The Many Health Benefits Of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds have become a trendy superfood, but they have been used for centuries in South America. They are one of the healthiest superfoods available and they are full of nutrients, but contain few calories. Chia seeds are a great source of essential fatty acids, fiber and protein as well as many vitamins and minerals. The seeds are very versatile and can be used in many foods, snacks and desserts. They are suitable for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and low-carb diets.
The Nutrient Content
The seeds come from the Salvia Hispanica plant that grows in South America and is related to mint. The Aztec and Maya cultures used chia seeds in their diets and the seeds were known to provide energy and strength.
Two tablespoons (28 grams or an ounce) of chia seeds contain 11 g fiber, 5 g Omega-3 essential fatty acids (and 9 g fat in total) and 4 g of protein. An ounce of chia seeds also contains 30% of the recommended daily amount of magnesium and manganese, 18% of the RDA of calcium and 27% of the RDA of phosphorus. The seeds also contain other vitamins and minerals, including zinc, potassium and vitamins B1, B2 and B3.
The 40% fiber content means that chia seeds are beneficial to the digestive system, too. They help the digestion to function well and they also maintain a balance of good bacteria in the intestine. Chia seeds are also high in antioxidants that prevent the damage caused by free radicals and that are thought to slow down the aging process.
Chia seeds are a good source of protein, fiber and Omega-3 for vegetarians and vegans, and a 28 g serving contains only 137 calories. Chia seeds are high in plant protein and they also contain many amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Vegetarians can add chia seeds to smoothies, salads, granola and snacks to increase their protein intake.
Chia has a high Omega-3 essential fatty acids content, and although oily fish is the best source of Omega-3, chia is a good alternative for those who do not eat fish or just can’t stand the smell of fish pills. The seeds contain magnesium, calcium and phosphorus, all nutrients that are important for keeping the bones healthy. The 18% calcium content is relatively high and the seeds are a great source of calcium especially for vegans or others who do not eat dairy products.
Other Health Benefits
Chia is suitable for many diets, and can be eaten by vegans, vegetarians and those why try to avoid gluten as the seeds are also gluten-free. The carbohydrate content in the seeds comes mainly from fiber, and if the fiber is factored out the actual amount of carbohydrates is very low. The seeds can be added to low-carb diets to provide added energy and nutrients.
Chia seeds can even help you to lose weight. Because of their high fiber content they absorb liquid easily and expand in the stomach, creating a feeling of fullness and keeping hunger away. The seeds can also be soaked in water, milk or juice to create a “gel” that makes a healthy snack.
Research is being conducted about the benefits of chia seeds for those who suffer from Type 2 Diabetes. The seeds are believed to balance the blood sugar and prevent fluctuation in blood glucose levels. Chia seeds are also a great source of energy and are a good addition to your daily diet if you exercise a lot. They can provide a healthy source of energy, fiber and protein before or after exercise.
How To Use Chia Seeds
It is easy to add chia seeds to your daily diet. The taste is quite bland, which means that they can be added to almost any food. The recommended daily amount is up to four tablespoons, but you can start with a tablespoon a day and slowly increase the amount. Add raw chia seeds to salads, granola, smoothies, porridge or to cooked foods. Soak them in milk or juice and eat as a snack or add to desserts. The soaked seeds make a pudding that can be combined with fruits, berries and nuts for a healthy dessert or breakfast. You can buy black or white chia seeds on the market and both are beneficial for health.