Are you wondering what are chia seeds good for? Chia seeds have earned the reputation of being a super-food due to the many benefits they offer. They offer a high level of nutrition, support a healthy lifestyle, and aid in weight loss.
History of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are seeds of a desert pant called salvia hispanica, which is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae, native to Mexico and Guatemala. It appears humans have began using chia seeds from as early as 3500 B.C., with the Aztecs and Mayans consuming them as staple foods.
Here are some more interesting facts about the history of chia seeds:
- Chia seeds were given to Aztec warriors as survival food, with one tablespoon believed to sustain an individual for 24 hours.
- Chia seeds were used as medicine to revive skin, cure joint pain and stimulate saliva by the Aztecs.
- The name “chia” derived from a Mayan word for “strength”.
- Chia seeds were even used to pay tributes and taxes to Aztec priests and nobility.
- Chia seeds were banned after the Spanish conquest due to its association with the Aztec religion.
What Are Chia Seeds Good For? General Benefits
Chia seeds have quite a bit of fiber, delivering 11 grams of fiber per 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) of chia seeds.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that you get 25 grams of fiber a day if you are a woman and 38 grams of fiber a day if you are a man.
By taking 2 tablespoons of chia seeds twice a day (which is super easy), if you are a woman you will meet 88% of your daily recommended fiber intake!
Omega-3 fatty acids
Chia seeds have a surprisingly high amount of omega-3 fatty acids, even more than flax seeds. They actually contain omega-6 fatty acids as well. The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in chia seeds is 3:1, which is helpful since most people consume way too much omega-6 compared to omega-3.
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) of chia seeds have 4,915 mg (4.9 g ) of omega-3 fatty acids and 1,620 mg (1.6 g) of omega-6 fatty acids .
One thing to note about the omega-3 fatty acids in chia seeds is that they are mainly ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), and not EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) or DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
To be beneficial, ALA needs to be converted to EPA and DHA in our body, which are the omega-3 fatty acids that are considered important for our health.
Although we can convert ALA to EPA and DHA, the conversion rate depends on the person, and on average, is not very high. According to Dr. Fuhrman of the Eat to Live diet, on average, for women, up to 21% is converted to EPA and about 9% is converted to DHA. For men, less than 8% is converted to EPA and less than 4% is converted to DHA.
Recommended daily EPA and DHA dose (combined) is at least 500 mg for healthy people and 800 mg to 1,000 mg for people with heart problems .
Since chia seeds have an abundance of ALA, you will probably be able to get your required amount of EPA and DHA just from chia seeds.
However since conversion rates differ depending on the individual, some people may need to supplement their EPA and DHA from other sources such as fish oils.
There are 177 mg of calcium in 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) of chia seeds, which is 18% of the daily recommended value. Taking chia seeds is an easy way to supplement your calcium especially if you are on a vegan diet or do not eat dairy products.
Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants, so much so that their whole seeds do not deteriorate easily and have a very long shelf life.
Antioxidants are essential in preventing harmful chemical reactions that are caused by oxidation. Oxidation takes place as part of converting food into energy, but it can also create free radicals that can ultimately damage or kill healthy cells.
Regularly consuming chia seeds rich in antioxidants will help prevent damage due to free radicals, helping to promote general health and prevent many age-related diseases.
Chia Seeds Weight Loss Benefits
The wonderful thing about chia seeds is that they absorb liquid up to 12 times their own weight. So when you consume chia seeds, they will expand in your stomach, and help you stay full longer and prevent overeating.
Here is a video by Dr. Oz explaining the benefits of chia seeds for weight loss.
Chia seeds are rich in soluble fiber, which is a type of fiber the dissolves in water. According to WebMD, soluble fiber has the following amazing qualities that help you lose and control weight:
- Slows digestion
- Delays your stomach from being empty
- Makes you feel full longer
- May improve insulin sensitivity
- Helps lower bad cholesterol
Considering their weight loss and nutritional benefits, chia seeds are relatively low in calories. 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) of chia seeds have 137 calories. Chia seeds are a great snack to have for weight loss and general health.
What Are Chia Seeds Good For? Other Great Things About Chia Seeds
- Unlike flaxseeds, you do not need to grind them to reap their nutritional benefits; you can enjoy them whole.
- Contains 4 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons (1 ounce).
- Chia seeds are gluten-free.
- According to WebMD, people also use chia seeds for high blood pressure and diabetes, and for reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Can be put in almost anything from a flavor perspective, since the taste is relatively neutral.
How to Eat Chia Seeds For Weight Loss
Here are some simple and weight loss friendly ways to start consuming chia seeds right away. Recommended dose is 1-2 tablespoons, 1-2 times a day.
- Simply put in a glass of water and drink right away.
- Put 1.5 tablespoons of chia seeds in 3/4 cup of water and leave for 30 minutes, allowing it to form a gel. Mix in ¼ cup of coconut milk or almond milk. Sprinkle in some stevia and mix.
- Put in plain unsweetened yogurt and let sit for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Sprinkle in some stevia and mix.
- Put in freshly squeezed juice and drink right away, or let stand for 20 minutes.
Tip: If you leave chia seeds in liquid, they will expand and form a gel/pudding. This is a great way to enjoy chia seeds as a snack/dessert.
Dr. Oz website – Chia Ancient Super Secret
Huffington Post – Change Your Life with Chia
Dr. Weil – Chia for Health
Dr. Weil – Antioxidants
Mark’s Daily Apple