Few nutrients deserve the title superfood more than chia seeds. They’re literally one of the healthiest foods you can eat.
If you haven’t already made chia a part of your daily routine, by the time you finish reading this you might find yourself making plans to. These nutrient-dense seeds are a terrific way to add an extra punch of nutrition to your meals, while reaping a bunch of research-backed health rewards.
I’ll have more on those benefits in just a few moments. But first let’s take a quick look at what the chia seed is.
Chia seeds are the tiny little seeds of the Salvia Hipanica L. plant, a member of the mint family. Before they’re ground up they would likely remind you of a sesame seed. But that’s where the comparison ends. Because while sesame seeds do have some great health benefits of their own, they simply can’t hold a candle to chia’s.
Like fish oil, chia seeds are a good source of the omega-3 fatty acid ALA as well as omega-9s. And ground chia can increase blood levels of EPA. But they bring a whole lot more to that table than just those healthy fats alone. In fact, around two tablespoons (or about an ounce) of chia also delivers around 11 grams of fiber and four grams of protein.
And in that same two tablespoons you’ll be getting…
- 18 percent of your daily recommended amount of calcium
- 30 percent of your recommended manganese and magnesium
- 27 percent of your required phosphorous
Gram for gram chia provides five times more calcium that whole milk and 13 times more magnesium than broccoli. Plus you’ll be getting a handful of other necessary nutrients including vitamins B1, B2 and B3, zinc and potassium. And the tiny little seeds also pack a huge antioxidant punch.
But it’s what all those nutrients can do for your health that’s really impressive. So let’s take a look at the top three health benefits of making chia seeds a part of your regular routine.
1. Maintain healthy blood sugar:
Chia seeds are high in protein, fiber and omega-3s making them perfect for supporting metabolic health. High fiber foods like chia naturally slow down your digestion leading to slower absorption of carbs and a lower overall glycemic load as a result.
And while the research is still early, a growing number of animal studies have already found that adding chia seeds to a healthy diet may help improve glucose tolerance (impaired GT is a warning sign of pre-diabetes) and insulin resistance (also seen with pre-diabetes).1,2
A study published in the journal Diabetes found that a diet high in monounsaturated omega-9 fats, like you’ll find in chia seeds, can reduce inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity.3
2. Calm hunger pangs to stop overeating:
One of the worst parts of trying to slim down are the hunger pangs that can send you rummaging through the fridge to try to calm your rumbling tummy. Well it turns out chia can help you beat the hungries so you stop sabotaging your diet and naturally shed the weight.
Chia seeds are packed with soluble fiber that absorbs up to 12 times its volume in water. That means that every bite you take can seem more like twelve, and before you know it you end up feeling as full as a tick. And since the fiber slows down the absorption of your food as well, you feel fuller longer.4 Studies on similar fibers show this could help you lose weight.5,6
3. Maintain healthy cholesterol:
The fatty acids in chia seeds make them a natural choice for supporting your heart health. Studies have found that omega-3s can help raise HDL or “good cholesterol,” reduce triglycerides and arterial plaques and even lower blood pressure.7,8,9,10,11
And studies have shown omega-9s can help with managing healthy cholesterol levels too. In a large study on monounsaturated fats, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, triglycerides dropped 19 percent and very low density lipoproteins plummeted 22 percent, while HDL, or good cholesterol levels rose.12
1. “Chia (Salvia hispanica L.) enhances HSP, PGC-1α expressions and improves glucose tolerance in diet-induced obese rats,” Nutrition. 2015 May;31(5):740-8
2. “Dietary chia seed (Salvia hispanica L.) rich in alpha-linolenic acid improves adiposity and normalises hypertriacylglycerolaemia and insulin resistance in dyslipaemic rats,” Br J Nutr. 2009 Jan;101(1):41-50
3. “Monounsaturated fatty acid-enriched high-fat diets impede adipose NLRP3 inflammasome-mediated IL-1β secretion and insulin resistance despite obesity,” Diabetes. 2015 Jun;64(6):2116-28
4. “Chemical and Functional Properties of Chia Seed (Salvia hispanica L.) Gum,” International Journal of Food Science, Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 241053, 5 pages
5. “Effect of two doses of a mixture of soluble fibres on body weight and metabolic variables in overweight or obese patients: a randomised trial,” Br J Nutr. 2008 Jun;99(6):1380-7
6. “Effect of glucomannan on obese patients: a clinical study,” Int J Obes. 1984;8(4):289-93
7. “Effect of fish oil versus corn oil supplementation on LDL and HDL subclasses in type 2 diabetic patients,” Diabetes Care. 2002 Oct;25(10):1704-8
8. “Benefits of fish oil supplementation in hyperlipidemia: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Int J Cardiol. 2009 Jul 24;136(1):4-16
9. “Effect of fish oil supplementation on serum triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and LDL subfractions in hypertriglyceridemic adults.,” Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2013 Apr;23(4):350-7
10. “Consumption of Fish Oil Providing Amounts of Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid That Can Be Obtained from the Diet Reduces Blood Pressure in Adults with Systolic Hypertension: A Retrospective Analysis,” J Nutr. 2016 Mar;146(3):516-23
11. “Effect of omega-3 fatty acids supplementation on endothelial function: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials,” Atherosclerosis. 2012 Apr;221(2):536-43
12. “High-monounsaturated-fat diets for patients with diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis,” Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Mar;67(3 Suppl):577S-582S
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