Chia seeds were a staple food in the Aztec and Mayan diets for centuries. In modern times, they have attracted the attention of many people because they have a surprising array of health benefits. This versatile food item also can be used in cooking. Furthermore, chia seeds are an excellent source of antioxidants and nutrients and can assist in appetite control.
The health benefits of a vegetable-based diet are well-known. Low in fat and high in fibre, plant-based foods of all kinds are widely regarded to lower one’s risk of adverse health conditions, including diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Research has shown that a diet high in vegetables and seeds also supports increased energy, a healthy complexion and overall lower weight. Here are just 10 of the important benefits of chia seeds.
The US maintains a comprehensive nutrient database. According to it, just one ounce of chia seeds (about 28 grams) has 5 grams of protein, 10 grams of fibre, 12 grams of carbohydrate, 8 grams of fat and just 138 calories. Consuming one ounce of chia seeds per day delivers key nutrients like copper, potassium and zinc. Also, chia contains 18% of one’s daily calcium requirement and 30% of manganese, along with more omega-3s, calcium and phosphorus than flaxseed, another popular supplement.
A diet high in fibre has numerous health benefits, including beneficial effects for those people suffering from diverticulitis. This is so because chia assists in water absorption in the colon, making bowel movements easier to pass. Furthermore, when chia seeds are consumed as part of a diet rich in fibre, fruit and vegetables, such a diet can reduce inflammation and pressure in the colon. Despite the fact that the cause of diverticular disease is not known, medical authorities report that it’s generally associated with a low fibre diet.
An increased intake of fibre-rich foods like chia seeds has been shown to lower both cholesterol levels and blood pressure. When over 60 controlled trials were analysed, the analysis found that even a small (10 grams per day) increase in fibre, helped to reduce LDL (“bad” cholesterol) along with total cholesterol. It’s also thought that dietary fibre plays a part in regulating inflammation and the immune system, a factor which decreases the risk of inflammation-related disease such as diabetes, obesity, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Scientific investigations reveal that chia seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fats, in particular omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, the lipid profile of chia is composed of 60% omega-3s. This means that chia is one of the richest sources of the important nutrient ALA ( alpha-linolenic acid). Enhanced cognitive performance in another key benefit of a diet high in fibre-laden foods like chia seeds.
Because chia is such a good source of fibre, it can have a significant effect on a wide array of diseases and conditions, including diabetes. In fact, eating a high-fibre diet can lower your risk of developing diabetes, according to a review of several large studies. All that’s needed is to consume 14 grams of fibre for every 1000 calories. Also, there can be reduced risks of type 2 diabetes, along with coronary heart disease.
Fibre intake is associated with regulating bowel function, lowering cholesterol and reducing inflammation. Chia seeds contain 10 grams of fibre in just 2 tablespoons, which is one-third of the recommended daily intake.
Chia seeds contain high levels of antioxidants, substances that help to protect the body from cancer, ageing and free radicals. In fact, foods like chia neutralise free radicals and defend the body from their deleterious effects. Another benefit is chia’s long shelf life. It will last just under 2 years without refrigeration.
People who cannot consume eggs will be glad to know that there is a tasty alternative in chia seeds. Their outer layer will swell when chia is mixed with a liquid. The resulting gel can be used in place of eggs as part of a low cholesterol dietary regimen. Just mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and allow 15 minutes for absorption. Another feature of chia is that it does not need to be ground in order to obtain egg-replacement benefits. Chia can be digested whole.
On average, most people in the UK get about 18 gram of fibre a day. You should aim for at least 30 grams a day, according to the NHS.
You can find chia seeds in supermarkets and health food stores. They are only a bit smaller than a strawberry seed and are black in colour. The flavour is nutty and mild. Chia can be eaten cooked or raw. An easy way to use it is to sprinkle it over foods like yoghurt or cereal. Also, chia can be added to the batters of baked goods like muffins and breads.
Although tiny, chia seeds pack a wide array of health benefits. Why not try them and see for yourself?