Seeds are all too often the neglected cousins of nuts.
Which I get, because, with the exception of pumpkin seeds, they don’t quite make for easy snacking opportunities. But if you aren’t including seeds in your daily life, you’re missing out on some amazing benefits.
I typically recommend that my clients consume an omega-3 rich seed daily, either hemp seeds, chia or ground flax. So let’s get schooled on all that is amazing about chia.
Health Benefits of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are a total powerhouse food: these tiny black seeds were cherished by the Aztecs and Mayans in the past for their great ability to provide energy, and actually the word “chia” in Mayan means “strength”.
Despite their size, chia seeds are incredibly nutrient-dense and provide a ton of health benefits to our bodies.
Omega 3 in ground vs. whole chia seeds
Next time you’re at the grocery aisle, you might want to choose the ground version of chia seeds rather than the whole form if you’re looking for anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids.
Why is that? In one study , milled chia seeds increased absorption of ALA and EPA, omega-3 fatty acid levels, in the blood by 58% and 39% compared to whole chia seeds. In another, in postmenopausal women, intake of ground chia seeds also resulted in an increase in omega-3 fatty acids.
This difference is worth noting, because omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation in the body, can improve risk factors for heart disease, and are crucial for brain growth and development in infants. We typically don’t consume nearly as many omega-3 fatty acids as we do omega-6 fatty acids, and this imbalance can increase inflammation in the body.
Fibre and protein in chia seeds
Chia is low in absorbable carbohydrates and high in fibre; two tablespoons of chia seeds contains roughly 7.5 g of fibre. This is an impressive way to get closer to your daily intake: 25g for women and 38 g for men. This fibre helps to slow blood sugar rise, stabilize appetite, lower cholesterol, regulate digestion and feed beneficial bacteria in the gut. If fibre is what you seek, consume chia either ground or whole.
Two tablespoons of chia seeds also contains about 3.5 g of protein, which along with other protein-rich foods, will help keep you energized and fuel growth and repair. Protein is best harnessed in the ground form of chia.
Nutritional Value of Chia Seeds
In addition to fibre, protein and omega 3 fatty acids, chia seeds also contain a host of vitamins and minerals. Two tablespoons of chia seeds contains:
- 1.6mg iron for building red blood cells
- 1mg of zinc for supporting gut and immune function
- 200 micrograms of energizing copper, almost 25% of your daily needs
- 12 micrograms of anti-inflammatory selenium, about 20% of your daily needs
And that’s just a few of the benefits…here’s more!
Chia Seed Health Benefits
Chia seeds may help reduce blood sugar
Blood sugar is not something most of us think about unless we have diabetes. However, when blood sugar levels are consistently high throughout the day, it can contribute to chronic disease risk. Blood sugar control is important to prevent diabetes and improve health outcomes in those with diabetes. Temporary blood sugar spikes after meals, especially those high in processed foods, can cause crashes which makes us feel lethargic.
Rather than making us feel tired, foods should fuel our bodies with stable energy throughout our day. To combat this, we need to choose foods that can help regulate our blood sugar levels.
In general, meals with enough protein and healthy fats help us prevent those crashes. Specific foods like chia seeds too can also play a huge role. Researchers have found that chia seed-containing bread lowered rises in blood sugar after a meal, when compared to non-chia seed-containing bread. Although it’s just one simple ingredient, it can make a great impact on your health.
Chia seeds for bone health
When people think of the foods associated with healthy bones, they typically think of milk, yogurt and cheese…not often do they think about chia seeds. There are so many amazing plant foods that contain considerable amounts of bone-loving minerals like calcium and phosphorous, and chia is no exception.
Chia seeds contain 136mg of calcium and 186mg of phosphorous in two tablespoons, which, in combination with other calcium-rich foods like firm tofu, collard greens, fortified plant milks and yogurts, can help you protect your bones.
How eat more chia seeds
Chia seeds are incredibly good for you, and they couldn’t be easier to incorporate into your daily routine. Their fibre contributes a unique gelling ability that allows you to make bubble tea-like beverages, easy puddings and almost instant jams.
Try these five easy ways to get more chia seeds into your day:
- Add them to porridge, oatmeal or cereal with a little extra liquid to account for gelling
- Enjoy a chia fresca to cool off when the weather is warm
- Streamline your morning with a tropical chia pudding for breakfast
- Make a low sugar chia jam for your toast
- Bake them into homemade muffins
Are you a chia fan? Be sure to tag me in your creations on Instagram!