Salvia Hispanica, commonly known as chia, is a species of flowering plant in the mint family. Chia seeds are grown commercially for its seed, a food that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, since the seeds yield 25–30% extractable oil, including α-linolenic acid. Of total fat, the composition of the oil can be 55% omega 3, 18% omega 6, 6% omega 9, and 10% saturated fat.
Today, chia is grown commercially in its native Mexico, and in Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Australia. This is traditionally consumed in Mexico, and the southwestern United States, but is not widely known in Europe, Asia and Africa.
A 100-gram serving of chia seeds is a rich source of the B vitamins thiamine and niacin (54% and 59%, respectively of the daily value (DV), and a good source of the B vitamins riboflavin and folate (14% and 12%, respectively).
Chia seeds have multiple health benefits, which make it a healthy ingredient of the diet. Here is a list of multiple reasons why you should always include chia seeds in your food!
Nutritional values and Health Benefits of Chia Seed
1A powerhouse of nutrients with bare minimum calories
In the past few years, These seeds have exploded in popularity and are now consumed by health conscious people all over the world. The nutrient content in 1-ounce chia seeds is as below:
A 1 ounce (28 grams) serving of these seeds contains:
- Fiber:11 grams.
- Protein:4 grams.
- Fat:9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).
- Calcium:18% of the RDA.
- Manganese:30% of the RDA.
- Magnesium:30% of the RDA.
- Phosphorus:27% of the RDA.
- They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.
Surprisingly at the same time, just a single ounce of chia seeds which supplies only 137 calories and one gram of digestible carbohydrate!
2Chia seeds are a bundle of antioxidants
The high amount of antioxidants makes chia seeds a brilliant food ingredient as a shield from free radicals.
These antioxidants protect the sensitive fats in the seeds from going rancid.
Although antioxidant supplements are not very effective, getting antioxidants from foods can have positive effects on health.
Most importantly, antioxidants fight the production of free radicals, which can damage molecules in cells and contribute to ageing and diseases like cancer.
3The Carbohydrate content is actually fibre
The 12 grams of carbohydrates present in one ounce of chia seeds actually have 11 grams of fibre, which is basically not digested by the body.
Fibre, unlike other carbohydrates, does not increase the blood sugar level in the body and hence does not have an effect on the body.
Because of all the fiber, chia seeds can absorb up to 10-12 times their weight in water, becoming gel-like and expanding in your stomach. Theoretically, this should increase fullness, slow absorption of your food and help you automatically eat fewer calories.
Chia seeds are 40% fiber, by weight. This makes them one of the best sources of fiber in the world.
4Rich in Protein
These seeds are 14% protein by weight which is very high compared to most plants.
They also contain a good balance of essential amino acids, which make them essential for our body to utilise the proteins in them.
Protein has all sorts of benefits for health. It is also the most weight loss friendly nutrient in the diet, by far.
A high protein intake reduces appetite and has been shown to reduce obsessive thoughts about food by 60% and the desire for night time snacking by 50%.
Chia seeds really are an excellent protein source, especially for people who eat little or no animal products.
5Chia seeds supposedly help you lose weight
Many health experts believe that chia seeds can help with weight loss. The fiber absorbs large amounts of water and expands in the stomach, which helps increase fullness and slows the absorption of food. There have been several studies on glucomannan, a fiber that works in a similar way, showing that it can lead to weight loss.
Then the protein in these seeds could help to reduce appetite and food intake. Although just adding chia seeds to your diet is unlikely to affect your weight, a regular intake becomes a useful addition.
A weight loss diet is about more than just adding or subtracting single foods. The entire diet counts, as well as other lifestyle behaviours, like sleep and exercise.
6Abundant amount of Omega 3 fatty acid
These seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds’ lipid profile is composed of 60 percent omega-3s, making them one of the richest plant-based sources of these fatty acids — specifically, of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. The omega-3s in chia seeds can help reduce inflammation, enhance cognitive performance and reduce high cholesterol.
7High mineral content of Chia seeds
Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 18 percent of the DRI for calcium, 35 percent for phosphorus, 24 percent for magnesium and about 50 percent of manganese. These nutrients help you prevent hypertension and maintain a healthy weight, and are important for energy metabolism and a part of DNA synthesis.
A study published recently showed that these seeds as a dietary fat source can lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels while increasing HDL or “good” cholesterol. The study also found that when substituting chia seeds for other fat sources, such as corn oil, the ALA was able to prevent high triglyceride levels and reduce central obesity.
9Chia Seeds Can Cause Major Improvements in Type 2 Diabetics
The most successful application of chia seeds to date was in a study on type 2 diabetic patients. In this study, 20 diabetic patients received either 37 grams of chia seeds, or 37 grams of wheat bran, for 12 weeks. When they got the chia seeds, they saw improvements in several important health markers.
It was observed that the blood pressure went down by 3-6 mm/Hg and an inflammatory marker called hs-CRP went down by 40 percent. A risk factor called vWF also decreased by 21 percent. There was also a small drop in blood sugar, but it wasn’t statistically significant.
Given that chia seeds are high in fiber, it seems plausible that they could help reduce blood sugar spikes after meals, but this needs to be confirmed in studies.
10Chia Seeds Can Improve Exercise Performance as Much as a Sports Drink
There is one recent study suggesting that chia seeds help fuel performance effectively. In this study, six participants “carb loaded” with either Gatorade or a mix of half Gatorade/half chia seeds. Then they ran for an hour on a treadmill, followed by a timed 10-kilometre long run. There was no difference between the two groups.
In other words, replacing half of the Gatorade with these seeds did not reduce the performance of the athletes, indicating that chia seeds were of some use.According to this study, chia seeds can help athletes “carb load” for endurance events, while increasing their intake of nutrients and decreasing their intake of sugar. However, I’d personally like to see some larger studies on this. Given that most of the carbs in these seeds are fiber, it doesn’t make much sense that they could be used for carb loading.
With most of the high benefits of chia seeds, and the feasibility of including it in the everyday diet, these ingredient of food becomes a powerhouse of nutrients even in the smallest quantities. One should find ways to include these seeds in their daily food intake.