swells to become a gel.

To use the chia seed as an egg replacement - mix one tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and put aside for 15 minutes.

Gluten-Free

The chia seed is gluten free, so can be added easily to meals even for those who are intolerant of gluten or have Coeliac's Disease.

Improve Diabetes Control, Weight Loss

Chia seeds have the ability to slow down digestion, due to how it forms a gel like consistency and coating when exposed to liquids - this can help prevent blood sugar spikes. As it has a stabilising effect on blood sugar, it can also help fight stomach or "belly" fat - through preventing insulin resistance.

Prevent Craving between Meals

The chia seeds mixture of fibre, protein and it's gelling effect when mixed with liquid help to keep you feeling fuller for longer, reducing the risk of craving food between meals. They can be simply added to any meal! I've even seen muesli (granola) bars recently that have had chia added - slightly different taste to the bar, but not at all unpleasant.

Adding to yoghurt is a tasty idea!
Adding to yoghurt is a tasty idea! | Source

To Sum Up

Used since the times of the ancient Aztecs and Mayans, the Latin/South American native, the chia seed are a small white or black seed with huge nutritional properties, and health benefits. Easy to add to any meal, they contain a large portion of the average adults RDI of many vitamins and mineral.

Beneficial to those with diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, or just wanting to lose a bit of weight, or maintain their current weight, they are a breeze to be able to add to a diet.

Both gluten free, and able to be used as a replacement for egg - their uses are endless. Recipes are available online, or in several different cookbooks.

So what are you waiting for? Lets add them to our diet today!

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    • jlpark profile image
      Author

      Jacqui 2 years ago from New Zealand

      Shyron - why would that be? Do they not work well together? I've tried Salba in bread - it's tasty! (or the bread was really yummy + salba).

      I'm curious.

      Thanks for your visit and comments!

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago from Texas

      Jacqui, after trying the Salba, (Salba: Myth or Miracle Food) I will definitely not be trying Chia, but this is an interesting article and very well written.

    • newbizmau profile image

      Maurice Glaude 2 years ago from Mobile, AL

      I have only had chia seeds a couple of times. Once a coworker shared her healthy oatmeal made cold with dried fruit and there were chia seeds in it. I was amazed to be eating cold oatmeal that was so good.

    • jlpark profile image
      Author

      Jacqui 2 years ago from New Zealand

      I don't think they were a big thing here...or I'm either too young or too old to have been of the age of interest when they were out.

      I've had Chia in muesli, and muesli bars (errr...think they may be called granola bars in your neck of the woods...could be wrong). Tasty enough.

      Bubblews and me didn't really work - I prefer having to work at something. I'd get all annoyed at a lot of rubbish (granted - not all) that was passed as a post there that had hundreds of likes and therefore raked in the cents....just cause they had lots of friends who couldn't spell either.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 2 years ago from Ohio, USA

      You never had a Chia Pet? I will have to write a hub on that. The 750 word minimum takes much of the fun out of HubPages: after hanging around BubbleWS for a while I am conditioned to crank out screeds of 400 characters and one photo.

      I did once purchase a 'health' drink at a natural food store that had chia seeds in it. Tasted OK. Lotta calories.

    • jlpark profile image
      Author

      Jacqui 2 years ago from New Zealand

      Wouldn't have a clue Nicomp. Never had a Chia pet.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 2 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Is this the same stuff that grows on a Chia Pet? That was quite a fad many years ago. I think I had a Homer Simpson.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      couldn't get chia seeds here, maybe i will try online, good post

    • jlpark profile image
      Author

      Jacqui 3 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks for your comment BNadyn - I didn't realise just how many benefits there were to them until I started writing this, had just thought I would give them a try cause everyone else seemed to be!

    • BNadyn profile image

      Bernadyn 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida

      I've actually wanted to try Chia seeds for my yogurt and maybe other recipes. It's good to hear about all the health benefits and that they're gluten-free and can be used as egg replacement. Great job on this. :)