Chia seeds, which are native to Central America, have long been touted as a superfood. They can be made into pudding, blended into smoothies or oatmeal, and even baked into bread! Not only are they versatile, but they’re chock full of health. Continue reading to see the health benefits of chia seeds maybe you didn’t know.
Health Benefits Of Chia Seeds
Chia seeds contain 138 calories per ounce (28 grams).
By weight, they are 6% water, 46% carbohydrates (of which 83% is fiber), 34% fat, and 19% protein.
The nutrients in 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of chia seeds are:
- Calories: 486
- Water: 6%
- Protein: 16.5 grams
- Carbs: 42.1 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
- Fiber: 34.4 grams
- Fat: 30.7 grams
- Saturated: 3.33 grams
- Monounsaturated: 2.31 grams
- Polyunsaturated: 23.67 grams
- Omega-3: 17.83 grams
- Omega-6: 5.84 grams
- Trans: 0.14 grams
Notably, chia seeds are also free of gluten.
Chia and the power of fiber & Carbs
More than 80% of the carb content of chia seeds is in the form of fiber.
A single ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds boasts 11 grams of fiber, which is a significant portion of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for women and men — 25 and 38 grams per day, respectively.
These fibers are mostly insoluble (95%), a type associated with reduced diabetes risk.
Some of the insoluble fibers may also be fermented in your gut like soluble fibers, promoting the formation of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and improving colon health.
When chia seeds are placed in water or other liquids, their fibers absorb up to 10–12 times their own weight — and the seeds turn into a gel-like mass.
Foods that are high in fiber help people to feel full for longer, and they are usually lower in calories. Increased fiber intake and a high fiber diet have been shown to help with weight loss.
Chia seeds contain nearly 5 grams of fiber per tablesoon, and their high levels of omega-3-fatty acids and alpha-linoleic acid may be useful for weight loss. The seed can also be consumed as a gel when mixed with water. This causes it to digest more slowly in the body, potentially preventing hunger for a longer period.
However, evidence is scant. A review, published in the Journal of Obesity, concludes that “there is limited data to suggest the use of chia seeds for weight loss.”
Another study, published in Nutrition Research, concludes that, in overweight adults, chia seeds have “no influence on body mass or composition, or various disease risk factor measures.”
May promote bone health
One of the health benefits of chia seeds is that they may promote bone health. Chia seeds are a rich source of minerals, which are known to be beneficial for bone health, including calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. A 25g portion of chia seeds contains approximately 158mg of calcium which makes a significant contribution when compared to the equivalent amount of milk.
Good for your heart and lower blood pressure
Including chia seeds in your diet appears to have cardio-protective benefits, this may be thanks to their poly-unsaturated fat content, high fibre levels and anti-inflammatory properties. Chia seeds and chia flour have also been found to lower blood pressure in those with hypertension, the effects were relevant for both medicated and non-medicated participants. However, it’s worth remembering that any dietary change needs to be accompanied by lifestyle and exercise modifications to have any appreciable benefit on heart health.
May improve blood sugar management
Studies examining the effect of chia seeds on blood sugar control in animals showed an improvement in insulin resistance. This was echoed by similar clinical studies examining the effects of bread made using chia seeds, on reducing blood sugar response in humans.
May reduce the risk of diabetes
The nutritional make-up of chia seeds, being rich in poly-unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fibre, makes them especially suited for helping to stabilise blood-sugar levels. Some research has suggested that chia seeds may be beneficial for overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes. However, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest chia seeds can directly reduce the risk of diabetes.
Improve digestive health
A handful of chia seeds (25g) supplies almost 9g fibre which makes a healthy contribution towards the daily recommended intake of 30g. Adequate fibre in the diet is important for digestive health and for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. A diet rich in fibre lowers the risk of a number of diseases and also reduces all-cause mortality.