Top 10 Benefits of Chia Seeds

Top 10 Benefits of Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are tiny seeds with huge nutritional benefits.  When added to liquid, these black and white seeds form a sort of gel so many people use them as an egg substitute or soup thickener.  They don’t have much taste, so they can easily be added to almost any type of food.  Chia seeds were first used by the Aztecs as early as 3500 BC and were one of the main foods in the Aztec diet.  The Mayan, Toltec, and Teotihuacan people also used chia.  Many of these ancient civilizations believed chia seeds gave them supernatural powers and their warriors attributed their stamina to them.  After the Spanish conquest of Latin America, the Spanish banned the farming of chia and introduced their own foods.  Chia survived only in a small area of Mexico for the last 500 years and has only recently begun to make a comeback.  So, what are the top 10 benefits of chia seeds?

1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 Fatty acids are essential fats that must be consumed on a daily basis because the body has limited stores of them.  Our bodies use these fats to function and they can help with depression, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and lowering triglycerides.  Chia is one of the richest plant sources of Omega 3 fatty acids, specifically alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

2. Minerals for Bone Health

Chia is high in many important bone nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese.  If you don’t consume dairy, chia seeds would be an excellent source of calcium as 2 Tablespoons contains 18% of the recommended daily intake (RDI).  They offer 35% RDI of phosphorus, 24% RDI of magnesium, and 50% RDI of manganese.

3. Curb Hunger

When mixed with liquid, chia seeds expand and get a gel-like coating.  The swelled up seeds will keep you feeling full for longer and because of this, they are often recommended for people trying to lose weight.  There are also claims that because chia soaks up water, they can prolong hydration.

4. Quality Protein

Your body uses protein to build and repair tissue and maintain healthy bones, skin, cartilage, and blood.  Protein is also responsible for making certain enzymes and hormones.  Chia seeds are one of the few plant sources of complete proteins, meaning they contain all 9 amino acids essential to our bodies.  1 oz of chia seeds contains 4.7 grams of protein.

5. Digestive Health

Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber. The majority of carbohydrates found in them are from fiber.  This fiber is not digestible and works to feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut, which means chia may be good for gut health.  One serving of chia provides the recommended daily amount so have some in your breakfast and you are good to go for the day.

6. Antioxidants

Antioxidants are powerful substances which help protect our bodies from free radicals.  Free radicals are caused by pollutants, certain medicines, and are often produced during regular body functions such as when the body breaks down sugar for energy.  These free radicals are believed to be the cause of cancer, atherosclerosis, and many other conditions so the more antioxidants you can get the better off you will be.  There are high amounts of antioxidants found in chia seeds which help protect the fats found in them from going rancid.

7. Gluten Free

While only about 1% of the population has celiac disease, many people have a gluten sensitivity and experience GI distress, depression, and brain fog when they consume gluten.  Gluten free may not be for everyone but less gluten in our diets couldn’t hurt.  I know when I consume less gluten, I also end up consuming less junk food such as pastries and desserts.

8. May Lower Cholesterol

Some of the nutrients in chia seeds may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides while raising HDL (good) cholesterol.  High amounts of dietary fiber and heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids in chia lower LDL in your blood.

9. Tryptophan

Chia seeds have high amounts of tryptophan, an amino acid which is a precursor to serotonin.  Serotonin is the neurotransmitter which helps promote good moods and produces the sleep regulating hormone melatonin.  The amount of tryptophan found in chia seeds is higher than most other seeds at 202 mg per 1 ounce serving.

10. Blood Sugar Regulation

Studies have shown chia can help reduce insulin resistance and decrease high levels of insulin in the blood.  Chia seems to slow the rate that glucose enters the bloodstream.

chia yogurt

Backpacking with Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are a great addition to any backpacker’s food bag.  They do not need to be refrigerated or ground and are lightweight and easy to store.  If they are kept dry, they do not go rancid like other seeds that are high in fatty acids.  They can be added to just about any dish for some extra nutrients, protein, and fiber.  Chia seeds don’t have much of a taste, making them very versatile.  You can add them to just about any food.  I like to put them in oatmeal, nut butters, couscous, soup, or even just water for a quick energy boost.  It would also work well to add chia seeds to some dried coconut milk or with a protein shake mix.

