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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?