Keeping in view the minute size of chia seeds, it is a difficult pill to swallow by many that chia seeds actually have several health benefits to human health. There are several ways to incorporate them into the diet and you will want to try all of those by the end of this article. Let’s get started.
What are Chia Seeds and Where do they come from?
Chia seeds are small, flat, and ovular-shaped seeds of the plant Salvia hispanica which is native to Guatemala and Mexico. These small black miraculous seeds used to be the staple food of Mayans and Aztecs.
The word chia is actually an ancient Mayan word that means “strength”.
Chia seeds are unprocessed whole grains that are readily absorbed by the body, unlike other whole grains.
The color of chia seeds ranges from white to brown and black. Chia seeds have a mild, nutty flavor and can be eaten both raw and cooked form. These versatile seeds are part of many cuisines around the world and can be made into pudding, sprinkled on top of salads, baked goods, and in porridge as well.
Nutritional Facts of Chia Seeds
An ounce of chia seeds contains 138 calories. The total weight of chia seeds is 4% water, 34% fat, 46% carbohydrates, and 19% proteins. One nutrition fact that makes it a favorite among nutrition and health experts is that chia seeds are gluten-free.
Here is what a serving (3.5oz) of chia seeds contains:
|Total Calories||486 kcals|
Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
Now that you are already impressed with the history and nutritional facts of chia seeds, its now time to look at the health benefits of chia seeds. Here, they are:
1. Full of Antioxidants
One of the biggest feathers in the cap of chia seeds is the high number of antioxidants in them which makes them nature’s gift in a true sense. Not only these antioxidants benefit humans upon consumption but also protect these seeds from getting rancid. Antioxidants in chia seeds protect against oxidative damage caused by the free radicals in the body while also protecting against certain diseases like diabetes and cancer. Although that’s enough reason for incorporating chia seeds in the diet, there is so much more.
2. Full of Fiber
Every ounce of chia seeds contains 12g of carbohydrates and out of those 12, 11 are fibers which makes chia seeds a highly fibrous food. Fibers are of two types; soluble and insoluble. While soluble fiber keeps you fuller for longer periods of time, insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool and helps in smooth solids along the intestines. The remaining 1 gram of carbohydrates is categorized as digestible carbohydrates which categorizes chia seeds among low-carb foods making it a go-to option for fitness enthusiasts.
The gel-forming ability of chia seeds is due to the high fiber content as chia seeds can absorb up to 12% weight in water. The high fiber also acts as a food for the healthy bacteria in the human gut which is very crucial for maintaining human health.
3. Helps in Weight Loss
Health experts have categorized chia seeds as food that aids in weight loss. This is the reason chia seed is a part of several weight-loss diets. Chia seeds absorb lots of water and expand in size due to which they keep their stomach fuller for longer periods of time. A Fuller stomach slows down the absorption of foods and decreases caloric intake as well. Chia seeds also happen to be high in protein which exerts a similar appetite-reducing effect. A study was carried out which shows that chia seeds when taken in breakfast increases the satiety levels and reduces caloric intake. A similar study was carried out on obese people with type 2 diabetes where they took chia seeds daily over a period of six months. The results showed a high weight loss in the participants. Those who are looking for healthy weight loss ways can add chia seeds to several foods as per their choice and get fast and promising results.
4. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids
You may be surprised to know this but this is actually true. Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids just like flaxseeds. Also, chia seeds contain more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon. You must know that omega-3 present in the chia seeds is alpha-linolenic acid. Alpha-Linolenic Acid or ALA needs to be converted into an active form of DHA which our bodies aren’t capable of.
5. Heart Friendly Food
Chia seeds are rightly categorized as a heart-friendly food as they are rich in fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. Studies done on rats show that chia seeds are capable of reducing certain risk factors responsible for heart diseases like inflammation, triglycerides, belly fat, and insulin resistance. They may also increase good fats i.e. HDL. Also, studies have shown that chia seeds reduce blood pressure in people suffering from high blood pressure which is also a risk factor for heart disease.
Side Effects of Chia Seeds
There is a flip side to every coin. Just like the immense benefits, chia seeds have some side effects as well. Here they are:
- Since chia seeds are rich in fiber, too much fiber can lead to some digestive problems like constipation, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
- Those having swallowing problems must avoid taking chia seeds as they may lead to some choking incident.
- Too much ALA can lead to an increased risk of prostate cancer.
Benefit from this amazing gift of nature but keep moderation in mind. The best part is from desserts to drinks you can incorporate chia seeds in a variety of ways.