Have you ever believed in any of the hype surrounding the latest trending superfoods? Just think of all the internet fame enjoyed by the likes of kale, avocado, cinnamon, turmeric, maca, baobab, obscure grains forgotten by history, just to name a few. Did you, at some point, unconsciously mark any of these as must-have foods that could solve all of your health problems? Well, many articles certainly try to make it sound that way. That is, until the next weird plant comes along, invading the online space. What’s left for the previous ‘number 1’ plant, you ask? Usually, it gradually disappears from the shopping lists of all but its most die-hard fans who swear by its benefits.
You can see why blindly following these trends is a problem, right? Unrealistic expectations lead to easy disappointments. You could be giving up on something that is actually very healthy – like chia seeds! Today, I will give you some research-validated facts about chia seeds. Furthermore, I’ll present the top 6 proven health benefits you can get from regularly eating them.
What Are Chia Seeds?
OK, so in this post, I will try to convince you of the long-term health benefits of chia seeds. You know what chia seeds are, right? Technically, they are the edible seeds of Salvia hispanica. It is a plant native to Central America and botanically a part of the mint family.
Many centuries ago, chia seeds were a staple food of some of the well-known ancient civilisations. I’m talking about the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas, for example. Allegedly, this tiny seed was so highly valued that it also served as a currency.
Recently, chia seeds have been gaining popularity worldwide as a rediscovered ancient superfood. Fortunately for us, a substantial amount of research has been conducted in the past 2-3 decades to back or disprove the alleged health benefits of the plant. If you feel keen to delve into the actual scientific papers, you can find quite an extensive review on Bodybuilding.com. Otherwise, you can trust me that I have already done this. Read on to discover six of the major health benefits of consuming chia seeds regularly!
1. Soluble Fibre
The reason I got into eating chia in the first place was its macronutrient profile. I wanted some extra calories at breakfast. That is, without resorting to tasty cereal boxes of otherwise questionable health and fitness merits.
Chia seeds seemed perfect. Firstly, they have a really high fibre content. It is well-known that fibre deficiency is a problem in the Western world. Most Americans are only consuming about half the recommended 25 grams per day. A 25g serving of chia seeds would supply you with almost 10 grams of fibre! There are many reasons why fibre is good for you. Suffice to say, it is crucial for keeping a healthy digestive system. Also, it’s good for maintaining weight, among other things.
Generally, fibre is divided into soluble and insoluble. These two types affect your gut function quite differently. What most people are not aware of is that the majority of fibre-rich foods, such as whole grains, contain predominantly insoluble fibre. You can check the fibre content of foods in online databases. As a result, getting the two types in balanced proportions is difficult. You guessed what follows – chia seeds have more of the soluble type, according to this Harvard article!
I, personally, feel better after having chia seeds, compared to an equivalent amount of whole grains. If you eat chia regularly, you should also feel better in the long run.
2. Protein & Omega 3
On the topic of nutritional facts about chia seeds, I cannot miss mentioning they are rather high in protein. Indeed, you won’t be getting any life-altering quantities from a daily tablespoon or two of these seeds. Nevertheless, it is something to keep in mind. Particularly if you are a vegetarian or vegan and meat is not an option.
Additionally, another health benefit of the chia seeds is their Omega 3 content. As a matter of fact, they contain nearly 20% Omega 3 fatty acids! The latter have numerous proven long-term health benefits. In my opinion, they are so awesome that it is worth taking an Omega 3 supplement as well.
Omega 3 fatty acids are found in three forms. Long chain, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the really beneficial ones. You can find them mostly in oily fish and some meat. Plants, like chia, contain the third type – alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). While ALA is arguably ‘not as good’, your body does (kind of inefficiently) convert it into EPA and DHA. Therefore, getting a lot of ALA from chia seeds certainly doesn’t hurt.
3. High Mineral Content
While not as impressive as the Omega 3 and fibre content, chia seeds are fairly high in some essential minerals. In particular, two tablespoons would be getting you between 10-30% of your recommended daily intake of zinc, calcium, phosphorus, manganese and copper. A reasonable amount of iron also goes to that list.
In fact, at least one study on the Long-Term Dietary Intake of Chia Seed suggests regular consumption could be associated with various health benefits. For example, increased bone mineral density. OK, they did this study on rats… Unfortunately, making people eat a certain food for months or years in a controlled environment is not easy to do!
4. Fat Loss & Increased Insulin Sensitivity
I am sure I have already bored you with an unreasonable amount of nutritional info. Let’s move on to what you really want to know.
Are chia seeds so great that we can forfeit our regular-ish gym visits? Truth be told, probably not… BUT:
A major potential upside for your health of consuming chia seeds often is improved fat loss, as claimed in T-nation magazine. This is partly owed to increased insulin sensitivity. That last phrase alone is something that can make most ironheads’ eyes sparkle, and generally something anyone should aim for. Put simply, it means that when you eat carbs, you tap into the muscle-building, rather than fat-storing properties of insulin. Who, in their right mind, wouldn’t want that?
If you want the nerdy details, there is some scientific backing to these claims. In one study, chia was tested for the treatment of overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes. Definite positive results were reported. In fact, what the researchers found was that under otherwise identical conditions, a group of obese people who were given chia seeds lost much more weight than another group eating oat fibre. Of course, experiencing this positive effect on your health would require you to eat chia seeds quite often!
5. Chia Seeds Lower Blood Pressure
Do you suffer from high blood pressure? It is a really common issue. According to a number of papers, regular consumption of chia can help notably reduce blood pressure in both people who are under medical treatment, and ones who are not. That alone is a health benefit that should convince you to eat chia seeds on a daily basis!
A word of advice, however – if you have chronically low blood pressure, it may not be a good idea to overindulge on chia!
6. Great Antioxidant Properties
Lastly, an awesome benefit of regularly eating chia seeds is their strong ability to act as antioxidants. These substances reduce the free radicals damage done to your body at the cellular level. You’ve certainly heard of that, and know that ultimately this is very important for your long-term health.
There are various reasons chia seeds act in this way. In part, ALA is a strong antioxidant, and chia is full of it. Some of the minerals I have mentioned, such as copper, zinc and manganese also have such properties. A nice summary can be found on the betterhealth website.
Bonus: My Favourite Way To Eat Chia Seeds
You did not think I would write all that stuff without sharing how I actually eat chia, right? What most people do is sprinkle it on things or bake it into other things. You can check these 35 ways to eat chia seeds for some inspiration. Mariya and I go the ‘yogurt pudding’ route, having come up with the following recipe:
- 50g of chia seeds
- 180-200g Icelandic yogurt
- 250g skimmed milk
- Your favourite biscuits
The above quantities would make 2 rather large servings. The actual process is easy:
- Beat the yogurt lightly, until smooth
- Add some of the milk to thin it
- Mix in the chia seeds
- Add the rest of the milk and mix
- Stir from time to time, to prevent the mixture from getting lumpy
- Refrigerate overnight
- Enjoy with biscuits crushed on top in the morning!
Per 100g you get about 3.8g fibre, 5.5g carbs, 3.8g fat (of which 1.8g omega 3), and 7.6g protein for a total of 94 cal. That is without the biscuits!
We use skyr or another similar yogurt. It is fat-free and very high in protein, but you can change it – others also work fine. Also, you can substitute half the chia seeds for flax seeds – my favourite option, in fact! I buy chia seeds in large quantities from Amazon, usually this brand. However, maybe it is smarter if you pick a small pack from a supermarket first.
What you will notice is that in the morning, the ‘pudding’ has almost a smooth yogurt consistency. It might be a bit too thick, so just add some water or milk. And I really, really recommend crunchy biscuits, like Belvita Crunchy!
So, did I convince you to add chia seeds to your diet and enjoy all of its proven health benefits?
P.S: This blog post was kindly written by my amazing boyfriend! I hope you liked it! 🙂
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