Chia seeds are the edible seeds of Salvia hispanica, a flowering plant in the sage family native to central and southern Mexico, or of the related Salvia columbariae of the southwestern United States and Mexico. Chia seeds are oval and gray with black and white spots, having a diameter around 1 millimetre.
Chia seeds are among the healthiest foods on the planet.
They’re loaded with nutrients that can have important benefits for your body and brain.
Here are a few health benefits of chia seeds, supported by science.
1. Chia Seeds Deliver a Massive Amount of Nutrients With Very Few Calories
Don't be fooled by the size — these tiny seeds pack a powerful nutritional punch.
A one-ounce (28 grams) serving of chia seeds contains (1):
- Fiber: 11 grams.
- Protein: 4 grams.
- Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are omega-3s).
- Calcium: 18% of the RDI.
- Manganese: 30% of the RDI.
- Magnesium: 30% of the RDI.
- Phosphorus: 27% of the RDI.
- They also contain a decent amount of zinc, vitamin B3 (niacin), potassium, vitamin B1 (thiamine) and vitamin B2.
To top things off, chia seeds are a whole-grain food, grown organically. Plus, they’re non-GMO and naturally free of gluten.
2. Almost All the Carbs in Them Are Fiber
One ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds has 12 grams of carbs. However, 11 of those grams are fiber, which your body doesn’t digest.
Fiber neither raises blood sugar nor requires insulin to be disposed of. Though it belongs to the carbohydrate family, its health effects are drastically different from those of digestible carbs like starch and sugar.
The digestible carb content is only one gram per ounce (28 grams), which is very low. This makes chia a low-carb friendly food.
Chia seeds are 40% fiber by weight, making them one of the best sources of fiber in the world
3. Chia Seeds Are High in Quality Protein
By weight, they’re about 14% protein, which is very high compared to most plants.
They also have a good balance of essential amino acids, so your body should be able to make use of their protein content.
A high protein intake lowers appetite and has been shown to reduce obsessive thoughts about food by 60% and the desire for night time snacking by 50%.
Chia seeds really are an excellent protein source — especially for people who eat little or no animal products.
4. The High Fiber and Protein Content in Chia Seeds May Help You Lose Weight
5. Chia Seeds Are High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Like flaxseeds, chia seeds are very high in omega-3 fatty acids.
In fact, chia seeds contain more omega-3s than salmon, gram for gram.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that the omega-3s in them are mostly ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). ALA needs to be converted into the active forms eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) before your body can use it. Unfortunately, humans are inefficient at converting ALA into these active forms.
6. Chia Seeds May Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease
7. They’re High in Many Important Bone Nutrients
Chia seeds may be considered an excellent source of calcium for people who don't eat dairy.
However, chia seeds also contain phytic acid, which reduces calcium absorption to some extent.
8. Chia Seeds May Reduce Blood Sugar Levels, possibly benefiting people with type 2 diabetes.
9. They May Reduce Chronic Inflammation
Chia seeds are incredibly easy to incorporate into your diet.
The seeds themselves taste rather bland, so you can add them to pretty much anything.
They also don't need to be ground like flax seeds, which makes them much easier to prepare.
They can be eaten raw, soaked in juice, added to porridge, pudding, smoothies or added to baked goods.
You can also sprinkle them on top of cereal, yogurt, vegetables or rice dishes.
Because of their ability to absorb both water and fat, they can be used to thicken sauces and as egg substitutes in recipes.
They can also be mixed with water and turned into a gel.
If you don’t eat chia seeds already, you should definitely consider adding them to your diet. They’re among the few superfoods worthy of the title.