While many of us know chia seeds only as the item that made our beloved chia pets have crazy hair in the 90s, some are now realizing the health benefits of eating these little power-packed seeds.
The Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs were well aware of the benefits associated with consuming chia seeds. Chia actually means “strength” in the Mayan language.
In ancient times, chia seeds were considered medicine due to all their health-enhancing properties.
Today, this superfood is growing in popularity as more consumers strive to be healthier.
It is rare to find a small, easily consumed food so packed with antioxidants and nutrients.
Flax seeds and hemp seeds are also nutrient-dense foods, but chia seeds do not need to be ground or soaked before consumption, making it a more convenient option.
Here are the health benefits of eating chia seeds:
Rich in antioxidants. Their high level of antioxidants keep the fat in the seeds from going rancid, which means they have a long shelf life for easy storage of up to two years. The antioxidants in it also fight the production of free radicals which damage cells, contributing to aging and cancer.
Packed with protein. Chia seeds have 14% of your recommended daily value of protein which is relatively high for a plant. This makes chia seeds an easily accessible boost of protein for vegetarians who may otherwise struggle to get enough protein in their daily diet. Combined with the essential amino acids contained within each seed, the protein is more readily usable by your body. It should be noted that chia seeds are also a protein source without cholesterol.
Have satiating effects. Tryptophan, which is usually associated with that tired feeling after Thanksgiving turkey, is also found in chia seeds. It helps you sleep better, regulates your appetite, as well as improve your mood. The high protein and high fiber content, along with the gelling action of the seeds, similarly contributes to the full feeling that satisfies hunger sensations. When you feel full, you tend to eat fewer calories overall.
Naturally gluten-free. The gel they form when mixed with liquid can be used as a binding agent in baked goods instead of guar gum or xanthan gum for those who prefer to eliminate these two additives. The seeds can also be used as an egg substitute in baked goods for those who have an egg allergy or are vegan.
Good for your bones and teeth. The combination of protein, phosphorus, magnesium, boron, and calcium in chia seeds all contribute to better health. Many of the nutrients found in chia seeds are especially good for bone and dental health too. Both the trace minerals magnesium and boron help with calcium absorption too.
Good source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids make vitamin D absorption easier for our body, which is also essential for strong bones and teeth. The seeds actually contain more omega-3s than salmon, but it is in the form of alpha-linolenic acid which then has to be converted to the more active long chain forms to be most efficiently used by our bodies. The omega-3s in the seeds may not be the best form of omega-3s, but they can still lessen inflammation, decrease high cholesterol, and augment cognitive performance.
This tiny superfood can be easily added to any diet for the health-conscious person who is trying to find ways to improve their health without a dramatic overhaul in their lifestyle. Chia seeds can be sprinkled in to just about anything you are already consuming. In particular, you may try adding it to baked goods, cereals, smoothies, and yogurt. Starting your day with these seeds as part of your breakfast will give you a feeling of satiety rather than a sugar rush and subsequent quick dip in energy provided by so many typical breakfast foods.
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By Dr. Michael Richardson
Passionate about sharing the latest scientifically sound health, fitness and nutrition advice and information, Dr Richardson received his Master of Science in Nutrition from New York University, and a Bachelor Degree from New Jersey University. He has since gone on to specialize in sports nutrition, weight management and helping his patients to heal physical ailments by making changes to their eating habits and lifestyles.
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