Caution

There has been one case of chia seeds getting stuck in someone’s throat.  If you have a history of dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, you probably should not consume chia seeds.  The problem occured when a person with dysphagia swallowed a bunch of dry seeds.  The seeds then turned into a gelatinous ball and became lodged in his throat.

These top 10 benefits of chia sure got me hooked on this tiny superfood.  What are some of your favorite superfoods to carry while backpacking?

Please follow and share!



10 thoughts on “Top 10 Benefits of Chia Seeds”

  • Hi Katie,
    Great article, I’ve found it fascinating!
    I love Chia, and I eat it with my salads.
    I knew it was very healthy, but I didn’t know it has so many benefits! Also, I’ve never thought of eating it with yogurt and fruits. This is awesome; I will try it tomorrow:)
    Now I have more reasons to eat Chia every day!
    Just a question, please. Is it possible to make a cake with Chia in it? I mean, will it lose all its benefits if we cook it?
    Thank you in advance!

    • I would say that for the optimum health benefits, raw is best.  If you do heat them, go for low temperatures as heat can destroy essential fatty acids (the Omega 3s).  This chia cake recipe that uses an oven temp of 180 degrees.  Enter Text

  • Great article thank you very much. I have been eating chia seeds for a while now on and off but I didn’t realise how beneficial they really were, especially the omega 3 and tryptophan properties. I will definitely be adding them to my diet on a daily basis now. Can you tell me if you have noticed a significant difference in your energy levels and if so how long it takes for them to start taking effect? I’m thinking it would be a good idea to add them to my preworkout intake, just wondering how long before the workout to take them..? thanks again.

    • Hi Nathan, I have noticed that when I have chia seed pudding (almond milk with chia seeds soaked in fridge overnight) for breakfast, I really don’t get hungry for about 4 hours, which is unusual for me.  I’m not sure if my energy levels are any different than when I eat other foods for breakfast but chia is definitely filling.  I would say if you eat them a couple hours before your workout you will be good to go.       

  • Hi Katie – thanks for this really great information. I’ve been meaning to research chia seeds for a while now. I was thinking of adding them to my regular smoothie and/or juice. So I have a question please – for the smoothie, would you add them whole after you’ve blended the rest of the ingredients or would you add with the ingredients and blend everything together? When juicing, I wouldn’t be using a blender so I guess it’s OK to just add them to the juice straight out of the packet? Thanks, Kathy

    • Hi Kathy,
      Chia seeds would be great for your smoothies. I would stir them in after you blend all your other ingredients. Chia does not need to be ground and you will still get all the nutritional benefits by eating them whole. If you want the seeds to plump up a little more you can let the seeds sit in your smoothie for 5 minutes before consuming. Same for juicing, adding them to the juice in their whole form would work just fine.

  • I’m curious, how do you compare chia seeds to flax seeds for example?
    Both of these have hands-down killer nutritional values, good fats & tons of other beneficial attributes.

    Chia seeds are rather exotic & new stuff for me, but I instantly see a practical use for them..

    ..I could mix them with oat-peanut butter protein bars. Chia as a rich omega 3 fatty acids source adds more to this pot, making it super healthy fuel for body.

    Is there any reasonable limit too how much we can consume this food before we’re overdoing it?
    Also, should we ground those seeds before eating them, so it helps with digesting & we get more value out of it?

    Would love to hear your thoughts on this
    Regards,

    • Hi Henry,

      Chia seeds differ from flax in that they don’t go rancid as quickly, you don’t need to keep them refrigerated, and you can eat them whole and still get the full nutritional value which I think makes them more practical than flax.  Chia would work great in oat peanut butter bars.  I like that they don’t have much of a flavor like flax does.  I would say you can’t really consume too much chia, but if you eat a lot you might become bloated or get a stomach ache.

  • Thanks for the post Katie.

    I actually have chia seeds most days as part of my morning health shake mixed with other fruits and vegetables etc.

    Thought they were good and had 2 or 3 of the benefits that you mentioned but did know that it was as much as 10! Will definitely keep up the habit!

    All the best,
    Jerry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *